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Anything AWS can do: Microsoft announces UK data centre region for Azure cloud

Plus: MoD takes up private Office 365 offer

Microsoft's CEO has announced it will build a UK data centre for its Azure cloud - just days after a similar announcement from AWS CTO Werner Vogels.

It seems the race is on. Azure will have cloud services based in the UK "beginning in 2016" said Nadella's slide, whereas Vogels stated that the AWS installation will be online "by the end of 2016 (or early 2017)."

The wording leaves wriggle room for both companies.

An early customer for Microsoft in the UK is the Ministry of Defence. CIO Mike Stone told attendees of the Future Decoded conference that the department will be migrating to a "private instance" of Office 365, hosted in part by HP and in part by the new UK Azure region.

London's status as a financial hub makes it a particularly attractive market for cloud vendors, and having a local region (composed of multiple data centres) mimimises latency and may have compliance benefits, though since Microsoft is a US corporation there may be circumstances when the US government can demand access to data, a point which is currently being argued in the courts.

Microsoft is number two behind AWS in cloud services, but remains a long way behind its rival, especially in the infrastructure as a service market.

Future Decoded is a two-day event, with today focused on "business" arguments for Microsoft's offerings, and tomorrow being a pitch to developers.

In this morning's keynote, Nadella gave attendees a quick tour of Microsoft's current product strategy, which he said is focused on "mobility of human experience across every computer in our lives."

That includes non-Windows devices, and Nadella proudly showed what he called the "iPhone Pro": an iPhone loaded with Microsoft applications, including Skype, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, several Office 365 applications, Dynamics CRM, and of course mobile apps for OneDrive cloud storage and Outlook email.

Windows Phone, now called Windows 10 Mobile, was not completely ignored. "I use it on a daily basis," said Nadella.

Other products and services Nadella highlighted included Office 365 Delve, which presents a tailored view of cloud content to individuals within an organisation, Windows Hello face recognition in the Surface Pro 4 - "it just looked at me and logged me in" - and HoloLens augmented reality headsets. Augmented reality is "Augmented reality is an “amazing new medium that will change everything from education to architecture to gaming," promised Nadella.

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