Microsoft bolsters business critical computing in Asia

Multimillion-dollar investment will go toward test labs, expertise and partners in "mission-critical" computing in the region.

SINGAPORE--Microsoft is investing US$14 million over two years to boost the use of its platform for "mission-critical" computing in Asia.

According to Chris Sharp, general manager of server and tools at Microsoft Asia Pacific, the funds will be geared toward three main areas: technical specialists, partner programs and two new technology incubation centers in Bangalore, India, and Seoul, South Korea.

Sharp said the new centers will let businesses test mission-critical applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning), data mining and business intelligence, on Microsoft's server platform. Microsoft has already established similar centers in Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand.

Microsoft will also deploy over 100 technical specialists across the Asia-Pacific region, to help customers choose the appropriate technology for "mission-critical" applications, Sharp said.

Partners will also be roped in to support Microsoft customers segmented by industry clusters including finance, manufacturing and telecommunications, Sharp said.

"Mission-critical computing isn't just about big iron," Sharp said, referring to the raw compute power in large data centers. "It is also about the applications that are most important to an organization."

Against the backdrop of increasing server revenues across the world, Sharp noted, the market for "mission critical" computing has also grown.

According to research from IDC's latest worldwide quarterly server tracker, the server market grew 3.5 percent year-on-year to reach US$12.9 billion in the third quarter of 2006. This was also the highest growth rate in four quarters, and the largest third-quarter spending on servers since 2000.

Although some businesses may choose Epic/Itanium-based systems to run mission-critical applications, Sharp said, there is also a group of customers who would choose the x86 platform.

"We've seen lots of organizations realizing that they can get so much more out of x86 technology at a cheaper price tag," he said.

Still, Sharp emphasized the surging market for Epic/Itanium-based servers used for "mission critical" computing.

"The Epic/Itanium [platform] is growing rapidly," Sharp said. "Over the last six months, we've had hundreds of companies implementing SQL Server 2005 on Itanium."

According to IDC, during the third quarter this year, the global market for Epic/Itanium-based systems grew 23.8 percent year-on-year, generating revenues of more than US$700 million for the second consecutive quarter.

Windows gains foothold
Microsoft Windows, whose third-quarter revenue of US$4.8 billion represented the largest single segment of the server market, continued to expand its footprint, according to IDC.

Dane Anderson, head of research at Springboard Research, told ZDNet Asia: "Microsoft has been making good gains for a number of years, and their latest investment is a good step in the right direction."

But even as Microsoft makes a concerted push into mission-critical computing with its Windows server technology, most businesses would most likely have heterogeneous IT environments that include other platforms, such as Linux running Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), Sharp conceded.

"Interoperability is now a big part of what Microsoft is talking about nowadays," he said. "We have a lot of guys out there who understand legacy systems, and we have the Linux lab where we look at ways to interoperate for the benefit of customers."

James Kang, CIO of Singapore insurance company NTUC Income, runs a mix of legacy and Unix systems--including J2EE applications--that are integrated with his predominantly Microsoft .Net architecture through BizTalk Server.

"We have core insurance applications such as claims processing that are mission-critical," Kang said. "You can have 10 applications, but if they don't 'talk' to each other, you are not going to be very competitive."