Microsoft: We have 'high tens of thousands' of Azure customers

Microsoft: We have 'high tens of thousands' of Azure customers

Summary: Microsoft is planning to host Dynamics CRM on Azure, according to a Microsoft Azure VP. And the expected Linux on Azure capability sounds like it is still on the roadmap, too.


Microsoft has been careful when sharing information about its Windows Azure customer counts. In 2010, the Redmondians said they had 10,000 Azure customers. In 2011, it was 31,000. (Microsoft officials declined to say if any of these were Microsoft users and how many were paying customers.)

On May 8, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Azure Marketing Bob Kelly provided Merrill Lynch Technology Conference attendees with another tally tidbit. Kelly said Microsoft now has "high tens of thousands of customers" for Windows Azure, with "hundreds" of new customers being added daily. Again, Microsoft didn't (and won't) say whether this total includes any Microsoft customers and/or whether all of these customers are paying users.

(I got these datapoints from Directions on Microsoft analyst Rob Helm, who tweeted Kelly's remarks. I was unable to listen to Kelly's talk due to technical difficulties with the webcast. Update (May 9): I finally was able to listen to the webcast, and can verify Kelly said everything in Helm's tweets.)

The latest customer count wasn't the only Azure news Kelly shared. He also said, again, according to Helm's tweet, that Microsoft's Dynamics CRM service will be hosted on Windows Azure before the end of calendar 2012. Currently, Dynamics CRM is hosted in Microsoft datacenters, and pieces of it are already on Azure, but the core service itself is not hosted on Azure. Microsoft officials have said repeatedly that the company planned to move Dynamics CRM to Azure but have consistently declined to say when. (I asked again today but so far no response from the CRM team.)

We already know that Office 365 uses Windows Azure Active Directory for single sign-on/identity purposes. Unsurprisingly, based on Helm's tweet of Kelly's remarks, it sounds like Dynamics CRM will, as well, once it is hosted on Windows Azure.

Update: So it seems like Kelly may have misspoken on the timing of CRM on Azure. I'm now thinking he meant to say Dynamics ERP , not Dynamics CRM, would be hosted on Azure before the end of 2012. The CRM team got back to me on May 9 with the following statement:

“The next versions of Microsoft Dynamics GP and NAV will be cloud enabled for Windows Azure by the end of the year.  We also intend to move Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online to Windows Azure.  We have nothing further to share at this time.”

Kelly also mentioned Microsoft's plans to add infrastructure as a service (IaaS) elements to its Azure platform. Right now, Azure is almost a pure platform as a service (PaaS) cloud platform. But as those who study roadmaps (and those who love them) know, Microsoft has been talking about plans to add IaaS elements to Windows Azure for years. Anybody remember talk of server app-virtualization, with the idea of allowing customers to package existing apps/environments in virtual machines?

More recently, Microsoft's plans to add a persistent virtual machine capability  --  allowing users to host SharePoint, SQL Server and Linux (!) on Azure -- made a reappearance on Redmond's roadmap. So far, there's been no public sightings of the expected persistent VM, but who knows... maybe a spring release of Windows Azure could bring that promised capability to testers....

Topics: Microsoft, Cloud, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Are MSDN subscribers default "customers" for Azure?

    Seems I remember that MSDN subscriptions include some Azure access? And since you pay for an MSDN subscription, that counts as a "paying" customer for Azure as well?
    terry flores
    • Yep, you get some amount of resources of Azure for free

      but you'll be paying more than that limit
  • MJ - First ask them to provide free access to developers to Azure...!

    The No. 1 feature request by Azure Developers (oops. MSFT sent a mail yesterday that they're dropping off the word 'Azure' from their products'), "Continue Azure offering free for Developers" is the first/most voted one...!
  • So they have between 5,001 and 9,999 customers???

    Sounds about right.
    • @wackoae

      What you stated is high thousands.... high tens of thousands would mean 80,000 - 99,000... right??
  • should we expect downtime soon

    As many times as they go down, should we expect more downtime as the customers increase? Most concerns would be when everyone in Redmond goes home for the weekend and their cloud goes down again and can't be fixed until Monday.

    Traveling in unchartered waters as this idea grows. What is their backup plan if they can not support a growing problem. Doesnt seem like they will make enough profit with the current growth they are having. So three years and still do not have a hundred thousand users. Even if all of them paid(not), it would take ten years in order to hit a million users. Ten years is not sufficient with the amount of costs they are throwing away. Considering they pay a majority to the telcos and hardware, they are not making anything at all. After ten more years or at the 13th year they would be in the whole far worse than any other project they have attempted.
    Most users would want to know if their plans are to run this a few decades since their majority of last projects end after a few years.
    • Weekend support

      Be reasonable. I'm not certain, but it seems reasonable that Microsoft would provide weekend support in order to garner interest in Azure.
    • MSFT's Server team supports 100s of millions Hotmail, etc users

      I'm pretty sure they don't go home on the weekends. Between Hotmail, the Live properties (Skydrive, etc), Bing, Azure,... Microsoft has one of the largest server infrastructures in the world.
    • Users > Customers

      Remember, customers are hosting apps in Azure for multiple users, so your worry that there aren't 100k users is unfounded. One customer alone could have 100k users. It's impossible to measure hits from unique users on a platform like Azure, but Microsoft's customer base would only need an average of around 13 users each to hit the 1,000,000 user mark. The actual average are probably far greater with customers like Xerox, 3M, and Apple in the mix.
  • Hurting Themselves

    At this point potential customers have to interpret reticence to share information as cause for concern. One has to assume that if the story was a positive one it would be well defined as well as well publicized.
  • Compare with Amazon EC2 free tier (Microsoft needs to HURRY UP)

    Microsoft's IaaS offering is not even out of beta, I've been on the waiting list for a while now to try it out, but no dice. By contrast, Amazon's EC2 offering is simply great. There is even a free tier for hosting Windows Server VMs from their stock images to get started (, plus it supports native IPSec to the VMs, has flexible firewalling between your own virtual private networks, and good pricing. I only mention this because Microsoft REALLY needs to hurry and catch up here. And Microsoft can't just have some raw, unfriendly and expensive capability, it's got to be free/cheap and super easy to get started. I'm surprised that Microsoft is so far behind here when everything's been "Cloud! Cloud! Cloud!" from them.
  • Microsoft's "Fuzzy Math"

    They probably use the same lame math as they use for their cell phone sales...

    A sale to the distributor = sale for Microsoft....not a sale to the customer and activation = a sale for Microsoft.
  • If this includes free accounts - the number pretty much means 'no traction'

    As I mentioned in my blog here: - if this "number" includes free and internal accounts, this is actually a very low number for a PaaS touted so much by such a big and respected company with huge developer mindshare.

    Azure public CTP launched in October 2008 - so [b]3.5 years ago[/b]. And now they have [b]less than 100K developers signed up[/b].

    Just to put that in perspective from my end: I work for a Java PaaS - Jelastic - that is way younger. We launched public beta in October 2011 - 6 months ago - and last month announced the milestone of 15,000 signed-up users (in our case including beta/trial/free use).

    Which basically means that our start-up is seeing more growth than Microsoft's Azure? I don't think Java is so much more popular than .NET to justify the difference, so either Azure is still getting incredibly low traction, or some of our assumptions are wrong - in which case Microsoft needs to start being more transparent about the way they do counting (e.g. if these were only paying companies - the number would be quite good.)
  • Looks to me that Azure has failed to gain traction

    Most clouds are going the Linux platform route. Thay may be a reason for non-transition of Microsoft's existing ISVs, SMB and enterprise customers to the Azure cloud. It could be lack of IaaS too but either way Amazon has a winner here much like in their mobile offerings.

    Microsoft has to declare it lost the mobile and cloud markets much like it lost the internet search market.