Microsoft announces industry clouds for finance, manufacturing, and nonprofits


Microsoft has announced a trio of new industry clouds as it doubles down on efforts to support companies that require sector-specific tools.

The tech titan debuted Microsoft Cloud for health care last May before launching it in general availability a few months later. Last month, the company announced Microsoft Cloud for retail, which it today revealed will hit public preview in March. Now Microsoft has announced it’s rolling out Microsoft Cloud for financial services, manufacturing, and nonprofits in the next few months.

While sector-specific offerings may seem like a marketing ploy to sell the same cloud to different industries, Microsoft is pitching a number of differentiated tools, including “unique templates, APIs, and additional industry-specific standards,” according to a blog post announcing the news. These will include additional security and compliance capabilities for finance companies, as well as customer onboarding tools designed to streamline loan applications and a “loan manager” that offers banks and lenders a centralized platform for appointment scheduling, virtual customer meetings, and team collaboration smarts. For its previously announced health care cloud, Microsoft also offers a telehealth scheduling feature through the Microsoft Teams and Bookings apps.

Cloud wars

According to recent Canalys data, cloud infrastructure spending grew 32% to $39 billion in Q4 2020. The “big three” public cloud providers also recently revealed their quarterly earnings, with Amazon’s AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, and Alphabet’s Google Cloud reporting record sales. This is at least partly due to the pandemic-driven shift to remote work and a rise in consumer services, such as online gaming and video streaming. Microsoft’s Azure claims around 20% market share in terms of cloud infrastructure services spend, behind AWS at 32%.

Microsoft’s continued push into industry-specific verticals represents part of the growing battle with its rivals, including Amazon and Google. Amazon already offers cloud services tailored to myriad sectors, including its Smart Factory for manufacturing operations. And a couple of months back, AWS introduced Amazon HealthLake to help health care and life sciences organizations aggregate data across silos and formats and into a centralized data lake hosted by AWS.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian last year laid out the company’s cloud strategy, noting that it was eyeing five industries specifically. These are more or less the same ones Microsoft is targeting: financial services, health care, retail, manufacturing, and media and entertainment.

For Microsoft, some data suggests financial services and nonprofits are the bottom two industries currently using Azure, which may be one reason the company is looking to up its game with differentiated cloud offerings.

Microsoft Cloud for financial services will hit public preview at the end of March, while the manufacturing and nonprofit incarnations will be made available by the end of June.

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