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Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud is leaking out of Redmond through a joint venture with Accenture.

Windows' desktop and server cloud computing outfit has signed an agreement for Accenture and its Avanade subsidiary to become just the second and third companies to sell, host and deliver Windows Azure services to customers.

Accenture will initially expand its IT outsourcing options to include Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) on Windows Azure followed by the Amazon-like Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) “as it becomes available", Tuesday’s announcement said.

“Accenture and Avanade clients are now able to sign a single contract for the delivery and running of cloud services on Windows Azure to receive one-stop provisioning and monitoring through Accenture,” the companies said.

Accenture and Avanade will provide design, delivery and ongoing management services.

Around the time Microsoft was building and releasing Windows Azure in 2009 and 2010, the company had hemmed-and-hawed on whether to let others host clouds with its software or to follow Amazon's lead and run everything itself. The answer you got depended on who you were speaking to at the time.

Microsoft finally picked a strategy by the middle of 2010 when it grandly announced plans at its prestigious partner conference that summer for the development of a Windows Azure appliance by the end of that year – with Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu and eBay as early adopters. Dell said it would have appliances running in its data centres by January 2011.

The plan was to sell servers loaded with the Windows Azure elastic computing and storage software, to be installed in customer’s data centres, as well as to sell hosted services from PC makers and Windows Azure consulting services.

But the appliances and services missed their deadlines. And while Microsoft tried to convince the world that Windows Azure appliances really did exist by conducting a series of trials, Dell and HP embraced the open-source OpenStack and the VMware alternatives. Dell last month announced the European availability of its OpenStack PowerEdge bundle, running Ubuntu Linux, in Europe.

In 2011, HP’s ex-chief executive Leo Apotheker actually backed away from his company’s commitment to Windows Azure. When asked by The Reg whether HP’s still forthcoming cloud would float on Azure, per the announcement of 2010, he declined to comment.

OpenStack has attracted a huge industry following, with nearly 120 corporate contributors since it was unveiled by Nasa and Rackspace also in summer 2010. US telco giant AT&T became the latest sign-up in January this year as an OpenStack contributor.

So far, it seems just Fujitsu has delivered on that original 2010 announcement by Microsoft. The server-and-services part of the company launched its Global Cloud Platform on Windows Azure running in its Japan data centre in August 2011.

Now, Microsoft’s consulting partner Accenture and its subsidiary Avanade – a joint venture formed between the two companies in 2000 – joins Fujitsu in the Azure cloud.

Adam Warby, Avanade chief executive, said in a statement about the Windows Azure agreement: “With more certified Windows Azure architects than any other Microsoft partner, coupled with our unique insights and innovation and integrated global delivery capabilities, we are able to help organisations quickly migrate to Windows Azure and realise business results faster.” ®

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