Microsoft doesn’t build rockets. It doesn’t build satellites, and it doesn’t have a launch pad. So what does Microsoft’s Azure Space business unit do?
“Azure Space is about bringing cloud computing and space technologies together with a partner ecosystem,” Stephen Kitay, senior director of Microsoft Azure Space, told GeekWire.
From the beginning, partnerships have been “a foundational part of our approach to space,” Kitay said. So, two years after launching its space-centric cloud computing service, Microsoft is taking a new step to deepen those partnerships by establishing the Azure Space Partner Community.
“We’ve increasingly seen an opportunity for this community to benefit from Microsoft’s engineering and go-to-market resources,” Kitay said. “We can enable our partners to deliver the most comprehensive and innovative offerings … and together help shape the future of space technology and services.”
The partners span a wide spectrum: There are established satellite powerhouses including Airbus, Ball Aerospace, Intelsat, SES, Thales Alenia Space, Viasat and SpaceX (by virtue of its Starlink broadband constellation, which will help transfer data for Azure Space).
There are companies that provide ground station services, such as Kratos, KSAT and Brewster, Wash.-based US Electrodynamics. And there are startups that are working on cloud-based satellite applications, such as California-based Loft Orbital and Redmond, Wash.-based Xplore.
Rounding out the list of inaugural partners are Amergint Technologies, Blackshark.ai, ESRI, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, iDirect, Nokia, Omnispace, Orbital Insight and Skywatch.
Kitay said members of the Azure Space Partner Community will receive “exclusive access to technical support and scaling solutions.” That can include collaboration with engineering and sales specialists, confidential reviews and early access to new cloud-based programs, go-to-market guidance, opportunities for marketing and community involvement, and access to incentives such as Azure computing credits and volume discounts.
Could Microsoft facilitate contacts between members of the community?
“I think you’ve hit the nail on the head,” Kitay said. “To me, that’s where it goes back to this word ‘ecosystem,’ where we’re working together as a community to create new and differentiated capabilities to solve hard problems. That could include partners working together, with each other to bring different elements of the ecosystem to address some of these challenges.”
The partnership network, announced in conjunction with the annual Microsoft Inspire conference, appears aimed at giving Azure Space an extra boost in its competition with Amazon Web Services’ business unit for aerospace and satellite solutions. Don’t be surprised if the Azure Space Partner Community comes in for a mention during today’s Inspire keynote by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and don’t be surprised if Microsoft’s space-centric ecosystem continues to grow.
“What’s next is, we’re excited to rapidly innovate and advance the industry with our inaugural cohort of partners,” Kitay said, “and we look forward to welcoming new partners in the days to come.”
Microsoft has created an online signup form for the Azure Space Partner Community.