Windows Azure: ‘We Will Never Have A Data Centre In Every Country’

Holding your breath waiting for Microsoft to open a local Azure data centre in Australia? Time for a dose of reality (and oxygen): there’s no sign of it happening soon.

Speaking at the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) in Las Vegas, Stevan Vidich, director of Windows Azure marketing, confirmed that while Microsoft does plan to expand on its current range of eight global data centres, that doesn’t mean it will aim for a presence in every large market.

“We are building and deploying new facilities all the time so we can cover more regions, but we will never have a data centre in every country,” Vidich said. “If we were to do that it would negate the whole principle of public cloud scale and efficiency.”

I’m covering MMS as part of our ongoing World Of Servers series for Lifehacker, and one of the consistent issues that has come up during that time is that the question of whether or not your cloud provider needs to be located in Australia is far from cut and dried. There are arguments that some businesses need to do so from a legal perspective, and others want the higher latency associated with on-shore premises, but neither argument applies in every case. Indeed, with hyrbid cloud deployments being increasingly common, the distinction between whether data is stored onshore and offshore is going to become even blurrier.

Vidich’s remarks suggest that we won’t see an Azure centre in Australia in a hurry, but regional restrictions can apply if customers want them. Customers data and code is usually only located within one of Microsoft’s four areas (Asia, Europe, US Central or US Coastal), and most customers specify a particular data centre (Singapore being the usual choice for Australian customers).

“When you put data into Windows Azure storage, we have local redundant storage,” Vidich said. Your data is kept in triplicate across three physically separate domains If one part of the infrastructure goes down, it can provision another copy At any given time, there are always three copies of your data at the primary location

For redundancy, data from one regional centre will automatically be replicated in the other (so data in the Singapore centre is replicated to Hong Kong and vice versa; data in Ireland is mirrored to the Netherlands; data in Illinois is mirrored to Texas; and data in California is mirrored to Virginia). “Unless you choose to disable it, we will also geo-replicate to a secondary site at least 400 miles away and keep it in triplicate there as well,” Vidich said, though that doesn’t mean you can automatically access this version. “This setup is to ensure durability This isn’t an active/active setup; you can’t count on geo-replication to give you instant failover.”

However, information won’t be replicated outside the core region unless the customer specifically requests it. That could happen if some services are implemented, such as Azure Active Directory or global Content Delivery Network (CDN) systems.

It can also happen on a temporary basis if a support query is lodged. “Because our support infrastructure runs 24/7 on a ‘follow the sun’ principle, it is possible that your request will be processed by a team that’s based in some other region,” Vidich said. “The data will not physically be moved, but it is possible for data to be touched by someone [from MS] that is based outside that region.”

Lifehacker’s World Of Servers sees me travelling to conferences around Australia and around the globe in search of fresh insights into how server and infrastructure deployment is changing in the cloud era. This week, I’m in Las Vegas for the Microsoft Management Summit 2013, looking for practical guidance on deploying and managing Windows servers.

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