Microsoft plans to open its first Middle East data centers as it steps up cloud challenge to Amazon

Microsoft is planning to open its first data centers in the Middle East and expand the number of centers in Europe, as it continues to grow its cloud-computing operations and step up its challenge to Amazon.

Its first Middle East data centers will be in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Microsoft said in a blog post Wednesday. The U.S. technology giant’s cloud-computing products Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 will become available there in 2019.

Microsoft also plans to introduce cloud regions in Switzerland and expand its presence in Germany. The Redmond, Washington-based firm’s move follows Amazon’s announcement last year that it will open its first data center in the Middle East — in Bahrain — in 2019.

“We see enormous opportunity in MEA (Middle East and Africa) for cloud technology to be the key driver of economic development, as well as provide sustainable solutions to many pressing issues such as youth employability, education and healthcare,” Samer Abu-Ltaif, president of Microsoft Middle East Africa, said in a press release.

Microsoft is becoming an increasing threat to Amazon in the public cloud space, and in the fourth quarter increased its market share from 16 to 20 percent, according to KeyBanc analysts. It remains well behind Amazon’s 62 percent market share, however.

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