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Fujitsu's Windows Azure cloud debuts this August

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Using a platform cloud is supposed to be easy, but apparently building the hardware and software infrastructure is not so trivial. After unexplained delays, Fujitsu and Microsoft are finally getting ready to launch the first private label platform clouds based on Microsoft's Azure software stack.

Microsoft server partners Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Fujitsu announced in July 2010 that they would serve up public Azure clouds from their own data centers and at the same time off Azure hardware that companies could use behind the corporate firewall.

Microsoft didn't come easily or immediately to the private cloud idea, but eventually came around to the idea that companies wanted to build their own private clouds more than use public clouds such as Azure and equally importantly, not everyone wanted to trust Microsoft to host their applications. Hence the alignment with HP, Dell, and Fujitsu to do both hosted and private clouds based on the Azure stack.

At last summer's announcement, Microsoft and its three server partners had hoped to get hosted versions of the Azure clouds out the door before the end of 2010 and did not make any commitments about the timing of when the private Azure cloud chunks might be available for sale. All three have been mum on the subject since.

In an announcement in Tokyo today, Fujitsu and Microsoft said that Fujitsu's Global Cloud Platform, based on the Azure stack, would launch in August. Fujitsu said that the hosted cloud, known as the FGCP/A5 cloud in typical server-naming conventions, has been in beta testing since April 21 at twenty companies.

"Based on the success of the trial service, we are now ready to launch FGCP/A5 officially," said Kazuo Ishida, corporate senior executive vice president and director of Fujitsu, in a statement. "We are very confident that this cloud service will deliver to our customers the flexibility and convenience they are looking for in streamlining their ICT operations management costs."

Fujitsu is plunking the Azure stack, which includes support for .NET, Java, and PHP program services and data storage capabilities that are compatible with Microsoft's own Azure cloud, on its own iron. This Azure stack includes compute and storage services as well as SQL Azure database services and Azure AppFabric technologies including Service Bus and Access Control Service. Fujitsu will be hosting its Azure cloud in one of its Japanese data centers and did not specify what servers, storage, and networking it planned to use to make its cloud. But Fujitsu has all of the pieces it needs to build the underlying infrastructure and is likely using its Primergy rack and blade servers, Eternus storage arrays, and home-grown Ethernet switches.

By putting the Azure knockoff in Japanese data centers and making the cloud accessible globally, as is the plan, Fujitsu can cater to Japanese multinational who either don't want to or cannot legally move their data outside of the country as they compute.

Fujitsu did not say much about pricing for the FGCP/A5 cloud, but said that it would charge a base price of ¥5 per hour (a little more than 6 cents at current exchange rates) for the equivalent of one virtual server instance corresponding to an extra small Azure instance from Microsoft. That's around $45 per month compared to the $37.50 per month that Microsoft is charging.

Fujitsu didn't just preview its launch of its Azure cloud knockoffs, but also put a sales target stake in the ground – something you almost never see a vendor do. (And they almost always regret it when they do.) Fujitsu says that over the next five years, it can line up 400 enterprise customers and 5,000 small and midrange businesses (including application software developers) for its FGCP/A5 cloud.

This begs the question: Where are the HP and Dell Azure hosted clouds, and when will these three companies deliver on the promised Azure private clouds? Dell confirmed to El Reg back in March that it would do two public clouds – one based on Azure and another on some other platform almost certainly to be OpenStack but VMware's vCloud is a possibility.

HP rolled out a bunch of "Frontline" appliances with Microsoft, including data warehousing appliances based on Microsoft's SQL Server database and email appliances based on Exchange Server. HP has been mum on its hosted Azure clouds. The company is making some kind of hybrid cloud announcement at its Discover user and partner conference in Las Vegas today, however, so there may be some movement on the Azure cloud front at HP. We'll see.

As for the private Azure clouds, which would seem to be what customers really want, Charles Di Bona, general manager of Microsoft's Server and Tools division, told a group of financial analysts last month that Azure appliances were at the "early stage at this point". ®

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