Hot on Amazon’s heels, Microsoft announces new data centers in France

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Microsoft Corp. Satya Nadella (above) today revealed the next step of his company’s plan to expand its cloud computing ambitions, this time in Europe.

At a press event in Dublin today, the software giant said it intends to open a set of cloud data centers in France that will provide Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 services to local customers starting next year. The move comes less than a week after Amazon.com Inc. said that it will launch a new data center region of its own in Paris within a few quarters, along with other regions next year.

Given the fierce competition between the two vendors, the close timing of Microsoft’s announcement likely isn’t a coincidence. Both the software giant and the leading cloud company hope that enabling French organizations to keep records closer to home will make their respective clouds a more appealing option for hosting latency-sensitive workloads. The expansion should also put the software giant in a better position to target highly regulated sectors like the financial industry, where certain information can’t be moved to foreign jurisdictions for legal reasons.

The same reasons drove Microsoft to open two Azure data centers in Germany last month, where it has already landed several notable customers since including car parts giant ZF Friedrichshafen AG. The software giant inaugurated another facility over in the U.K. a few days before that. Overall, the company estimates that it has more than doubled its cloud capacity in Europe over the past year.

With 36 Azure locations altogether and 30 of them publicly available, Microsoft claims that it now has a presence in more regions “any other major public cloud provider.” That could give the company a much-needed edge over Amazon when pitching its platform to companies in underserved markets or large enterprises with offices across multiple locations.

But Microsoft still faces an uphill battle against Jeff Bezos’ firm in the infrastructure-as-a-service segment, where it continues to maintain a solid lead. Synergy Research estimates that AWS has a 31 percent share of the market as of February. Azure is a distant second with 9 percent, though it’s growing much faster.

Image via Microsoft