MS to support Windows Azure with data center investments

Despite the economic downturn, intends to ramp up the number of servers running in its data centers worldwide by 15 times over the next 5 years.

The growth, outlined in a presentation on Monday at its Professional Developers Conference, is designed to handle increased hosted computing demand from enterprise software running on , also announced Monday, as well as third-party services Microsoft hopes to attract.

Microsoft expects to boost the number of data centers it operates by three times, its power usage by 15 times, and the Internet traffic going out of its data centers by nine-fold, said Benjamin Ravani, general manager of Microsoft's Global Foundation Services, during a technical session.

Ravani said Microsoft operates "tens of thousands of servers" but would not disclose the exact number.

Microsoft had announced But Ravani's reiteration of those comments come a week after Redmond announced plans to tighten its fiscal belt, including cutting US$500 million in spending this fiscal year by slowing hiring and cutting travel and marketing expenses.

Despite its belated arrival to so-called services, Microsoft appears to be sparing no dime on building out a back-end infrastructure that tops competitors , and