Microsoft debuts Azure private cloud appliance

The company has launched a private cloud offering that will also be repackaged and resold with optional services from companies including Fujitsu, Dell and HP
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Microsoft has launched a software appliance that enterprises can use to build their own private clouds.

Microsoft's Windows Azure Platform Appliance (WAPA) is designed to be used across hundreds to thousands of servers, said Microsoft. The appliance consists of the Windows Azure cloud operating system, the SQL Azure cloud-based database service and a Microsoft-specified configuration of network, storage and server hardware.

Mike Schutz, Microsoft's Windows Server director of product management, told ZDNet UK on Monday that customers' security and compliance concerns led Microsoft to develop the platform appliance.

"We've learned from customers and partners, who've had great success moving to Azure," said Schutz. "Customers always had questions — they wanted to run the service in order to have control and had questions about compliance or physical proximity [of data]."

Microsoft's WAPA is designed to run in organisations' datacentres, said Schutz, and is aimed at service providers, large corporations and governments.

Three providers have signed up to sell services developed on top of WAPA, said Schutz. Various offerings will be available from Fujitsu, Dell and HP, including software-as-a-service (SaaS), systems integration and cloud migration.

eBay has also signed up as a customer, and will be hosting services on top of the Windows Azure platform, said Schutz.

Licensing terms have not been announced, Schutz added.

Fujitsu plans to build a number of offerings on top of Microsoft's WAPA, Fujitsu Services corporate technology officer Marc Silvester told ZDNet UK on Monday. "We are co-developing the Windows Azure Platform Appliance on Fujitsu hardware with services wrapped around," he said.

The company will develop a Fujitsu-branded WAPA that customers will be able to buy and deploy in their own datacentres, using Fujitsu's hardware.

Fujitsu will also offer cloud services for businesses looking to extend their computing capacity — consuming storage as a service, for example. Other customers may only want to buy infrastructure-as-a-service, and build and maintain their own applications, said Silvester.

In addition, Fujitsu will offer what it calls "activity as a service", in which business processes are outsourced. The services for sale will include hosted business activities such as invoice generation, paycheque printing and postcode verification, said Silvester.

Fujitsu is moving more towards the cloud, Silvester added. "Our business is transforming into a fully-fledged cloud business," he said. "We are in acquisition mode, and we're focusing on the cloud."

Dell said in a statement on Monday that it will run the WAPA as part of its Dell cloud services.

"The Windows Azure Platform Appliance will allow Dell to deliver private and public cloud services for Dell and its enterprise, public, small and medium-sized business customers," said the company in the statement. Dell will also offer Dell-branded appliances for organisations to run in their datacentres.

HP said in a Tuesday statement that it was engaged in ongoing efforts to optimise WAPA and other Microsoft applications for its Converged Infrastructure set of products and services. HP will also offer datacentre-hosted services, and plans to release a limited production WAPA for deployment in HP datacentres by the end of the year.

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