Microsoft proclaims Azure as first foreign cloud in China

Microsoft says it's the first western cloud to pitch up in China on the back of a local partner, as Azure enters general availability in the country.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The race for China's cloud market is on and, according to Microsoft, Azure's move to general availability in the country yesterday makes it the first global public cloud provider in the region.

Microsoft announced the shift from preview mode yesterday, which the company — via its local Chinese partner 21Vianet — has been in since last May. Microsoft has also been offering Office 365 through 21Vianet in China.

Foreign cloud providers are required to partner with Chinese infrastructure companies to do business in the country.

"This significant milestone makes us the first global company to make onshore public cloud services available to customers in China, through 21Vianet," Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise marketing unit, said.

Azure, which will launch a Brazil region this year, also moved to general availability in Japan last month.

Azure's general availability in China comes as US cloud providers pile into the country, looking to take on local cloud giant Alibaba, the company behind the Aliyun cloud and other projects such as the forked Android OS Aliyun OS, and Aliyun search engine. Last year, according to the China Information Industry Net (CNII), the Chinese cloud market was worth $1bn.

In December Amazon announced a limited preview of AWS in China for its new Beijing region, launching it earlier this year.

Unlike Microsoft, AWS partnered with multiple datacentre and ISPs, including ChinaNetCenter and SINNET.

AWS had already made some headway in China ahead of the launch of the Beijing region, counting among its customers smartphone upstart Xiaomi, internet and security company Qihoo 360, biotech outfit Tiens, and dozens of others that were to participate in the limited preview of the AWS China Region.

Not to be left out, IBM — which has a massive albeit recently troubled server business in China — in December chased Amazon into the country on the back of Microsoft's partner, 21Vianet Group, to launch its cloud infrastructure service.

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