Microsoft’s flagship cloud service has stopped accepting new customers who want a UK-based service as the business is squeezed by emergency demand from the the war-torn Ukrainian authorities.
The US tech behemoth is struggling after it agreed to host the IT systems for Ukraine’s entire government on its remote servers. A global microchip shortage means it cannot easily expand capacity to take on more clients.
Microsoft’s flagship Azure cloud computing service has two data centre regions in Britain, called UK South and UK West. Neither is accepting new customers for two of its most widely-used services, Cosmos DB and virtual machines.
The latter are used by clients as if they were computer servers in their own offices.
A Microsoft spokesman said: “Our priority remains ensuring business continuity for customers.”
Used to provide internet-based business services ranging from websites to databases and supporting other companies’ back-office IT services, Azure is part of Microsoft’s $23bn (£19bn) cloud division.
The capacity problems came to light when a small British IT company had a number of requests for cloud services rejected by Microsoft.
Bournemouth-based managed services provider QuoStar tried to purchase new Azure products only to be told “we are not able to approve your request at this time”. QuoStar is an outsourcer that manages other companies’ IT services.
A message from Microsoft to QuoStar, seen by the Telegraph, said: “Unfortunately, due to high demand in this region (UK South), we are not able to approve your request at this time”.
It went on to offer a “bi-monthly” update on whether services would be available in future.
Neil Clark, QuoStar’s director of cloud service, said public promises of endless capacity from Microsoft and rival providers such as Amazon, Google and China’s Alibaba had masked the reality.
He added: “Businesses need to start realising that these aren’t endless supplies.
“You’ve got to treat [cloud companies] in the same way that you would do a smaller supplier.”
A Microsoft spokesman acknowledged the capacity problems, saying it had experienced unprecedented growth in demand for cloud computing over the past two years.
He added: “With this surge, coupled with macro trends impacting the whole industry, we’ve taken steps to address customer increases in capacity while also expediting server deployment in our datacentres.”
Microsoft has extended considerable support to Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February. The entire country’s digital infrastructure is hosted on Microsoft’s European data centres, having been hastily moved to prevent airstrikes from crippling its government.
Earlier this month Brad Smith, Microsoft president, said: “Russia not surprisingly targeted Ukraine’s governmental data centre in an early cruise missile attack, and other ‘on premise’ servers similarly were vulnerable to attacks by conventional weapons.”
Russian cyber-attackers are known to be targeting Ukrainian internet services. The company has downplayed the effect of hosting the Ukrainian state on its commercial cloud services.