Microsoft finally talks about how many customers are REALLY using its Amazon-competitor cloud

Microsoft CEO Satya NadellaMicrosoftMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft still isn’t releasing actual user or revenue numbers for its cloud computing service that competes with Amazon’s, but it did sort of address one big issue: actual usage.

In the slide presentation it shows analysts during the quarterly conference call (slide 15) the company said this (emphasis ours).

“Customer usage of Azure compute more than doubled.”

People close to the company have been telling us that there’s a frantic push inside the company to get Microsoft’s enterprise customers to not just “buy” Azure but to actually use what they have bought.

For the past few years, Microsoft has been using the tried-and-true technique of bundling Azure onto customers’ broader enterprise contracts in a way that costs them little-to-nothing, sources tell us.

When a customer renews its Windows or MS Office or database software licenses, Microsoft gives them a discount on those wares as “credits” to use Azure. Customers pay no more, but they get 1 year to try Azure, and use up the credits, sources close to the company explained.

But a problem arose when many of those customers had no real plans to use Azure. Many let the credits expire, which meant that their spending on the cloud would simply stop.

You can’t grow a business that way.

Sources told us that Nadella put heavy pressure on the salesforce to get customers to use the cloud. It’s also calling on its huge consulting partners to push Microsoft’s cloud. Leaked numbers shared to us showed that the pressure was working.

And now Microsoft is at least willing to say that usage more than doubled, even if it isn’t willing to talk about what that means in real numbers.

All together, Microsoft says its cloud is on track to be a $US6.3 billion business and that cloud revenue grew over 100%. Head of IR, Chris Suh told Business Insider that “we’re seeing similar levels” in growth of revenue and usage. But those total cloud numbers includes the business version of Office 365 which by all accounts is growing like a weed. And it includes other products like Microsoft’s competitor to Salesforce (called Dynamics), and its new enterprise mobility management service.

We understand that Satya Nadella will offer even more colour on this super important statistic when he talks to analysts Thursday, and if he says anything meaningful, we’ll update this post.

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