Microsoft put some hardware meat around its Azure cloud computing system as it forged bundling deals with Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. The move better positions Azure for so-called private cloud computing deployments, the same market targeted by VMware's vSphere cloud operating system.
Mary Jo Foley recaps the moving parts. In a nutshell:
- Microsoft is launching the Windows Azure Platform Appliance, preconfigured containers designed to be dropped into data centers.
- These appliances are really containers with thousands of servers running Azure.
- Initially, these appliances will run at Dell, HP and Fujitsu, but will migrate to customers' private clouds. Microsoft and eBay have inked an Azure cloud computing pact where the e-commerce giant will be the first Azure appliance customers.
Add it up and Microsoft is putting some hardware heft behind Azure at its Worldwide Partner Conference, but don't lose sight of what this move is really about---being a cloud operating system leader. Microsoft and VMware have similar designs---both want to be the operating system of corporate clouds. The initial virtualization skirmish between Microsoft and VMware was really just an appetizer.
Here's Microsoft's Azure stack:
In this cloud-OS prism, Microsoft is following a well-known playbook. Forge hardware ties and drop preconfigured systems into a data center. Is it any different dropping in a container of Azure-powered server containers than a corporate PC or server? Not really. The challenge for VMware and vSphere is to play Microsoft's game as well as the software giant does. So far so good, VMware is tight with Cisco, parent EMC and a bevy of other hardware providers.
The Azure Appliances are running the same Windows Azure cloud operating system and SQL Azure cloud database that Microsoft runs itself, according to company officials. The target audiences for the product are governments, large enterprises and service providers who might be interested in buying 1,000 servers at a time.
As noted two weeks ago, Azure is frequently in final bake-offs with the likes of Amazon Web Services, but the approaches are really different. Amazon is playing the infrastructure as a service game where you don't commit capital spending on servers. Microsoft is playing a hybrid game that will represent a large portion of the corporate data center market. Both approaches will be mixed and matched in real enterprise life.
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