Microsoft Azure Cloud Computing center opens in Taiwan

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Microsoft opened a joint cloud computing center with Taiwan's economics ministry on Thursday at the Computex electronics show, and announced a plan to work with two local companies on new designs for servers meant specifically for Microsoft Azure cloud computing, the growing trend towards decentralized, virtualized computing services.

When the project was first announced last November, officials said it would be a first for Microsoft in Asia. Now, it's clear the new center, which Microsoft calls a Software and Services Excellence Center, will be much more than first thought. Microsoft, which has worked with Taiwanese companies for 20-years, will license patents from its technology portfolio and share its software expertise with companies, academia and research institutes in Taiwan to develop connected devices and cloud data centers, the company said in a statement.

One initiative announced Thursday was a partnership between Microsoft and the two biggest laptop manufacturers in the world, Quanta Computer and Compal Electronics of Taiwan. The three companies plan to develop a new generation of servers designed for cloud computing. The cloud servers would fit another idea Microsoft has talked up in recent years, data centers built inside 20-foot (6.1-meter) shipping containers. Servers are currently built for traditional data centers, but Microsoft has asked companies to design new ones for containerized data centers.

Taiwan will need such servers for an initiative to build complete containerized data centers that was announced Wednesday at Computex by Taiwan's biggest publicly funded research group, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI). The research organization is working to halve the cost of building containerized data centers by using standardized computing components and a set stack of software. Containerized data centers can cost millions of dollars, so the project would have a big impact on lowering the cost of building new data centers.

"Microsoft Azure Cloud computing services are a strategic industry that the government is promoting," said Wu Ming-ji, a director general at Taiwan's economics ministry, adding that Taiwanese companies will be able to take advantage of "the most advanced software technologies as well as cloud data center implementation experience from Microsoft," through the partnership. Microsoft and the two laptop makers plan to have prototypes of the new cloud computing servers available in the fall. The first prototype containerized data center from Taiwan is due at the end of this year.

Microsoft will also work with two Taiwanese companies on new servers designed for Micrsosoft Azure cloud computing.

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