Touting it as the "next giant leap in cloud computing" – an obvious homage to Neil Armstrong's first utterance upon stepping foot on the Moon – Microsoft has launched Azure Space.
Azure Space, an integrated cloud and satellite platform and ecosystem, aims to deliver connectivity around the world in support of a wide array of industries as well as both public and private sectors.
"With Azure Space we have ambition to make space connectivity and compute increasingly attainable across industries including agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and government," Tom Keane, corporate VP for Azure Global, said in this blog post about the new offering.
As for that ecosystem... Azure Space is entering orbit with a new partnership with SpaceX's Starlink, which will provide high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband for the new Azure Modular Datacenter (MDC). The new offering will also tie in an existing Azure Orbital partnership with SES and its O3B medium-Earth orbit constellation to help extend connectivity between Azure's cloud datacenter regions and cloud edge devices. Those connections will also complement Azure's existing "ExpressRoute" satellite provider partnerships with SES, Intelsat and Viasat that are focused on data delivery from geosynchronous orbit (GEO) satellites into Azure, the company said.
Those orbital connections will hook into an Azure global network that spans some 160,000 miles of subsea, terrestrial and metro optical fiber. They will aid Azure customers that operate in remote, rugged areas that have trouble keeping pace with the needs for access to faster speeds and additional capacity and bandwidth, according to Keane.
"Our approach is to supply a multi-orbit, multi-band, multi-vendor, cloud-enabled capability to bring comprehensive satellite connectivity solutions to meet the needs of our customers," Keane explained.
In preparation for space missions, Azure also introduced the Azure Orbital Emulator, an emulation environment that conducts large-scale satellite constellation simulations. That system, Azure said, will be used to help commercial and government space organizations that require precise planning and AI-driven formation protocols to ensure networking connectivity and operational coverage on-orbit.
"This allows satellite developers to evaluate and train AI algorithms and satellite networking before ever launching a single satellite," Keane wrote, noting that the first customers for this include government partners. "Azure can emulate an entire satellite network including complex, real-time scene generation using pre-collected satellite imagery for direct processing by virtualized and actual satellite hardware."
Azure Space will grapple with AWS's space data business, Space News points out. Microsoft's relatively new Azure Orbital "ground-station as a service" also locks horns with Amazon's AWS Ground Station service, the report adds.
Microsoft also introduced its space leadership team, which includes William Chappell, formerly of DARPA, now CTO of Azure Global; and two senior directors at Azure Space – Chirag Parikh, formerly the White House Director of Space Policy on the National Security Council; and Stephen Kitay, who most recently served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading, special to Broadband World News