A primary reason that I propose the frontier framework is useful for understanding entrepreneurs on campus is that the campus offers access to vast and diverse assets and resources just as the frontier offered incredible assets (ie gold and silver, timber, land, furs, etc.)
Microsoft corporation has added to the campus kitty by offering free access to powerful cloud computing services to university researchers. From Ashlee Vance at the NY Times Bits Blog:
Microsoft has hit on a direct path to university researchers’ hearts and minds: give them free, easy access to huge numbers of computers.
The software maker has started grafting popular scientific databases and tools onto its Windows Azure cloud computing service. This basically means that researchers in various fields get access to a fast supercomputer of their very own and can pose queries to enormous data sets that Microsoft keeps up to date. For the time being, Microsoft will allow research groups to perform their work free rather than renting time on Azure via a credit card.
These moves have turned Somsak Phattarasukol, a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, into a big fan of Microsoft.
Mr. Phattarasukol, like many researchers, is accustomed to waiting in line for access to large, public computers and to twiddling his thumbs – sometimes for days – as the machines work on his requests. It’s a frustrating process only made worse as the databases the researchers deal with swell alongside the time it takes to perform the analysis.
Later in the piece,
Dan Reed, the vice president for technology strategy and policy and extreme computing at Microsoft, portrayed the scientific bent of Azure as a means of opening serious computing power to “the excluded middle” of researchers that can’t afford their own supercomputing systems.
Microsoft also wants to create strong ties between desktop applications – like Excel and other specialized scientific software – and Azure, so that scientists can simply click a button and fire off a complex query rather than needing to developing their own programming skills to pull this off, as often happens today.
“I have seen a whole generation of researchers turned into system administrators by the demands of computing,” Mr. Reed said.
While many decry to role of corporations on campus and some will point to nefarious designs behind Microsoft’s actions, those arguments deny the reality that Universities exist to serve society and must therefore be integrated with society. The growth of entrepreneurship on campus has mirrored, responded to the entrepreneurial age we are in (and entered some time in the 1970s).
Anybody gonna try this Microsoft offering?