Accenture has announced that it had become the first global IT service provider to launch a public cloud solution based on the Microsoft Windows Azure platform. Short version: Customers can now hire Accenture to design, build, deploy and manage cloud-hosted applications from one source.
This deal covers both Accenture and Avanade, its Microsoft-focused systems integration subsidiary. Both are now able to offer outsourced infrastructure in the form of Microsoft Windows Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS), with the interesting sidenote that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will be offered as it becomes available.
Accenture and Avanade can boast ample experience with the Windows Azure cloud, with a cumulative 170,000 development hours spent on 40 customer projects. Under the arrangement, Accenture boasts that customers will get speedier cloud migrations and more flexibility. And apparently, integrating Windows Azure-based solutions with existing private, public or hybrid cloud deployments is a particular specialty.
The timing on this story is so perfect that I wonder if it weren’t planned. See, HP, which announced the launch of a partially OpenStack-based public cloud earlier today, was originally slated to offer hosted Microsoft Windows Azure services from its own data centers.
Microsoft may have lost a services ally when HP chose to go its own way for the public cloud, but the addition of a partner as prominent as Accenture is clutch – even if Accenture isn’t hosting Windows Azure itself. As far as I’m aware, Fujitsu Global Services is the only Microsoft partner that’s actually hosting Azure in-house at this point.
I’m not so sure that Accenture’s claim to being the first end-to-end service provider on Windows Azure really holds any water. Infosys, for example, signed a similar-seeming deal with Microsoft way back in October 2011, but didn’t make a complete end-to-end Azure solution a selling point, instead focusing on their technological synergies and respective strengths.
The distinction between “end-to-end cloud solutions provider” and “service provider with cloud solutions” may or may not be a meaningful one. But partnering up with Accenture reflects Microsoft’s recognition of the fact that the channel are the kingmakers in the cloud service market and that there’s a definite services gap in what it can offer itself.