With Dell as its hardware partner, Microsoft will offer customers pre-assembled racks of servers running Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack. Azure Pack, originally known as "Windows Azure Services for Windows Server," provides users with the on-premises equivalents of a number of Azure technologies, including a self-service portal for managing services like Web sites, virtual machines and Service Bus; a portal for administrators to manage "resource clouds"; scalable Web hosting and more.
The Microsoft Cloud Platform System will be available starting next month, said Microsoft executives.
Today's announcement isn't the first time Microsoft is attempting to provide a cloud in a box solution. Back in 2010, Microsoft officials announced the company was readying Windows Azure Appliances, meant to function as "private clouds in a box" along with a few different hardware partners. But that plan fizzled over the next three years, with Microsoft eventually discontinuing work on the project.
Update: Microsoft Executive Vice President of Cloud & Enterprise Scott Guthrie said even though Dell is currently the only hardware vendor with whom Microsoft is working on the Cloud Platform System, Microsoft is open to adding others. But it's the integration and certification involving Microsoft and Dell that he believes will make the offering of interest to large enterprise, government and service provider customers.
Pricing and licensing information about the Cloud Platform System is not yet available, from what I can tell. Update: A Microsoft spokesperson said pricing is "confidential." Update (October 21): The pricing isn't completely confidential. There is a white paper published by Value Prism Consulting and sponsored by Microsoft that outlines the cost of a typical Cloud Platform System configuration (which clocks in at more than $2.6 million, including hardware, software and services.)
Guthrie also announced at today's Microsoft event that the company is adding the CoreOS Linux distribution to the handful of Linux variants it offers customers who want to run Linux in a virtual machine on Azure. Guthrie said he expects CoreOS to be of particular interest to startups using containerization technology.
Microsoft also is rolling its various Azure stores into a single new marketplace, Guthrie said, and allowing third-party software and service vendors to monetize their offerings through the marketplace however they'd want. The new marketplace is replacing the Azure Store, virtual machine gallery and Azure Data Marketplace with a single entity.
Update (October 21): As to who is selling and supporting the new Cloud Platform System -- a topic where there's been some conflicting public information -- here's the official word from a Microsoft spokesperson:
"Customers will buy hardware through Dell and software and services through Microsoft. Microsoft will be the first point of contact for all support requests. If there is a hardware issue, Microsoft will orchestrate the resolution of issues together with Dell, so the customer does not get sent between vendors."