Microsoft Azure Expands Into China

The software giant claims the distinction of being the first global public cloud provider in the massive and potentially lucrative region.

Microsoft's cloud has settled over a large new market: China.

"I am pleased to share that Microsoft Azure, operated by 21Vianet, is now generally available for our customers in China," announced Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of Cloud and Enterprise Marketing for Microsoft, in a March 26 statement. 21Vianet Group is a large provider of carrier-neutral Internet Data Center (IDC) services. And Microsoft isn't its only big U.S.-based partner.

The company teamed with IT behemoth IBM—no stranger to the Chinese market—to bring IBM's SmartCloud Enterprise+ platform to China. Under the terms of the partnership, 21Vianet will host IBM's physical point of distribution (POD) and service at its Beijing data center.

One-upping IBM, Numoto said that its deal with 21Vianet makes Microsoft the "first global company to make onshore public cloud services available to customers in China, through 21Vianet." Microsoft is not new to China either; the company has a 20-plus-year presence in the country, he added. It's a history that the company is banking on to help fuel the growth of its cloud.

Characterizing the Chinese cloud services market as a "particular hot spot," Numoto cited some encouraging market data from IDC. According to the IT market research firm, the Chinese public cloud service market has experienced a "sustained growth rate of more than 40 percent" since 2012.

"Cloud computing is a big part of the future for China, and we are thrilled to play a role in bringing this future to our customers," he said.

Microsoft recently made moves into another fast-growing cloud market in Asia. Last month, the company announced that as of Feb. 25, Azure's global footprint extends into the island nation of Japan courtesy of a dual-data-center layout in that country.

Numoto offered a glimpse into how Microsoft will be delivering and marketing its cloud services to Chinese businesses. Calling 21Vianet "a trusted and reliable partner," he revealed that the firm will make Azure available from multiple data centers in China to "enable critical disaster recovery scenarios." 21Vianet has more than 3,000 cloud customers in the country, including CNTV and Coca-Cola China.

Notably, Numoto is already using Microsoft Azure, not Windows Azure, to refer to his company's massive cloud services portfolio. Following earlier rumors, Microsoft announced on March 25 that it was officially renaming Windows Azure on April 3.

The new brand, Microsoft Azure, "reflects Microsoft's strategy and focus on Azure as the public cloud platform for customers as well as for our own services Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Bing, OneDrive, Skype, and Xbox Live," stated Steven Martin, general manager for Windows Azure, in a statement. It also represents a break, of sorts, from the tech titan's PC-centric past.

Martin asserted that in a "mobile-first, cloud-first, data-powered world, customers want a public cloud platform that supports their needs—whatever they may be—and that public cloud is Microsoft Azure."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...