Azure is the big unifying theme at Microsoft TechEd this week; every session I've been to has made reference to it. But there's one question that still doesn't have an official answer: when will the Australian Azure data centres in Sydney and Melbourne finally open?
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Microsoft announced its plans for Australian data centres for Azure, which offers the promise of improved latency and goes at least some way to assuaging concerns over hosting and data sovereignty, back in May last year — 51 weeks ago, in fact. While no deadline was set, then cloud head and now CEO Satya Nadella said a 12-18 month build schedule was likely.
We've repeatedly been told that there will be 16 regions worldwide for Azure this year, which sets an outside deadline of December and lines up with the 18-month window. (Mind you, to judge by the graphic proclaiming that and seen above, the second centre is in Cairns.)
One theory doing the rounds is that the centres will need to be open before October, which is when TechEd Australia is taking place. The conference has shifted from the Gold Coast to a dual-venue Sydney/Melbourne approach, so the ability to talk up data centres on home turf might be very useful in both cities. But that's just speculation for now.
I put the question directly to Mark Russinovich, who's a technical fellow in the Azure team. He said that the company had nothing specific to announce "at this time" but that work continued: "Data centres take time to build."
Sure, I said, but how is it that the centres in China were announced after the Australian plans but have already opened? "We had done a lot of work in China behind the scenes prior to the announcement," Russinovich said.
It's in Microsoft's interest to have the locations open sooner rather than later. Its chief rival AWS has had an Australian data centre in Sydney since November 2012. If the Azure centres don't open before the end of the Australian financial year, they might not end up as a consideration for 2014/2015 spending — though in reality that's probably already the case for many people currently knee-deep in next year's budgets.