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With the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference officially kicked off, one of the key themes is definitely related to the cloud -- in this case the Azure Cloud (newssite). Let's start with a look at the new Azure Platform Appliance.

Taking Azure Private

Not every organization is ready to move their data and systems into the public cloud, so Microsoft has developed a new appliance that will enable them to out the Azure Cloud into their private datacenters.

The new Azure Platform Appliance includes Windows Azure, SQL Azure and a "Microsoft-specified configuration of network, storage and server hardware".

The Azure Platform appliance enables organizations to quickly implement a private cloud in their own data center for use as "platform as a service" or "software as a service". The new appliance is expected to be used by large enterprises and service providers.

Microsoft has said that this is the same Azure platform they run at Microsoft.

Not Your Typical Appliance

This is not your typical appliance though, as it can include hundreds of servers all running on pre-configured hardware. You can easily add servers to the mix as your needs grow.

“Microsoft is the first and only company that offers customers and partners a full range of cloud capabilities and the flexibility to deploy these services where and how they wish — whether that is with Microsoft, a service provider, in a customer datacenter or a combination of all three,” Muglia said. “Today’s introduction of the Windows Azure platform appliance ushers in a new era of cloud computing, and we are looking forward to working with our partners to bring all the benefits of the appliance to our customers and the business technology industry.”

Currently in limited production release, we should expect to see a roadmap at some point in the future -- although Microsoft is not offering dates.

According to Microsoft, Dell, eBay, Fujitsu and HP all have plans to deploy the appliance in their data centers.

Microsoft has been making some heavy investments in its cloud platform and cloud-based solutions. The Azure platform has been publicly available since February and is being used by over 10,000 customers.