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Microsoft raises Azure profile, adds Dell cloud bundle

Microsoft tries cloud in a box again, only this time with Windows, Azure and servers from Dell.

Microsoft continues to sweeten up the Azure cloud platform for enterprises with some additions to the product’s...

SKU, technologies and marketplace partners.

The enterprise-class enhancements, its own and with others, aim to improve the scalability and installation of its Azure cloud environment. The company has teamed with Dell to deliver its Microsoft Cloud Platform System, which bundles Azure, Windows Server and Microsoft System Center on Dell servers.

While this approach could appeal to shops that have yet to invest in heavy cloud environments, those who already have fail to see the logic of buying more server hardware to run clouds within their data centers.

"I thought Microsoft said the point of going to the cloud was to save money on things like server hardware," said Mike Drips, a solutions architect with WiPro in Houston. "Now they show up hand in hand with Dell to sell me more servers to replace the ones I got rid of when I went to the cloud? Sounds like contrarian theory is having its day at Microsoft."

The bundle targets shops that run their own data centers. Microsoft tried a similar approach four years ago when it attempted to launch Azure Appliances, which also was positioned as an option for IT pros that want to run private clouds in a box. Those offerings never caught on so Microsoft abandoned the effort.

The company has recently made it clear it wants to bring its users' Windows and Linux environments closer together. Microsoft joined forces with CoreOS, a Linux-based container operating system, that will be available to all Azure users. Customers can install CoreOS images straight from the newly minted Azure Marketplace starting immediately, said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft executive vice president of cloud and enterprise.

"We think of our ecosystem as the backbone of our cloud platform, and our embrace of open source technologies is at the heart of that," Guthrie said. He added by trying to create a more open platform, Microsoft will enable enterprises to better connect with each other resulting in new mobile and/or cloud business opportunities.

Microsoft made available the G-series of virtual machines in Azure. The G-series is optimized for data workloads, with up to 32 CPU cores, 450 GB RAM and 6.5 TB of local SSD. It also uses the latest generation of Intel processors. Company executives said the VMs have has twice the memory of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and four times that of Google's Compute service.

The company also rolled out Azure premium storage, including 32 TB of storage per VM. Microsoft Azure's footprint has expanded, which ups the number of Azure regions to 19. The company said it's added more than 10 thousand customers a week and that it has seen 18 billion Azure Active Directory authentications per week.

Microsoft added two new vendors to the Azure marketplace. Cloudera, an analytics company, and CoreOS joined the expanding marketplace. CoreOS is now available to Azure customers, while Cloudera will be certified with the service later this year.

Microsoft intends that the Azure Marketplace, which will compete with similar marketplaces from AWS, IBM, Google, and, most recently, VMware, will improve how customers order and download a wide range of applications, operating systems and services.

Microsoft recently said it would make open source technologies available by supporting Docker containers in the next version of Windows Server, which is due sometime next year. The upcoming support lets larger corporate developers create Docker applications that can run on Windows Server on-premises or Azure in a virtual machine.

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