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Microsoft Launches Appliance For Building Private Clouds

"This offers scalability, efficiency, and the ability to rapidly respond to changing situations," said James Barrese, vice president of technology at eBay, which partnered with Microsoft on the appliance.

Microsoft has developed a private cloud appliance with hardware partners and the $60 billion-a-year, online marketplace, eBay.

The Azure platform appliance is designed to be deployed in an on-premises private cloud in racks of hundreds or thousands of servers. It will run both Windows Server and a software stack that matches what's available in Microsoft's Azure public cloud. In addition to enterprises, the appliance is geared for use by large cloud services suppliers.

Microsoft is seeking to help build private clouds, not at the expense of its Azure public cloud, but on a pattern that matches what's available in Azure. Such private clouds, locked down behind firewalls and intrusion detection systems, will be able to handle private customer data and financial transactions. To do so, Microsoft is willing to run Java applications on its appliance as first class citizens alongside Microsoft .Net languages, such as Visual Basic and C#, Microsoft's Java competitor.

"They got that right. We decided to move forward with them," said James Barrese, eBay's VP of technology.

Earlier this year, EBay, as a $60 billion-a-year online marketplace, was looking toward its next generation infrastructure and showed Microsoft its blueprint for future high volume, scalable operations. EBay in the past has built up its own data centers.

But it was seeking greater automation of pooled resources, greater ease of maintaining security and easier administration of users. "We asked, do we want to build this ourselves or partner with somebody who can do it," said Barrese in an interview. "We see Azure appliances as being able to scale out very quickly," he said.

In positioning itself as an architect and builder of the private cloud for eBay and others, Microsoft is also ensuring that its existing customers stay wedded to Windows as they move toward cloud computing. The Azure platform appliance will do many things the same way Azure does, so it's also building potential future users of its public Azure cloud.

Microsoft is partnering with HP, Fujitsu and Dell, who will adopt the appliance for use in their own cloud services, then make versions available to customers. EBay plans to install a limited production release sometime later this year for the Garden by EBay site, where it tests partner's ideas and new customer applications. Barrese said eBay expects to move beyond the testbed site to broader use of the appliance in production systems at a future date.

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