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Microsoft wades into cloud with new services, takes the fight to Amazon

Stays mute on custom chips

Microsoft has tried to close the distance between Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services by confronting the threat posed by Bezos & Co's cloud.

The company announced a range of new cloud services on Monday, and server chief Satya Nadella gave a briefing in San Francisco in which he sought to bolster Redmond's cloud credibility.

To take on Amazon, Microsoft has partnered with Equinix to let companies connect directly into its cloud – an identical technology to Amazon's DirectConnect.

It has also spun up a dedicated facility for use by the US public sector named GovCloud – again, identical to Amazon Web Services GovCloud, though Microsoft has a marginally more useful strand of FedRAMP certification.

Microsoft will also offer cut-price access to Azure to customers that have signed Enterprise Agreements with the company, which should help it load businesses into its cloud.

These announcements follow the general availability of Azure's infrastructure-as-a-service component.

"70 percent of the Azure footprint is [now] IaaS, which is tremendous," Nadella said, implying both that customers had a huge hunger for IaaS, and the potentially small size of the PaaS business.

The three cloud announcements are part of a wider enterprise push by Microsoft that has also seen it enhance Windows InTune, System Center, and other technologies for on-premise cloud deployment.

In talking up Azure, Satya Nadella pointed out that as the cloud supports a wide range of Microsoft technology such as Xbox, Office 365, and others, it can work as a major research and development resource for the company. We would point out that Google and Amazon both run huge estates of their own software via Google Apps, and Amazon's ecosystem of self-developed cloud services.

"Clearly Amazon has done a good job of getting out there early," he said. "We are quickly catching up in many dimensions, though we still have distance to cover."

When asked by The Register whether Microsoft had a deal with Intel to produce customized chips for use in its public cloud – as eBay and Facebook do – Nadella said "we are a big user of Intel chips in our data center. ... we have significant investment when it comes to doing specialized hardware." ®

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