It now sounds, however, as though Microsoft is going to try, try again to provide partners and larger enterprise users with preconfigured Azure appliances.
Microsoft's coming Azure appliances, codenamed "San Diego," will consist of preassembled racks of servers running Microsoft's Azure Pack, I've heard from various sources who requested anonymity. Appliance customers will get compute, network and storage resources to use inside their own datacenters.
I'm not sure (yet) which vendors' servers will be included or when Microsoft will announce officially its new appliance plans. I've asked Microsoft officials for comment; no word back yet.
Microsoft originally announced Azure Pack back in July 2012 when it was known as "Windows Azure Services for Windows Server." Azure Pack integrates with Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. It 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. For more useful information on Azure Pack, check out the Azure Pack Wiki on TechNet.
According to sources, customers and partners will order the coming appliances directly from Microsoft and Microsoft will be providing them with direct support. I haven't heard anything about intended pricing, but these appliances will be aimed, at least for now, at partners and large business customers only, sources said.