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Microsoft Kicks Off Space Race With Amazon

Image via NASA on Unsplash

Microsoft and Amazon have gone head-to-head in the cloud computing space for years. As the market matures, each company continues to search for new opportunities to maintain growth.

Microsoft's announcement yesterday made it clear the next frontier in which the two companies will compete is outer space. Microsoft introduced Azure Orbital yesterday, which enables satellite operators to communicate with and control their satellites, process data and scale operations within Microsoft Azure. The launch of Azure Orbital puts Microsoft in direct competition with Amazon's AWS Ground Station, which offers similar capabilities and was launched nearly two years ago.

Microsoft announced that it has brought satellite companies Amergint, Kratos, KSAT, Kubos, Viasat and US Electrodynamics INC onboard as partners. Azure Orbital will initially be available for "private preview” to a handful of Microsoft customers.

"Data collected from space to observe Earth is instrumental in helping address global challenges such as climate change and furthering of scientific discovery and innovation," Azure Networking Principal Program Manager Yves Pitsch wrote. "The cloud is central to both modern communications scenarios for remote operations and the gathering, processing, and distributing the tremendous amounts of data from space."

Microsoft and Amazon have a firm grip on the cloud computing market. Amazon had infrastructure as a service (IaaS) revenues of nearly $20 billion in 2019, giving it a 45% share of the global market, according to technology industry research company Gartner. Microsoft pulled in nearly $8 billion in a distant second, with an 18% share of the IaaS market.

Microsoft has little choice but to move into satellites given Amazon is aggressively expanding its efforts. Amazon Web Services even launched a dedicated business unit called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions in June, which is working on space projects with the likes of NASA, the U.S. military and Lockheed Martin. Amazon even hired Air Force Major General Clint Crosier, the former head of the U.S. Space Force, to oversee the group.

"Microsoft is well-positioned to support customer needs in gathering, transporting, and processing of geospatial data," Pitsch wrote.

As Microsoft and Amazon kick off a new space race, one can only wonder what the next frontier in the cloud computing wars will be. Leftover Crumbs

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