Microsoft Pledges $1 Billion In Cloud Services To Nonprofits And Researchers

In what Microsoft is pitching as a philanthropic play, the Redmond giant has committed to donating $1 billion worth of cloud services to university researchers and nonprofit organizations over the next three years. The investment is one piece of a three-part initiative to ensure that Microsoft's cloud computing resources ultimately serve the public good.

Microsoft's effort is on a broad scale. In a related blog post, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith talks about cloud computing emerging as a vital resource for addressing the world's problems.

"Cloud services can unlock the secrets held by data in ways that create new insights and lead to breakthroughs, not just for science and technology, but for addressing the full range of economic and social challenges and the delivery of better human services," Smith says. "They can also improve communications and problem-solving and can help organizations work in a more productive and efficient manner."

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Microsoft's $1 billion play will bring the cloud to 70,000 nonprofits over the next three years. It will also see Azure rolled out to 900 university researchers at no cost, while expanding broadband to 20 communities in 15 countries. In short, the effort is partially aimed at giving underfunded, worthy causes the same access to resources as those with bigger budgets.

"Microsoft is empowering mission-driven organizations around the planet with a donation of cloud computing services — the most transformative technologies of our generation," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “Now more than 70,000 organizations will have access to technology that will help them solve our greatest societal challenges and ultimately improve the human condition and drive new growth equally."

While Microsoft didn't come out and say it (and perhaps never will), this is also a way to get more people and organizations to use its systems and services. That's not to say Microsoft is being underhanded by any means, but the donation certainly serves dual purposes.

Through this effort, Microsoft Research and its recently formed Microsoft Philanthropies group will expand the Microsoft Azure for Research program by 50 percent. At present, it provides free cloud computing resources to over 600 research projects on half a dozen continents.