Microsoft Azure Appliance Announced at Worldwide Partner Conference

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print

IT solution providers and Microsoft partners will be able to deliver cloud computing as a product and a service independent of the Microsoft hosting infrastructure using the Microsoft Azure Appliance announced by Microsoft at its Worldwide Partner Conference.

Microsoft is putting the power of cloud infrastructures and applications in the hands of partners with the forthcoming release of Windows Azure Appliance.

Azure Appliance will make it possible for service providers, solution providers, application developers and end users to host and control private and semi-private clouds in their own data centers, said Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, during his keynote address at the Worldwide Partner Conference.

Azure Appliance is seen as a key differentiator for Microsoft in its battle for dominance in the cloud against rivals against Google, Salesforce.com, VMware and Amazon Web Services. While each of these providers offer various forms of software, infrastructure and platform as a service, Muglia said Microsoft through Azure and Azure Appliance is the only vendor that can provide partners with all dimensions of cloud computing.

"We are learning by running it every day, and that learning translates into building a better platform for you," Muglia told partners.

Microsoft has been developing Windows Azure over the last three years as an infrastructure as a service and open application development platform. Azure is one of the major pillars of the Microsoft cloud computing strategy.

Solution providers have expressed concern that Windows Azure would diminish opportunities as Microsoft began hosting their own apps and dealing directly with end users on hosting applications and virtual infrastructures.

Partners applauded the Azure Appliance, saying that it would give them a product they can resell as well as build and control their own cloud service delivery offerings.

"I am totally surprised. I did not expect it and did not see it. This is the missing link. This is the piece we need to give us a destination in the cloud world," said one Microsoft partner.

Microsoft is launching Azure Appliance with four global partners – Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Dell and eBay.

Dell, for instance, will run Windows Azure Appliances in its data center for hosting cloud applications, as well as providing the Azure Appliance to its partners for building service offerings. Fujitsu is deploying Azure Appliance in Japan and will migrate to other markets around the world as it trains more than 5,000 of its independent software vendors on the platform.

"The cloud is all about customers and massively decreasing the cost of computing and increasing efficiencies," Peter Altabef, president of Dell Services. "We think the Azure platform is a revolutionary change in the cloud market."

Muglia said the appliance isn’t a small implementation proposition and not suitable for smaller solution providers and VARs. He said that SMB-focused VARs would find opportunity in developing applications for Azure, but contracting Azure services from larger integrators and service providers.

Muglia says Microsoft will extend the availability of Azure Appliance in 2011. He encouraged partners to develop applications for Azure because they will run on the appliance.

Solution providers delivering cloud services through the Azure Appliance will have control over updates and upgrades. For those utilizing the Microsoft hosted services will have the ability to manage and provision resources through a new self-service portal in System Center.

Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.