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Microsoft narrows Amazon's lead in cloud, but the gap remains large

Key Points
  • In the first quarter, Amazon controlled one-third of the market for cloud infrastructure services, according to Synergy Research Group.
  • Microsoft and Google gained share, the firm said.
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Microsoft continued to eat into Amazon's lead in the cloud infrastructure market in the first quarter, though there remains a big gap between the two.

Amazon Web Services held 33 percent of the cloud infrastructure market in the quarter, which is flat from a year earlier, according to data published Friday by Synergy Research Group. The market includes raw computing and storage, services for running applications and hosted private cloud.

Microsoft's share of the market jumped to 13 percent from 10 percent a year earlier. Google increased to 6 percent from 5 percent. Sequentially Amazon's market share fell by a percentage point.

All three companies reported financial results this week and each topped analysts' estimates, highlighting expansion in their cloud businesses as drivers of overall growth. Investors are still most bullish on Amazon, pushing the stock up 4 percent on Friday, following the earnings report, and lifting its rally for the year to 35 percent.

Microsoft recently instituted organizational changes to better capitalize on its cloud business, pushing more resources to Scott Guthrie, who has overseen the rise of the company's Azure unit.

Research firm Canalys published findings that were similar to Synergy's on Friday, showing that while AWS has stayed above 30 percent market share, Microsoft made a clear gain in the past year, with Google notching a modest improvement.

Amazon is the only one of the three companies that breaks out its cloud division in terms of sales. The company said on Thursday that AWS revenue jumped 49 percent to $5.44 billion in the first quarter.

Microsoft said Azure revenue jumped 93 percent. KeyBanc analysts estimated Azure had $1.76 billion in revenue, while Raymond James analysts predicted the number was $2.05 billion.

One thing to watch: cloud growth could start to more clearly impact Microsoft's margins because Azure is less profitable than the company's legacy software products.

"You'll see some gross margin percentage pressure in that segment through 2019, but with significant dollar growth," said Microsoft CFO Amy Hood, on the company's conference call on Thursday.