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Microsoft floats Azure cloud into China

Redmond meets Red Dragon via 21Vianet

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Microsoft is bringing its Azure cloud to China, although the management of the data center will be done by a local firm.

Azure will become available in a public beta within a month, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said at a speech in Beijing on Monday, according to Bloomberg. As a condition of bringing Azure into China, Microsoft is partnering with local company 21Vianet.

The move contrasts with cloud rivals Google, Amazon, and Rackspace; none of whom have a cloud presence in China. As far as we understand it they don't plan to either, especially given Google's history of disagreement with the Chinese government.

Microsoft first announced its intentions of going to China in November, when it disclosed it had signed a memorandum of understanding with the municipality of Shanghai.

More significantly, the company signed a landmark agreement with local company 21Vianet to license Microsoft technologies, "who will offer Windows Azure services in China from local data centers," Redmond wrote at the time.

To get into China, Microsoft is ceding control of its data center infrastructure over to 21Vianet, one of Redmond's general managers for Azure, Doug Hauger, told ZDNet. The company has trained and certified over 100 employees at 21Vianet to use its Azure tech. Microsoft can only provide support and troubleshooting know-how and will have to request access to the facility from 21Vianet, he said.

At the time of writing Microsoft had not responded to The Register's requests for further information.

Given China's massive rate of software piracy, being able to rent businesses Microsoft tech from Chinese data centers must seem to Redmond's beancounters like a worthy trade-off for the loss of control.

We also note that Microsoft has prior experience operating in China with a local partner via its communications platform Skype, whose Chinese distribution TOM-Skype is alleged to contain backdoors that are used by the repressive state to monitor dissidents.

Microsoft believes the Chinese cloud computing market will grow from $297m in 2011 to $3.8bn in 2020, the company wrote in November. ®

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