Microsoft is the first major U.S. provider to launch a public cloud in China. Windows Azure is rolling out in China through partner 21Vianet Group, a large carrier-neutral internet data services provider. Windows Azure service in China will be available on June 6.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer attended an event for the launch with 21Vianet CEO Josh Chen, US Ambassador to China Gary Locke and Shanghai Governor, Jiang Liang. Also in attendance were CEOs from several of the platform’s initial and potential customers.
This is a big development for Microsoft, and huge news for 21Vianet. In November 2012, Microsoft, 21Vianet and the Shanghai Municipal Government announced a strategic partnership agreement in which Microsoft licensed the technology know-how and rights to operate and provide Office 365 and Windows Azure services in China to 21Vianet.
"21Vianet will act as an operation entity for Azure, hosting the service in its data centers and handling the customer relationship," said Vianet's CFO, Shang Hsiao. "We also support the infrastructure too. That’s one of the reasons Microsoft selected 21Vianet – we specialize in China internet infrastructure. We’re considered the biggest Internet data center services provider in China.
“In China at this moment, we don’t have open cloud services," Hsiao continued. “This will be the first cloud partner outside of China to serve cloud customers. It’s very important."
21Vianet already has several customers lined up for the service. Named in the press release are Pactera, RenRen Inc, PPTV, a leading online video company in China, Kingdee International Software, and QOROS Auto Co. an independent international car company. Many of these names will be unfamiliar to Western audiences, but therein lies why this announcement is huge; China is a massive market whose potential hasn’t been tapped. Microsoft, through 21Vianet, is first in with an outside public cloud.
“We are extremely excited to officially launch Microsoft Windows Azure services in China and believe 21Vianet will provide great contributions to the growth of cloud infrastructure and services throughout China," said Chen, Chairman and CEO of 21Vianet. “Our cooperation further enhances 21Vianet’s capabilities in helping to develop China’s cloud infrastructure services and strengthening our core competency for customers.
"As a cloud enabler, 21Vianet is pleased to offer Microsoft’s world-class cloud services for the first time to businesses in China," Chen added. "By providing carrier-level services for better public cloud operations, including security and compliance, datacenter networking, maintenance, highly reliable engineering and customer services related to cloud operations, 21Vianet and Microsoft are committed to offering the best cloud services available throughout China.”