Where are those Windows Azure Appliances?

What's going on with Microsoft's private-cloud-in-a-box -- its Windows Azure Appliances? No one's really saying....
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

In July 2010, Microsoft took the wraps off its plans for the Windows Azure Appliance, a kind of "private-cloud-in-a-box" available from select Microsoft partners. At that time, company officials said that OEMs including HP, Dell and Fujitsu would have Windows Azure Appliances in production and available to customers by the end of 2010.

We're half way through January 2011, but the promised Azure Appliances have yet to materialize.

I noticed MSPMentor.net, in January 6 interview with Microsoft channel chief Jon Roskill, asked about the appliances. In that interview, Roskill reportedly said Azure Appliances should be available in another nine months or so. So does that mean the Azure Appliances are almost a year behind schedule?

I asked the Azure team for comment and was told by a spokesperson that Microsoft had no update to share at this time.

I also asked HP, Dell and eBay -- the customer Microsoft focused on as part of the Windows Azure Appliance launch last year -- for updates.

HP didn't respond.

Update (January 18). Just received this update from Jeff Carlat, an HP Director of Marketing for its Industry Standard Servers Unit. He acknowledged there's been a delivery delay, but doesn't provide a new update on timing. His statement:

"HP and Microsoft continue to collaborate deeply on standing up a Windows Azure Interim Cloud Appliance.  Our primary focus to provide a superior customer experience has resulted in a push out of the availability of offering the hosted Azure services as we have jointly progressed on the planning process. We are jointly learning how best to augment the current Microsoft hosted appliance for HP and others to sell and service. Our collaboration across HP and with Microsoft on this key initiative is progressing well against the plan objectives with several key milestones completed."

Dell sent me this statement from Kris Fitzgerald, Dell Services CTO: “At the time of the announcement with Microsoft about Windows Azure, we stated it would be operational in Q1 of 2011. We are on target for those dates for initial customers and full deployment will occur shortly thereafter.” He also noted that Dell’s Q1 quarter is February 1 – April 30.

(For the record, I looked on Dell's site and found no references to Q1 2011 timing -- whether it be calendar or fiscal quarter -- in Dell's Azure Appliance press materials. I did find a quote from Fitzgerald on News.com, saying Dell planned to have an Azure Appliance up and running in its datacenter by the end of January 2011.)

An eBay spokesperson e-mailed the following update: "On the Windows Azure platform appliance side, we continue to work together with Microsoft on the integration and will be able to provide further update soon."

As described by Microsoft last summer, Windows Azure Appliances will be preconfigured containers with between hundreds and thousands of servers running the Windows Azure platform. These containers will be housed, at first, at Dell’s, HP’s and Fujitsu’s datacenters, with Microsoft providing the Azure infrastructure and services for these containers.

In the longer term, Microsoft is expecting some large enterprises, like eBay, to house the containers in their own datacenters on site — in other words, to run their own “customer-hosted clouds.”Over time, smaller service providers also will be authorized to make Azure Appliances available to their customers, as well.

I'm not implying that Microsoft is backing away from its Azure Appliance plans. (I've seen posts from folks who've received training to prepare for the forthcoming appliances.) But an official update from Microsoft's Azure team would be nice....

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