Global software giant Microsoft on Monday unveiled a portfolio of services in India that will help companies share software and storage facilities, called cloud computing, that can bring down their total IT spend by as much as 50 per cent.

Windows Azure — the company’s latest offering in the area of cloud computing — is now available commercially in India, said Microsoft India group Director Vikas Arora. “Some 3,500 applications for Azure have been developed out of India alone,” Arora told IANS.

In cloud computing, companies share computer resources — such as servers, software and data storage —— through the Internet, instead of setting up such infrastructure at their own end.

This kind of computing has become a smart way of doing businesses and such offerings are estimated to have generated about $45 billion in revenues for service providers in 2008, and are projected to soar to $150 billion by 2013.

“We are today in India across all the three layers of cloud — infrastructure, platform or the set of services that are on offer,” Arora said, adding cost is one of the key benefits for a company that opts for such services.

Both individuals and companies are already using cloud computing with services such as webmail and sharing of software and other applications. The concept is evolving into a simple, pay-per-use way to get services on tap, just like electricity, for businesses.

The cloud is also a green way to do business. Organisations don’t need to set up server banks running lots of software — just pay for what you use. The provider services many users from one set of equipment, halving energy and equipment cost per user.

According to Microsoft, companies have reported anywhere between 16-49 per cent reduction in their total spend on information technology and related services over a three-year period after migrating to cloud computing.

The company has already launched several products and solutions in India in other layers of cloud computing as part of its overall strategy for enterprises, even as security of data by using such shared services continues to be a concern.

But Microsoft said it was aware of the issue and had strong data security protocol.

“Keeping the customers’ confidence would be the key to further cloud computing. We have actually gone threadbare on all the aspects of data security. We got all our facilities specifically audited to meet the security standards,” said Arora.

“A breach can happen anywhere in the pipeline. So, everybody involved needs to focus on best practices — for coding and securing applications.”