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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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....

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