Microsoft commits to providing choice to cloud customers

Microsoft has reinforced why the company believes its Azure cloud services is still superior than offerrings from its key competitors.

Microsoft is mainly interested in providing choice and openness to customers on its Azure cloud service, according to Microsoft Azure corporate vice president Jason Zander.

He touted the appeal of Azure for many customers versus the likes of Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud as the international coverage it provides across 32 regions worldwide, including Australia. It also recently announced two general availabilities last week in Canada and South Korea.

"We have a worldwide spread; it's more than Google and Amazon combined. So, if you're a multinational, the ability to have that international coverage is huge," he told ZDNet.

In further efforts to streamline tasks conducted via its Office 365 services, the company announced this week a new distribution partnership that certifies HANA's in-memory database to run development, test, and production workloads, including S/4 HANA on Microsoft's Azure public cloud.

SAP's Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, and SuccessFactors applications will be also integrated with Microsoft's Office 365 services, which will streamline certain tasks so employees no longer have to traverse from one piece of software to another.

Zander said the partnership will ensure customers get the workloads they need to move to the cloud, and to ensure mutual customers of both Microsoft and SAP are kept happy, including the 70 million-plus active business users on Azure.

"The question has been how do I make it run in a first-class way on Azure, and the partnership has been super important to get that done," he said.

Microsoft's on-premises offering is equally important, Zander reassured, highlighting there has been a growing popularity, particularly among multinational companies.

Earlier this year, Microsoft packaged up its public Azure cloud as a private cloud offering. Jeffrey Snover, technical fellow at Microsoft, and Microsoft CTO Mark Russinovich explained at the time that the on-premises cloud package is the same technology as the public version -- the only difference is that public Azure is built as a hyperscale offering running on more than 22 datacentres, while Azure Stack can be effectively deployed on as few as four servers.

"We don't require all of your workloads to be moved to the public cloud. We can help meet you where you are, and it's very complimentary; it's what our customers want," he said.

Zander added that the financial institution sector, an industry he said was previously conservative, has become increasingly responsive to adopting Azure. He believes the driver for this has been the company's ability to address the regulatory constraints the sector faces.

"From an Azure perspective, we have Azure certified for financial services and it was a program we introduced last year. It helps, for example, to engage with risk officers and CSOs, and help them on the regulatory side to understand what this means," he said.

"What we find is as we engage with the regulators and institutions then we do see more adoption. I do think the SaaS applications, in particular, has been an area where even the conservative companies have moved in a lot quicker."

Despite its efforts to cater to customer needs, Microsoft continues to play catch-up with AWS's $2 billion revenue, according to investors earlier this month. While Microsoft reported Azure revenue grew 120 percent year on year, the company has yet to reach anywhere close to AWS's cloud behemoth.

Disclosure: Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to 2016 SAP Sapphire Now courtesy of SAP.