Microsoft recently announced in a public statement that it plans to let businesses and partners run Windows Azure in their own data centres when they purchase a server appliance.
The software giant had lately suggested that users may someday be able to host their own instances of the cloud-based operating system, but had yet to specify details or commit to the idea.
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The Windows Azure Platform Appliance will comprise of several hundreds of servers, along with networking equipment and other parts in a container-size package. HP, Dell and Fujitsu will be the first few to sell the appliances, although Microsoft is offering very little details, such as how the appliances will be priced or when they will be available. Microsoft says it is too early to put out too many details, but said the opportunity should appeal to businesses and partners that want to benefit from Azure, but need physical control of their data for regulatory.
Initially the three Original Equipment Manufacturers will be packaging the Azure software in their data centres and providing support to customers, although the idea is to also permit each company to make hardware that they could sell to individual businesses.
Microsoft already dispatches Azure servers to its own data centres in container-based units and has drawn up plansfor units that would not even need to be housed in a structure.
The Azure appliance announcement is part of a series of announcements timed for the start of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C which is scheduled for October 28-29. The company is also announcing the betas of the first service pack of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as well as costs, and a new beta for Windows Intune.
Dell, whose servers are extensively used at Microsoft’s Azure data centres, said it hopes to have an appliance running in its facilities by the end of the fiscal year, which would be sometime in January. Selling Azure appliances to other companies will probably take some more time.
Having an appliance option could help smoothen the transition for companies that are interested in the cloud, but aren’t ready to hand over all of their data. Among the earliest commercial customers for the appliance was eBay, which already uses the public Azure cloud to run the iPad version of its website. James Barrese, vice president of technology for eBay, said his organisation hopes to get the first appliance functioning before the end of the year. Barrese commented that eBay will use the internal Azure cloud to run new applications, but over a period of time, the company expects to shift both core data and applications to an internal instance of Azure.
ABOUT WINDOWS AZURE SERVICES PLATFORM
Microsoft’s Windows Azure Platform is a cloud platform product that provides a wide range of Internet services that can be availed from both on-premises environments and the Internet. It is Microsoft’s first step into cloud computing following the release of the Microsoft Online Services offering.