Sunny in Canada with a chance of free cloud computing

cloud ipad smallThe Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research (DAIR) launched today, with the goal of helping Canadian businesses and researchers gain a competitive edge through cloud computing. Users will be able to access, free of charge, four independent central processing units (or "cores") for one year, to carry out their advanced computing needs. (Additional cores can be rented for $100/core for a year).

So, what exactly can you do with these cores?

Well for starters, for entrepreneurs who are creating digital products '€” say an online video game, or a website that tracks your groceries and favourite recipes '€” they come with Gigabytes of secure, online storage space.

They also give creators the chance to test out their products virtually. For example, a developer of computer security software can create thousands of "virtual" computers, each taking the place of a normal physical device, on which he can simulate thousands of different virus and spammer attacks. The results provide reliable proof of effectiveness that can be shown to potential customers and investors.

Either way, the innovator is free from having to buy or max out their own server equipment, or to pay top dollars to rent virtual space from a large commercial cloud vendor, such as Amazon. And the DAIR system is accessible from anywhere.

One of the greatest offerings of cloud environments like DAIR is their ability to create virtual computers that can do the same thing a physical computer can do '€” run programs, login to websites, etc '€” only without the need for hardware or users. And you can run hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of virtual machines (VMs) at the same time. Working simultaneously, these VMs can accomplish tasks at an amazingly fast rate. (Picture 1,000 monkeys at 1,000 typewriters, versus one monkey at one typewriter '€” who's going to write the complete works of Shakespeare first?)

And for those researchers who need to carry out computationally heavy calculations '€” ones that would weigh down a single computer '€” DAIR can spread the computing work over many VMs, again, saving time and money.

This tool is an equalizer, allowing people with big ideas, but limited resources, to test and demonstrate their innovations on a scale that previously only rich, large corporations could reach.

Have a killer digital idea and need some "cores" to prove it? Click here to apply to the DAIR program.