Opportunities for companies in China to run Azure in their own datacenters

In my job I get to see and experience a lot of technology and today I got to get my hands on one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in a while.  It was a proof of concept deployment of the Windows Azure Services for Windows Server which we did within the datacenter of one of China’s top enterprises.

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I’ve known that Microsoft has been building this for quite some time but this was the first time I was able to really dig in deep to see how impressive it is.  In case you aren’t familiar with it, at the Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in July we released the first CTP of a set of Windows Azure Services which can be run on top of Windows Server and System Center.  It provides anyone with at least a couple of servers the ability to run a portal which looks just like the Windows Azure portal and provide Web Sites, VMs, SQL and MySQL just like Windows Azure. 

Going through the proof of concept this morning I was really impressed with how elegant the solution is.  It leverages the power of Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) within System Center 2012 for all of the infrastructure management and uses the VMM APIs for deploying Web Sites, VMs, etc.

Now, back to how this could be huge for Chinese companies. 

Currently there are no cloud service providers that have established themselves as the leaders in China.  The companies that are dominating cloud outside of China (Amazon, Microsoft & Google) don’t offer services from a China mainland datacenter.  Even if a company is willing to deploy their services in one of these company’s datacenters outside of China the complexity of the Chinese network topology make it impractical from a performance perspective to deploy services targeting end users in China.  Of course there are some workloads which are an exception to this but for many of the cloud’s most useful workloads like media and entertainment, backend services for mobile apps, etc. datacenters outside of China are not an option. 

Even if these cloud providers launches a public cloud service from a China mainland datacenter there will still be a lot of opportunity.  After all, there are over 1 billion mobile subscribers and apps like Tencent’s Weixin/WeChata with over 100 million users, you see the opportunity.  Cloud is also one of the three technology focus area’s in China’s 12th 5-year plan along with Internet of Things and 3 Network Convergence, which is attracting a lot of investment from the Chinese government and Chinese entrepreneurs.

There have been attempts by local players like Alibaba, Baidu and Shanda to provide a cloud service but none have really taken off for a number of reasons which is a topic for another blog post or over drinks.  There aren’t any dominant players in hosting like Rackspace or Media Temple in China.  Instead there a lot of smaller companies offering hosting or colo’d within telco datacenters of China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

All of this combined with many Chinese companies’ preference for keeping data and services within their own organizations’ control makes the timing of this release of these Windows Azure Services perfect. 

For large companies and government organizations that already have a large datacenter footprint/ownership they could deploy a world-class public cloud solution based on the Windows Azure Services.

For smaller companies they could quickly come up to speed on deployment and operation of these Windows Azure Services and specialize in implementing private cloud deployments within enterprises, government organizations, etc.

For ISVs they could build out a billing solution which is integrated with Chinese payment systems and local business practices.

These are exciting times and I’m glad to be a part of it!  If you want to discuss these opportunities more just let me know.