Microsoft has paid a great deal of attention to its Windows Azure cloud platform at its Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011, and buried within a blog post detailing a host of Azure updates, Microsoft hid a surprise: the Microsoft Windows Azure appliance, once considered as mythical as the unicorn, really exists.
Microsoft first dropped the Windows Azure appliance bomb at WPC 2010, launching it into "limited production release" for a targeted late-2010 launch. The appliance, a turnkey private cloud in a box, or a "big container" that contains locked-down, Microsoft-specific networking and storage running Windows Azure and SQL Azure services, was Microsoft's bid to put private cloud security and control into partner and customer data centers with the scalability benefits of a public cloud.
The goal was for Microsoft to co-develop Azure boxes, pre-configured hardware and software bundles that would enable partners and customers to quickly stand up private clouds in-house, with Dell, HP and Fujitsu. But as of April, Azure appliances were nowhere to be found, despite Microsoft rallying around its cloud and Azure strategies.
At WPC 2011 in Los Angeles this week -- a year to the day after Microsoft first unveiled the Windows Azure cloud appliance -- Microsoft highlighted a trio of major Azure appliance developments, proving that it does exist in the wild.
According to Microsoft's Server & Tools blog, HP still intends to use the Azure appliance to offer private and public cloud computing services based on Microsoft Windows Azure. "They have an operational appliance at their data center that has been validated by Microsoft to run the Windows Azure Platform and they look forwarded to making services available to their customers later this year," Microsoft wrote.
Fujitsu, too, is making strides with the Azure box.
"Fujitsu announced in June that they would be launching the Fujitsu Global Cloud Platform (FGCP/A5) service in August 2011, running on a Windows Azure Platform appliance at their datacenter in Japan," Microsoft wrote. "By using FGCP/A5, customers will be able to quickly build elastically-scalable applications using familiar Windows Azure platform technologies, streamline their IT operations management and be more competitive in the global market. In addition, customers will have the ability to store their business data domestically in Japan if they prefer."
And eBay is in the early stages of implementing a Windows Azure appliance and has built its first application on Windows azure, the ipad.ebay.com application.
"eBay is continuing to evaluate ways in which the Windows Azure platform appliance can help improve engineering agility and reduce operating costs," Microsoft said.
Microsoft's boasts of Windows Azure appliance traction come as Microsoft pushes its Azure cloud platform to partners and touts the ability to build applications and solutions leveraging the cloud platform. For example, at WPC 2011 Microsoft said the Windows Azure Marketplace now allows application sales, to let partners and customers sell, try and buy Azure-based applications.
Microsoft also released a study by Forrester Consulting that found that ISVs and software partners that deploy solutions on Windows Azure generate 20 percent to 250 percent new revenue by reaching new customers, while saving up to 80 percent on hosting costs and being able to reuse up to 80 percent of their existing .NET code when moving to Windows Azure.