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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,, 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

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