Amazon Web Services continues to woo Microsoft corporate customers, this time with a new Active Directory service.

One of the truisms about the growing cloud computing battle is that Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the largest competitor, by far, but that Microsoft Azure is a more corporate-friendly option. This comes as no surprise given that most big businesses today run tons of Microsoft Windows, Office applications, Exchange e-mail, SharePoint document sharing, SQL Server databases and what-have-you.

Underlying all that Microsoftian software is Active Directory, which provides a single-sign-on to various applications and makes sure only the right people have access to the right stuff. A version of Active Directory, cleverly called Azure Active Directory, also runs on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

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For those unfamiliar with this stuff, a public cloud is a massive set of shared computing, storage, and networking capability run data centers around the world. All of that power is available to rent, obviating the need for big customers to buy tons of new servers and storage on their own. Amazon was first into the pool here, having launched its storage service in 2006, but Microsoft is in now with Azure, IBM with SoftLayer and Google with Google  Compute Cloud.

Amazon late last week announced a new Active Directory service, actually a managed service, running on AWS. The fuller featured AD managed service could mean that companies can now more easily run and manage their SharePoint, SQL Server (and custom applications built on those technologies) beyond the firewall on AWS.

This has been a long-running strategy for Amazon. Two years ago the company announced support for Microsoft System Center software that companies use to manage their Windows Server and associated applications. This meant that a company’s Microsoft systems administrator could now manage Windows applications running on AWS almost as if they were running in her own server room.

In Leong’s opinion, Microsoft customers typically pick Azure because they’re already affiliated with the Microsoft developer ecosystem and they have a contractual relationship with Microsoft, not so much because they are they are so focused on Microsoft infrastructure per se.

In short, public cloud leader Amazon has had a limited hybrid cloud story to date, but is chipping away at that problem by offering bridges to Microsoft applications running in-house.

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