Office 365, Windows Azure now in China

Microsoft partners Beijing-based datacenter services provider 21Vianet to handle local data centers and provide direct and legal access to Redmond's cloud services to Chinese users.

Microsoft's Office 365 and Windows Azure cloud computing services will now be available to users in China, thanks to a licensing deal with a domestic data center services provider.

China Daily reported Friday that the U.S. software giant partnered Beijing-based 21Vianet Group which will operate the data centers and cloud services in the country.

Microsoft said the partnership will give Chinese customers direct and legal access to Office 365 and Windows Azure services, although it noted those who preferred to use services managed and delivered by Microsoft can still access its data centers in other countries in Asia-Pacific.

The company added it signed an agreement to provide these cloud services to Shanghai municipal government through a new data center in the city that will be built and handled also by 21Vianet.

"It's a milestone for Microsoft 's cloud business in China, and the Shanghai government's adoption of legal software ," said Dai Haibo, chairman of the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization, adding negotiations between the local government and Microsoft took nearly a year.

Chen Sheng, chairman and CEO of 21Vianet, said China will now have its own local data centers to access Microsoft's cloud services, when previously people could only do so via overseas-based facilities.

He also said his company plans on expanding its partnership with Microsoft from Shanghai to other Chinese cities next year.