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Windows Azure Expanding to China, Japan and Australia

Microsoft is expanding its Windows Azure service coverage in the Asia-Pacific region.

The expansion touches China, Japan and Australia and involves an investment of "hundreds of millions of dollars," according to a Microsoft announcement today, attributed to Satya Nadella, Microsoft's president of the Server and Tools Business Division.

In China, Microsoft has set up a partnership with 21Vianet and established an agreement with the Shanghai municipal government to deliver Windows Azure services. Sign-ups for the service will start on June 6, making Microsoft the "first multinational organization to make public cloud services available in China," according to the announcement. 21 Vianet has almost 100 employees that are certified to support Windows Azure.

Microsoft also announced today an "intent" to offer Windows Azure services in Japan East (Tokyo) and Japan West (Kansai). This proposed Windows Azure Japan region will involve continued collaboration between Microsoft and Fujitsu Ltd., Microsoft indicated in an announcement today. The company also stated that it has 48 partners in Japan pledged to support its newly unfurled Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, which competes with Amazon Web Services offerings.

Fujitsu had previously made the news a couple of years ago as the first Microsoft partner to deploy Microsoft's Windows Azure Appliance, which is a mixture of Windows Azure software and about 1,000 servers. However, Microsoft has since clammed up about the appliance project, which was supposed to have had other partners as well, such as Dell, eBay and HP. In February, veteran Microsoft reporter Mary Jo Foley said that work on the appliance concept had stopped, according to unnamed sources at Microsoft.

So, whether the appliance concept is going ahead or not is still unclear at this point.

In addition to the Asia expansions, Microsoft has other regional plans for Windows Azure in the works, this time in Australia. Earlier this week, the company indicated its intentions to build Windows Azure operations in "two subregions" located in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia.

Supposedly, this Australian Windows Azure infrastructure will allow organizations in Australia to use Windows Azure services while maintaining data sovereignty. U.S.-based Microsoft is subject to the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, which further reduces marginal U.S. FISA court protections against U.S. government snooping on electronic traffic. Data sovereignty is a prime concern in Europe, with some European-based companies restricted to hosting their data only within their country of origin.

A Microsoft blog post suggested that data sovereignty, while strengthened via the new Windows Azure datacenters to be located in Australia, isn't a concern because Australia already has Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties that permit the use of Microsoft's Windows Azure, despite the potential intrusions implied by the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act. A hybrid network, shunting sensitive data to a local private network, is another option for companies wanting to tap Windows Azure.

About the Author

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

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