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What's up with this key Microsoft hybrid cloud product?

By Barb Darrow
July 10, 2017

Microsoft said on Monday that businesses wanting to deploy its cloud computing technology in their own data centers can order it now. But, the rather large caveat is that they won’t actually get it until at least September.

Last year, the company said the product—Azure Stack—would be available by mid-2017 as software that comes bundled with hardware from Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Lenovo lnvgy . Most people would characterize July as mid year, and Microsoft said customers can order the software on July 10. But there’s a big difference between being able to place an order and being able to run the software in-house.

For Microsoft msft , Azure Stack is a critical piece of its plan to combat Amazon Web Services in the lucrative field of public cloud computing. In this realm, customers deploy software and data in data centers operated by a Amazon, Microsoft msft , or Google goog .

For companies wanting to curb spending on their own data center infrastructure, this is an attractive alternative.

Related: Microsoft Azure Cloud Gaining Traction in Business

But for businesses that want to keep running some software internally while also tapping public cloud for other things, Microsoft’s pitch is that it will allow that by putting a subset of Azure under the customer’s control on their own servers. That mix-and-match of private and public cloud data centers is known as the hybrid cloud computing. Amazon, which pioneered the public cloud model, seems to want to make sure almost all customer data operations run in in AWS and not elsewhere.

Azure Stack, which Microsoft started talking about two years ago, was initially supposed to publicly debut in 2016. Then Microsoft switched gears, pushing that date back to mid-2017 and saying that the software would only be made available on a limited lineup of servers from Dell Technologies, HPE, and Lenovo. In March, Microsoft also unveiled a pay-as-you-go pricing model for customers buying Azure Stack. And now, companies that want to run officially-blessed Azure Stack will be unable to do so until September.

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller said this is a matter of semantics: That Azure Stack is now generally available, but just to select Microsoft hardware partners. “For customers who don’t understand Microsoft, it’s a delay – for the industry not so much,” he said.

Asked about this apparent delay, a Microsoft spokeswoman provided the following statement:

As of today, customers can plan their purchases and order certified Azure Stack integrated systems. We have also delivered the software that they can use to validate their use cases and apps in preparation for integrated systems deployments in production. Customer and partner interest continues to be overwhelmingly positive. These are strong indicators of the progress that we’ve made, and we look forward to shipping systems with our launch hardware partners (Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo) beginning in September.

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A slip from mid-year in June or July to September is not by itself a huge deal. But coming as it does after another delay and a major strategic shift to bundle the software with only select hardware sparks concern that the company is having trouble delivering on this key hybrid cloud promise. Long-timers will remember that Azure Pack, an attempt to offer an Azure-based hybrid cloud in conjunction with Dell, the old Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, and Ebay, announced in 2010, fizzled.

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