Microsoft's Azure cloud wins a high-profile new customer—GE

General Electric is making its Predix industrial software platform available on Microsoft's cloud, the companies announced Monday.

The move isn't entirely new for GE — its Predix platform was already available on Amazon and Oracle's clouds. But it's an important step for Microsoft, which wants to establish itself as the favored partner for big business.

It won't be easy. Amazon is still the leader in renting cloud computing resources over the internet, a practice commonly called "infrastructure as a service." There's also nothing in the GE deal that steers customers away from running GE's industrial platform in Amazon or Oracle's clouds. Microsoft will now be available as a third option.

Still, Microsoft hopes that when GE's Predix becomes available on Azure next year, its longtime industrial customers will be more likely to adopt Azure. Microsoft also intends to make its other cloud offerings, including Office365, Dynamics and Cortana, work well with Predix.

Monday's announcement puts a spotlight on GE's software ambitions. The industrial giant projects $6 billion in digital revenue in 2016 and has targeted $15 billion by 2020.

At the center of that effort: GE's Predix. It aims to securely link industrial equipment to the internet, to both boost its performance and lower its operating costs.