Microsoft announced it has lined up some heavyweight partners for its Azure cloud computing platform. The software giant said Monday that HP, Dell, and Fujitsu will sell Azure as part of their data center portfolios.

“We are at an inflection point in technology history,” Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said in his keynote address at the company’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. “For customers, cloud computing creates tremendous value, which translates to massive opportunity for Microsoft and its partners.”

Under the partnerships, the vendors will offer Microsoft’s Azure platform appliance, a turnkey cloud software development platform for large service providers, as part of their cloud product portfolios. Large enterprises and service provider partners that deploy the appliance in their data centers will have the benefits of the cloud services that Microsoft offers today, the company said, while maintaining physical control of location, regulatory compliance and data.

In the case of Dell, the company said it will also work with Microsoft to deliver a Dell-powered Azure appliance for enterprise organizations to run their own data centers.

As part of the announcement, Microsoft said online auction giant eBay would be among the first companies to adopt the Azure technology as part of a large-scale deployment. EBay plans to deploy Azure in two of its three primary data centers later this year.

“Microsoft’s focus on and investment in the Windows Azure appliance shows it is committed to world-class cloud computing solutions,” eBay vice president of technology James Barrese said in a statement. “Joint engineering on the Windows Azure platform appliance with eBay’s massive, high-volume systems allows Microsoft to demonstrate its leadership in this space and helps eBay improve our user experience through a flexible, scalable and cost-effective solution.”

Research firm Gartner expects cloud services-related revenue to grow 17% this year to $68.3 billion and more than double to $148.8 billion by 2014.



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