Microsoft Makes a Play for Oracle's Customers -- Update

By Jay Greene Features Dow Jones Newswires

As Microsoft Corp. gains momentum in its cloud-computing business, it is setting its sights on an old nemesis: Oracle Corp.

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Microsoft is expected Wednesday to introduce two services for Azure, its business for supplying web-based and on-demand computing resources.

One of the new offerings is called Azure Cosmos DB. Microsoft claims the database will let customers rev up and wind down applications as needed throughout the world, which would allow the company to guarantee performance levels -- a crucial feature for large corporate customers. Microsoft claims the guarantees, called service-level agreements, are the first for cloud-database services.

The second is a service that lets customers move the databases they run in their corporate data centers to Azure. A year ago, Amazon.com Inc.'s pioneering cloud-computing business, Amazon Web Services, rolled out its own database-migration offering to help customers shift their computing to its on-demand subscription service.

Oracle, the database leader in customer-run data centers, is most at risk from the new Microsoft offerings, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with the research firm Moor Insights & Strategy, who was briefed on the new services. Customers are most willing to consider new technology vendors when they shift from running their own computing to renting cloud services, he said.

"These big wars are won and lost in transitions," Mr. Moorhead said.

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Databases are among the biggest battlegrounds as computing moves to the cloud. That is because companies are amassing huge amounts of data, collecting information on topics such as customer-purchasing habits and factory-machinery performance.

And the massive computing power of cloud operations, such as Azure and Alphabet Inc.'s Google Cloud, enables companies to analyze that data in ways that would have been prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

Microsoft is expected to announce the new cloud services at Build, its annual conference for developers who create applications and services that run on top of Microsoft's technologies.

Oracle didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

Separately, Microsoft will disclose that there are now 500 million devices running Windows 10. When Microsoft launched the operating system nearly two years ago, it said it expected a billion devices running Windows 10 by June 2018. Last summer, though, it pulled back from that target as it shifted its focus away from the mobile-phone market. The new device number is up 25% from last September, the last time Microsoft disclosed Windows 10's progress.

Write to Jay Greene at Jay.Greene@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 10, 2017 12:56 ET (16:56 GMT)