THE SEATTLE TIMES, WASHINGTON, D.C. – Microsoft announced a new cloud-computing product, the Azure Appliance platform at today’s Worldwide Partners Conference.

Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft Server and Tools business, gave the details in his keynote speech at Verizon Center.

The Azure appliance is a private cloud product coming several months after Microsoft began selling its public cloud platform called Azure. The Worldwide Partners Conference brings together businesses that sell, build on and integrate Microsoft products. The company says it has more than 640,000partners.

Following last year’s wave of software rollouts from Windows 7 to Office 2010, Microsoft is hoping its partners will see Microsoft’s cloud computing products as the next opportunity to expand their businesses.

Cloud computing promises to give users the ability to use software that lives on the Internet rather than on desktop computers or in corporate servers. Theoretically, it could save companies the cost of managing and running servers since it can be stored on servers Microsoft runs.

Microsoft launched Azure, its cloud computing platform, in February. Muglia said says Azure now has 10,000 customers. “The feedback is. wow, this is different,” Muglia said in his speech.

But companies are slow to move their data from their own servers to Microsoft’s data centers. With the new Azure Platform appliance, Microsoft hopes to create a stepping stone to the Microsoft cloud. Companies can move their data to cloud hardware and software that don’t leaving their building, and hopefully the next step would be to move to a Microsoft cloud.

“All of capability in Windows Azure platform will be available to you to run in your own data center,” Muglia said. Fujitsu, eBay and Dell signed on as partners for the new appliance, and eBay has signed on as an early customer.

Microsoft also said Dallas, Microsoft’s information marketplace for developers to build apps on, will be available by the end of the year.

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