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Microsoft makes a bunch of Azure updates as it keeps chasing Amazon's cloud

  • Microsoft launches updates to Azure that AWS already has, including hardware for transferring massive amounts of data without using the internet, and reserved computing resources.
  • AWS held 34 percent of the market for cloud infrastructure services in the second quarter, and Azure, its closest competitor, had 11 percent,
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company conference in London in November 2014.
Source: Microsoft
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at a company conference in London in November 2014.

Microsoft on Monday announced updates to its Azure public cloud that make it a more formidable challenger to market leader Amazon Web Services.

Microsoft unveiled a piece of hardware full of hard drives that companies can fill up with data before sending it off to Microsoft data centers. Companies would use this service for sending massive amounts of data they want Microsoft to host, but that would be too slow or costly to upload over the internet. AWS did something like that in 2015.

Microsoft is also introducing a service that will ease the migration of databases from on-premises data centers into its cloud, and it will start letting people reserve computing resources for future use — at lower prices than they would ordinarily pay. AWS announced a database migration service in 2015 and reserved instances in 2009.

And following the 2016 introduction of AWS' Shield service, which stops applications from being overwhelmed by distributed denial-of-service attacks, Microsoft is now coming out with a comparable tool — the same technology that Microsoft uses to keep Office 365 and Xbox Live running.

AWS held 34 percent of the market for cloud infrastructure services in the second quarter, and Azure, its closest competitor, had 11 percent, according to Synergy Research Group. Microsoft has consistently sought to keep up with AWS by matching prices for core computing and storage in Azure, and making its cloud services available from more places around the world alongside AWS.

Earlier this year Alphabet's Google cloud — which had 5 percent of the cloud infrastructure market, according to Synergy — showed off Cloud Dataprep, an app for easily cleaning up data and getting it ready for deep analysis. Now Microsoft is responding with a data cleaning tool of its own that "learns your data preparation steps as you perform them," a Microsoft spokesman wrote in an email.