Windows Azure In Australia: Everything You Need To Know

As we reported this morning, Microsoft is planning to launch two local Azure data centres in Australia. When will they launch? Will there be a cost difference? Lifehacker got the answers direct from Satya Nadella, Microsoft's global president for Server & Tools.

As our original report noted, Microsoft has said it intends to introduce local Azure data centres in New South Wales and Victoria, with each site providing geo-redundancy and disaster recovery for the other. "We felt that Australia makes a lot of sense for us, given thousands of customers were already using Azure here," Nadella said, though he was keen to emphasise that individual installations of Windows Server 2012 also remain a focus: "We firmly believe in the hybrid computing point of view; even though we are expanding with Windows Azure globally, we need to complement that with our existing server infrastructure products. With this announcement any customer in Australia can use either Windows Azure or Windows Server and know that we are committed to both these platforms."

The new locations will join the existing centres in Hong Kong, Singapore, Amsterdam, Dublin, Chicago, San Antonio, California and Virginia. But the announcement leaves some questions to be answered:

When will the centre open? Nadella wouldn't commit to a specific date. "There is no specific date set as yet. We have to announce our intent and then the projects get on the way." With that said, it's likely to be before the end of 2014: "Historically, within 12-18 months of an announcement we've been in that geography."

Will the pricing be different? To date, Azure pricing has been the same in all regions. Nadella wouldn't be drawn on whether that would remain the case. "What we've done to date has been to have uniform pricing across all of our regions on a worldwide basis. That's been something that's pretty distinct for us. But is that subject to changes in the future? I can't predict that."

Other market watchers suspect Microsoft will elect to have different pricing in the Australian region following launch. "Bandwidth costs are a big issue around here," Michael Warrilow, research director for infrastructure services at Gartner, told Lifehacker. "I think they're going to have to vary their costs."

Even if the prices are higher, Warrilow foresees benefits for customers. "It will bring more competition to the market," he said. "It's going to be a very different Australian cloud marketplace in a very short period of time."

The arrival of Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and other global brands will create challenges for other providers. "There will definitely be rationalisation," Warrilow said. "It's going to be analogous to ISPs; in the same way, the small guys are going to struggle. Small to medium SIs who are building their own kit are going to have a lot of trouble with that. There will be consolidation there for sure."

Were other locations in Australia considered? Microsoft hasn't specified precise locations for the data centres, but has confirmed they will be in NSW and Victoria. According to Toby Bowers, Server & Tools group lead for Microsoft Australia, those states represent the best mix of existing and potential customers. "We started with two regional centres which we thought met customer patterns." That doesn't mean further centres might not open eventually: "This is not to say that this is the only thing we would ever do," Nadella said.

Does Australian hosting provide additional protection for customers from US laws such as the Patriot Act? The short and obvious answer is 'no'. "Being a US company at the end of the day we will be subject to US laws, but at the same time the reason we're doing regional expansion is to be able to comply to the local laws of the country as well," Nadella said.

Will other Microsoft services be hosted in the centres? The servers are being planned primarily for Azure, so there's no word yet on any intentions to include services such as Office 365 in the same location. That's not to say it's impossible that might happen in the future, but it isn't part of the currently announced plans.


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