Microsoft, Salesforce Unveil Cloud-Computing Partnership

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Inc. (CRM) agreed to make some of their business-software products work better together, signaling a thaw between two longtime rivals.

Salesforce’s customer-management programs will become available for Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone operating systems, and will work with Office 365 online productivity software, the companies said in a statement today.

The agreement marks a shift in what has sometimes been a fractious relationship. In 2010, Microsoft sued Salesforce for patent infringement, setting off a countersuit before the companies settled later that year. Microsoft in 2005 also announced plans to “give Salesforce a very effective run for their money” with a competing product and in 2010 ran an anti-Salesforce ad campaign with the tagline “Don’t Get Forced.”

Under new Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has been looking to bolster its Internet-based cloud software and corporate programs. Software makers are looking for more ways to let applications, even from rivals, work together as customers seek to use multiple products and share information.

“This announcement is really about putting our customers first,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said on a conference call.

Terms of the accord weren’t disclosed. Microsoft and San Francisco-based Salesforce both also agreed to use some of each other’s programs, including expanding Salesforce’s use of Microsoft’s database and Azure cloud software.

Developing Apps

Microsoft has been asking Salesforce to deliver apps for Windows and Windows Phone for at least a year. Kendall Collins, an executive vice president at Salesforce, said in a 2013 interview that Microsoft had talked to Benioff about developing apps for the products. At the time, the company wasn’t interested because it didn’t think there was enough customer demand, though Collins said Salesforce would monitor the situation.

Benioff cited Nadella’s ascent to the CEO job for giving him an opportunity to improve Salesforce’s relationship with Microsoft, a company he referred to as the “evil empire” just a few years ago.

Microsoft Azure Gets New Tools For Hybrid Clouds And Simplified Cloud Storage Service For Businesses

Today is a big day for Microsoft. It’s making a large number of announcements around its developer tools at its enterprise-centric TechEd event in Houston today and in addition, it is also bringing a number of new features to its Azure cloud computing services. Among these are the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute for creating private connections between Azure and on-premise environments, a new simplified cloud storage service for Azure for businesses and a number of new security features.

Some of these features are available now, some are in preview and some will launch over the course of the summer. ExpressRoute is coming out of preview on Monday, for example. By working with AT&T, BT, Equinix, Level 3, SingTel, TelecityGroup, Verizon and Zadara Storage, ExpressRoute creates a direct and fast connection between Azure and the infrastructure that enterprises already have on their premises or in a co-location data center. Using these provider’s networks, ExpressRoute connections never touch the public internet, making them faster and more secure that typical connections. For enterprises that are working on adopting cloud computing through hybrid clouds, this is a huge deal. None of this comes cheap, though. During the preview, Microsoft offered a 50% discount and even then, a 10Gbps connection cost $5,000 per month with unlimited inbound data transfer and 250 terabytes of outgoing data transfer included. All of this comes with a 99.9 percent SLA.


Maybe the most interesting update, however, is the launch of Microsoft Azure Files in preview today. The idea here is that while cloud storage was designed with new applications in mind, it’s still very hard to move applications to the cloud when you have to rewrite your complete storage stack first. Microsoft argues that many of these legacy apps were written for on-premise applications where file shares were the de-facto storage standard. So to help businesses move these applications to the cloud, Azure Files essentially provides businesses with a cloud-based file sharing server that uses the standard SMB protocol that are part of the Windows API.


A few months ago, Microsoft acquired API management service Apiphany with the clear intent to integrate it into Azure. Today, some of that work is coming to fruition with the launch of Azure API Management in preview. This service helps businesses publish their APIs internally and to outside developers.


Among the new security solutions are the disaster recovery service Azure Site Recovery (previously known as Hyper-V Recovery Manager), which will launch in preview next month and a new anti-malware service for Azure in preview for both cloud service and virtual machines. In addition, Microsoft is partnering with Symantec and Trend Micro to integrate their antivirus technologies on Azure virtual machines.


Other updates the company announced today include the public previews of an internal load balancing service, an Azure Redis Cache service and the general availability of the A8 and A9 virtual machines for compute-intensive applications on Azure. Microsoft will also soon allow developers to permanently reserve an IP address from their own pool.

All of these new services clearly point at Microsoft’s interest in getting more enterprise customers onto Azure. While Microsoft may still be catching up to Amazon’s Web Services in many ways, Amazon has never quite focused on this market and Microsoft actually has a chance to leapfrog its competition here if it plays its cards right.

Microsoft switches on Azure in China

Microsoft switches on Azure in China Partner 21Vianet will have the keys to the datacentre though

Microsoft stole a march on its cloudy rivals today by announcing its Azure cloud services are available in China.

Redmond revealed as far back as May 2013 that it had signed a deal with local player 21Vianet to provide Azure in the Middle Kingdom, and it has been around in beta for a few months. However, this week will see the service formally made available for the first time.

Microsoft veep for cloud and enterprise marketing, Takeshi Numoto, proudly announced that the launch would make the firm the “first global company” to launch cloud services inside the Great Firewall.

As noted by El Reg previously, it seems as if the loss of control to a local partner, an undeniable part of doing business in China, was a small price to pay for access to a potentially huge market.

Numoto had this to say about 21Vianet:

21Vianet is a trusted and reliable partner who can deliver the quality and reliability that Microsoft Azure customers require, delivering Azure service from multiple locations in China to enable critical disaster recovery scenarios. In fact, 21Vianet has already delivered fully functional cloud services to more than 3,000 customers in China, including CNTV, LineKong, and Coca-Cola China.

At the time of the May 2013 announcement it was reported that Microsoft had trained and certified over 100 21Vianet employees to use its Azure platform.

Under the terms of the deal the US firm is only able to provide support and troubleshooting and must request access to the data centre from 21Vianet.

Still, it’s something of a coup for Microsoft, and sees the firm go where the likes of Amazon and Google have so far failed to float a cloud into China.

Redmond has in the past predicted China’s cloud computing market will grow from $297m in 2011 to $3.8bn in 2020, and Numoto quoted IDC stats that the market has expanded 40 per cent since 2012.

Microsoft will be hoping its latest China venture is less controversial than Bing and Skype have been, although it will be forced to grant access to servers if requested by the authorities.

The China switch-on comes barely a month after Microsoft Azure officially launched in Japan. ®

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