Microsoft have finally confirmed that Australian based Azure services will be available as of next week, hosted from data centres in Sydney and Melbourne. Microsoft Azure is the tech giant's underlying platform for its global cloud services push, competing directly with other industry heavy weights such as Amazon Web Services.
The introduction of Azure hosting within Australia is an important milestone for two key reasons. The first is speed. When looking to take advantage of the cloud, particularly to host more legacy style applications and servers, speed and response time can be paramount. With Azure services to date hosted outside of Australia, the larger distances between users and cloud servers could have a negative impact on performance, and thus usability. Now with Azure services hosted locally within Australia, local users can look forward to faster response times from cloud based applications.
The second point of note is relevant to those industries subject to concern of sovereignty of data, such as some financial services and health care markets. That is, some care or requirement that confidential client information be stored on Australian shores. To date this has ruled out using any of Microsoft's cloud based services. With this latest announcement, affected businesses will now be able to leverage the benefits of Microsoft's Azure platform as part of their cloud strategy.
Note though that Microsoft Office 365 (primarily used for Exchange and SharePoint services) is different to the Microsoft Azure platform, and at this stage there has been no mention of establishing any Office 365 hosting within Australia.