By Geoffrey A. Fowler
Amazon.com on Wednesday is launching a grant program that offers professors, researchers and students free access to its popular Web services – the storage and processing power that it usually rents on a per-use basis.
The program, dubbed AWS in Education, will offer $100 per student worth of free usage of its services, but only to courses and academics approved by Amazon. Faculty and researchers around the globe can apply online for the grants, which will be judged on the “originality” of their ideas. Amazon has committed to donating at least $1 million worth of free AWS access, but doesn’t have a set timeline.
The idea is to give students access to the same hardware and processing power in the “cloud”–where information is stored and processed on computers somewhere else and brought back to your screen–that is becoming increasingly popular with professional software developers.
The hope, said Adam Selipsky, Amazon’s vice president of product management and developer relations, is that a future generation of tech startups and chief technology officers will someday return the favor by choosing to use Amazon in their professional work.
“A lot of the students in these classes –- and a lot of the researchers who are out there in universities — are influential voices in the developer and IT community. And we think that having them educated on our services will benefit the developer community, and of course, our efforts as well,” said Selipsky.
Why don’t these universities just run their own servers to offer this technology to their own faculty and students? “Very few people have extra capital to be throwing around now,” said Selipsky. “They are trying to do more in IT while spending less.”
A $100 from Amazon Web services is equivalent to 1,000 hours –- more than a month — of processing on the company’s Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Or it could buy one month of storage of 666 gigabytes worth of data on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, or S3.
Amazon has previously offered informal grants to classes such as Harvard College’s 300-student introductory computer science course , and research projects such as the Malaria Atlas Project at Oxford.
Amazon isn’t alone in trying to court the favor of young programmers. Microsoft offers a free program called DreamSpark to college and high school students to give them access to professional-level developer and designer tools and training.