Microsoft Rolls Out Azure Appliance, Partners With HP, Dell, eBay And Fujitsu

During its annual Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft introduced (a limited production release of) the Windows Azure platform appliance, the company’s cloud services platform for deployment in customer and service provider datacenters.

The company is touting partnerships with some big-name early adopters of the appliance, namely Dell, eBay, HP and Fujitsu.

In his keynote address, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer highlighted the critical role partners will play in driving the IT industry’s transformation to cloud computing, dubbing it an “inflection point in technology history”.

The new Windows Azure platform appliance, which is being rolled out in phases, combines Windows Azure and Microsoft SQL Azure with Microsoft-specified hardware, enabling on-demand IT capacity and faster delivery of new applications through the cloud.

Large enterprises and service providers deploying the appliance in their datacenters can tap the cloud services that Microsoft offers today while maintaining physical control of location, regulatory compliance and data.

Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft, also disclosed some new details regarding Microsoft code name “Dallas,” an information service powered by the Windows Azure platform that provides developers and information workers access to third-party premium data sets and Web services.

Muglia also announced the Release Candidate of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal 2.0, as well as the Microsoft Management and Virtualization Solution Incentive and the Private Cloud Deployment Kit, which offers financial rewards and guidance to partners as they build virtualization and private cloud solutions.

Finally, Tami Reller, corporate vice president and chief financial officer for the Windows business, announced the beta release of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1, as well as the second public beta of Windows Intune, a new offering that uses both Windows cloud services and Windows 7 to manage and help secure PCs.