Microsoft plans to head to the clouds with Azure Space

Kareem Anderson

Azure - Satellite

Microsoft’s Azure ambitions have recently included space-and satellite-connectivity as part of its services platform and earlier today, the company offered further details on how it plans to achieve its goals.

  1. Announcing the Azure Orbital Cloud Access Preview
    • A brand-new service that brings the power of the Microsoft Cloud to wherever you need it most.
  2. Announcing the General Availability of Azure Orbital Ground Station
    • Since the launch of Azure Space in October 2020, we have talked about Azure Orbital Ground Station. Today, alongside our partner network, including KSAT, we are making this service available to all satellite operators, such as Pixxel, Muon Space, and Loft Orbital.
  3. Advancing the digital transformation of satellite communication networks
    • The first demonstration of a fully virtualized iDirect modem.
    • Together with SES we are announcing a new joint satellite communications virtualization program.

Part of Microsoft’s updated space and connectivity plans for the company’s Azure Space infinitive now includes a new service dubbed Azure Orbital Cloud Access preview that intends to provide enterprise IT connectivity in more remote locations, as well as Azure Orbital Ground Station which is a partner-led initiative to deliver customer data to Azure region of choice at zero cost.

By piggybacking on Space X’s Starlink hardware, Microsoft can enable Azure edge devices to prioritize and deliver traffic across fiber, cellular and satellite networks while also natively integrating with SD-WAN technology from Juniper Networks.

Microsoft is also hoping to deliver digital resiliency through 5G, and has begun running tests with several wildland firefighters to better assess the effectiveness of Azure Orbital Cloud Access in more remote locations and partnering with “Pegatron and SES to explore a scenario for natural disasters that brings together the power of 5G and space for the Hsinchu Fire Department.”

While it may be Microsoft’s ultimate goal to democratize the possibilities of space by unlocking connectivity and data with its cloud services, I’m sure it’s no coincidence that this surfaces after its biggest rival in the cloud sector has also begun tying its cloud platforms to its own space initiative and satellite hardware with Aerospace and Satellite Solutions from AWS and AWS Ground Station.