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Microsoft (MSFT) Expands Azure Space Connectivity Offerings

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Microsoft (MSFT - Free Report) has offered an update for its Azure Space platform, which aims to provide cloud-hosted services in remote regions. The company announced plans to begin offering private previews of Azure Orbital Cloud Access, a product that combines satellites and terrestrial communications and promises low-latency global cloud access.

Azure Orbital Cloud Access uses software-defined wide area network technology from Juniper Networks to support satellite connections with wireless and fiber-optic networks.

Two years ago, Microsoft launched its Azure Space initiative, focused on making Azure a strong player in the space- and satellite-connectivity cloud market.

Last year, Microsoft announced that Azure Orbital had reached preview, allowing customers to communicate with and control satellites from Microsoft-owned and partner-owned ground stations around the world with no backhaul costs into Azure. The original Azure Orbital service has been renamed to Azure Orbital Ground Station, enabling Microsoft to use the Azure Orbital brand to cover multiple services (the latest of which is Azure Orbital Cloud Access).

Microsoft also announced today the general availability of Azure Orbital Ground Station, its first groundstation-as-a-service product.  It is designed to work with Microsoft’s partner ecosystem to enable satellite operators to focus on their satellites and operate from the cloud more reliably at lower cost and latency, allowing operators to get to market faster and achieve a higher level of security through Azure.

Microsoft Azure Confirms Slew of New Partnerships for Space

Azure Orbital partners include Airbus, Amergint, Ball Aerospace,, Esri, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iDirect, Intelsat, Kratos, KSAT, Loft Orbital, Nokia, Omnispace, Orbital Insight, SES, SkyWatch, SpaceX, Thales Alenia Space, USA Electrodynamics, Viasat and Xplore.

Microsoft also is working with partners to make it easier to bring satellite-based communications into an enterprise cloud operation by integrating 5G and satellite communications through its Azure Orbital services with the goal to help satellite vendors virtualize their analog systems.

This Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company has expanded its existing partnership with satellite operator SES. The two companies have launched a new initiative called the Satellite Communications Virtualization Program, which will create a fully virtualized satellite communications ground network, supporting a variety of hardware, virtual network functions, and edge cloud applications. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

The new program would provide industry players with accelerated adoption of standards so that updates can be done remotely. It also offers increased agility for services such as network slicing, new virtual network functions and edge-cloud applications that can be introduced quickly to customers.

Working with its partner KSAT, Microsoft is also teaming up with space data company Pixxel to mine insights from its satellite data in the cloud.

The company also provided an update to the previously announced strategic partnership with Loft Orbital for an on-orbit compute system to develop, test, and validate software applications for space systems in Microsoft Azure, and then deploy them to satellites in orbit using Loft’s space infrastructure tools and platforms.

The first Azure-enabled Loft satellite will be launched next year and will be available for governments and companies to seamlessly deploy their software applications onto space hardware within the Azure environment.

Moreover, the company’s sustainability product team is partnering with Muon Space to develop products targeting enterprise Environment Social Governance analytics derived from Muon Space Earth Systems data.

Microsoft, Starlink Combine Cloud Computing and Satellite Connectivity

Microsoft is expanding its focus on space, working with SpaceX to combine the power of Azure with the latter’s satellite-powered Starlink internet. The company is launching a preview of Azure Orbital Cloud Access for its government customers that will deliver prioritized network traffic through SpaceX’s Starlink constellation and Azure edge devices.

Microsoft’s cloud rival, Amazon’s (AMZN - Free Report) Amazon Web Services announced its space-industry strategy and space unit called Aerospace and Satellite Solutions in June 2020. It also created its satellite connection service, AWS Ground Station, and a satellite venture called Project Kuiper, which competes with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink and other satellite networking providers.

Alphabet’s (GOOGL - Free Report) Google has also taken competitive steps. Last year, the company reached a deal with SpaceX, with Elon Musk's company building ground stations at Google datacenters that connect to Starlink satellites, connecting the satellite network to Google Cloud. In addition, Leaf Space's ground station-as-a-service offering runs on Google Cloud.

Meanwhile, Alibaba (BABA - Free Report) is hugely investing to expand its presence in the cloud market of the United Arab Emirates  in a bid to expand its cloud footprint in the Asia Pacific. The launch of Alibaba Cloud’s third data center in Indonesia remains noteworthy.

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