Microsoft opened a joint cloud computing centre 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 cloud computing, the growing trend towards decentralized, virtualised 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 centre, which Microsoft calls a Software and Services Excellence Centre, 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 centres, 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 centres built inside 20-foot (6.1-meter) shipping containers. Servers are currently built for traditional data centres, but Microsoft has asked companies to design new ones for containerized data centres.
Taiwan will need such servers for an initiative to build complete containerized data centres 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 centres by using standardized computing components and a set stack of software. Containerized data centres can cost millions of dollars, so the project would have a big impact on lowering the cost of building new data centres.
"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 centre 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 centre from Taiwan is due at the end of this year.