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Chris Murphy
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Global CIO: What Microsoft Must Do After Blockbuster eBay Deal

Now it must convince average companies why they need private cloud computing.

If you're Microsoft, who's your dream customer to prove private cloud computing is for real, and you can deliver it on a massive scale, with a new appliance?

Facebook might top the list. But it doesn't get much better than eBay, whom Microsoft just signed as a test customer for its new Windows Azure appliance.

Now, all eyes should be on how eBay uses the appliance. Today, it's using it for one testing site. Will eBay expand the use of Azure to run large, customer-facing pieces of its Internet business on them? And will eBay help Microsoft develop new capabilities that broaden the private cloud's appeal?

A private cloud is meant to let companies mimic the dynamic scalability and resource pooling of public cloud computing inside a company's own data center. Ideally, that would let IT deliver better results with fewer resources. With its Azure appliance, Microsoft is pushing the idea that you can run applications in a cloud environment inside your own data center, or move that workload into Microsoft's public cloud data center, using the same Windows Azure platform.

Private cloud computing is at a pivotal point, which is why eBay's use will be closely watched. CIOs are hugely interested in the private cloud idea. They're also hugely uncertain whether it'll deliver on the promise. Consider three data points from our June private cloud cover story that show the interest and uncertainty:

1. More than half of companies in our private cloud survey are using private clouds (28%) or planning to do so (30%).

2. However, 38% of those companies have devoted zero budget to private clouds.

3. And the no. 1 reason for not considering private clouds is "no business need," cited by 37% of the 504 business technology pros in our InformationWeek Analytics survey.

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