The silhouette of Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of the cloud and enterprise group at Microsoft, is seen at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in San Francisco on March 31, 2016.
David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The software giant delivered healthy growth, but Amazon and Google loom in the wings.

By Heather Clancy
April 28, 2017

I take a special interest in matters Microsoft. That’s partly because it was one of the first software companies I ever covered in depth as a junior tech reporter two decades ago. Mostly, it’s because I’m as curious as the next person as to whether the 42-year-old company can steal the spotlight from 20-something Amazon when it comes to replacing corporate data centers (at least most of them) with cloud computing services.

Microsoft’s latest financial results—delivered last night alongside acts from tech powerhouses Amazon, Intel, and Google parent Alphabet—talk up all the right things. It recorded a very respectable 11% revenue growth for the unit that represents its cloud offerings—the Azure business alone grew a scene-grabbing 93%. And just this week, the company scored another huge Fortune 500 account: shipping company Maersk. I’m sure that follows CEO Satya Nadella’s turnaround script just fine.

But the acknowledged market leader, Amazon Web Services, managed to upstage those results. It pulled off an overall revenue expansion of almost 43% during the same period. Plus, AWS added several marquee names to its cast of customers, including the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, and the newly public Snap Inc., which will buy $1 billion in AWS services over the next five years.

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You can also expect Google to add dramatic tension. While it doesn’t break out the revenue from its cloud services (yet), the “other” category into which it lumps those results grew close to 50% in the first three months of 2017. Just last weekend, Google cloud guru Diane Greene said she believes her company can steal the spotlight from AWS by 2022.

Clearly, the last scene in the cloud drama is still being written—Fortune‘s Barb Darrow offers her own review of what’s up next. Meanwhile, this will make for good theater. Some creative improvisation required.

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