Cap Gemini Alliance With Microsoft Boosts Azure's Market Stature

Cap Gemini will design, develop and run cloud-based application services using the Windows Azure platform, SQL Azure cloud database and Azure AppFabric cloud middleware. The Paris, France-based systems integrator will market and deliver the Azure-based cloud services in 22 countries, with an initial focus on the U.S., U.K., the Netherlands, Canada, France, Belgium and Brazil.

Targeted markets will include financial services, energy and utilities, and the public sector, Cap Gemini said. The systems integrator has been talking up a project now underway to build a "virtual police service" system on Azure for the national Dutch Police organization to exchange information regional police agencies.

"We believe this is the largest commitment any systems integrator has made with Microsoft and Azure," said Don Jones, Cap Gemini group vice president of global channel and partners, in an interview.

Azure has been available for nearly 18 months, but it's unclear just how much traction the cloud platform has gained in the market. Last week at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Los Angeles Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Azure is "really climbing at a very, very rapid rate." But the company hasn't disclosed specific sales figures.

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Cap Gemini has seen a "big uptick" in demand for Azure-related services, and he noted that there are already some 1,500 applications developed by ISVs on the platform.

"This is a huge infrastructure play for us," Jones said, noting that Cap Gemini will offer consulting services to help business identify legacy IT systems that can be moved to the cloud.

Cap Gemini is training 1,500 consultants on the Azure technology, Jones said, and is setting up the Windows Azure Center of Excellence facility in Mumbai, India.

Cap Gemini already works with Microsoft to sell its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) cloud application set. BPOS is being replaced by Microsoft's recently launched Office 365 application suite.