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Microsoft to Offer Azure ‘Appliance’

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During his keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) 2010 Monday, Server and Tools Division President Bob Muglia will announce that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) plans to offer a version of its Windows Azure services platform in an “appliance” configuration that can be deployed by customers as well as by third-party hosting partners.

Microsoft’s annual WPC is unique in that it’s one of the few company events where the software giant describes its future plans directly to its third-party partners and explains how they can make money selling, customizing, maintaining and hosting Microsoft products and services.

“The appliance is the same Windows Azure platform we run at Microsoft, and includes Windows Azure and SQL Azure on Microsoft-specified hardware,” Robert Wahbe, corporate vice president of the Server and Tools Division, plans to say in a blog post Monday morning, that was previewed by

“It means an IT department can respond to the needs of business more quickly at a lower cost of operations, and it presents a tremendous opportunity for Microsoft partners to prosper as they help their customers take advantage of the cloud,” Wahbe added.

Microsoft has already enlisted several partners as part of its move to enable hosting of the Windows Azure platform appliance outside of Microsoft’s cloud.

“Dell, Fujitsu, and Hewlett-Packard are implementing a limited production release of the appliance in their datacenters, so they can deliver cloud services to customers, and we are working with them so they can offer the appliance to run in customer datacenters, too,” Wahbe’s post continued.

To deploy the appliance, though, takes the capability to run hundreds or thousands of servers, Amy Barzdukas, general manager of the Server and Tools Division, told

“You’re going to get the best cost on that increased scale,” Barzdukas said.

Microsoft’s own hosted Windows Azure services platform has been open for business as a public cloud application platformfor third-parties to build on top of since February when the company began charging for its use.

Many IT organizations want the benefits of cloud-based computing but can’t risk deploying mission critical applications in a public cloud. The question for IT decision makers and third-parties such as system integrators and hosting companies is how to deliver those benefits without putting the enterprise at risk — or breaking the bank.

“Service providers, governments and large enterprises who would consider buying, say, 1,000 servers at a time, will be able to get the control they need while still getting the benefits of scale, multi-tenancy, and low operational costs inherent to the Windows Azure Services platform,” Wahbe said.

Online auction site eBay is one of the first customers in line for the Windows Azure platform appliance.

“EBay is already using Windows public Azure to power [an auction site for Apple iPads], and … eBay plans to use the Azure appliance for automatic, scalable capacity management on a massive ecommerce platform, among other things,” an eBay spokesperson said in an e-mail to

Microsoft clearly relishes having eBay as a launch customer for the offering.

“As one of the biggest ecommerce businesses on the planet, eBay has tremendous web expertise, but they believe the Windows Azure platform appliance will help them more easily launch new products and features, while eliminating manual IT processes and reducing costs,” Wahbe’s post said.

Division President Muglia won’t spend all of his time talking about the Windows Azure platform appliance, though.

Muglia also plans to announce that Microsoft on Monday will release the long-awaited public beta of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), as well as SP1 for Windows Server 2008 R2, company officials told

He will also announce that Microsoft is shipping the release candidate of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal, which Wahbe said provides “tools and guidance to build cloud services on the Windows Server platform.”

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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