WatchGuard Technologies is taking its integrated security platform approach to the Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Azure cloud platform. The company has released its first unified threat management (UTM) offering on Azure in an attempt to offer customers of Azure better cloud data access security.

As part of its security offering, WatchGuard is offering Azure customers secure cloud access that leverages its "comprehensive and multi-layered defense" that crosses the network, email, web and content security. From the perspective of Windows Azure customers, this means an extensions of on-premise data center security to the cloud.

The crux of the announcement is really around the integration of Windows Azure into WatchGuard XTM security appliance, which now provides full support for VPN access to the Windows Azure Virtual Network service to create secure VPN tunnels that link on-premise networks and cloud environments.

"Windows Azure is clearly a compelling solution for organizations that are looking to improve and extend availability of their IT services," said Roger Klorese, director of Product Management at WatchGuard, in a prepared statement. "We are pleased to work closely with Microsoft to bring the same level of comprehensive and best-in-class security that companies rely on for private networks to these growing cloud connections."

Depending on whom you ask, Windows Azure is either the No. 2 or No. 3 public cloud provider, so obviously it makes a lot of business sense for WatchGuard to be offering its UTM services via Azure.

How this will affect WatchGuard's partners is anybody's guess, but it seems likely the security vendor will work with its reseller partners to take this new offering to market.