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Windows Azure Becomes Generally Available in China

Microsoft on Wednesday launched its Windows Azure cloud platform in China, making it the first multinational company to offer public cloud services in the country.

Microsoft opened signups for Windows Azure in Asia back in June 2013, but Wednesday's announcement marks its general availability. Windows Azure services will be provided by Microsoft partner and Chinese Internet service provider 21Vianet, which currently supports "more than 3,000 customers in China," according to an announcement by Takeshi Numoto, Microsoft's corporate vice president for cloud and enterprise marketing.

21Vianet uses technology that's "based on" Microsoft's Windows Azure technology, a Microsoft blog post explained. 21Vianet has almost 100 employees certified on Windows Azure.

The move is part of broader expansion of Windows Azure into the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan and Australia, too, at a cost to Microsoft of hundreds of millions. Microsoft also announced last week that it's planning to rename Windows Azure and will start calling it "Microsoft Azure" on April 3.

Microsoft may be the first multinational company with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings in China, but it still faces competition from Amazon and other service providers in that country, according to a blog post by Charlie Dai, a principal consultant on enterprise architecture at Forrester Research. Competitors such as IBM and Oracle are using OpenStack technologies to offer cloud services in the country, while the use of CloudStack is being driven by Citrix.

Microsoft and 21Vianet's Windows Azure service likely will put pressure on local low-cost service providers in China, such as Aliyun, according to Dai. The service can compete by offering better uptime guarantees. Currently Microsoft's cloud computing service is the first in China to offer a service level agreement of 99.5 percent, he explained.

Dai added that Microsoft has set a positive example with its partner ecosystem in the country. Amazon has a longer operational history in providing cloud services, but it "still has a way to [go] before it understands local customers and establishes a partner ecosystem" in China, Dai explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.