For those of you new to the cloud, it's kind of a big deal. The overall cloud computing market will grow 22% this year, according to Forrester, and the emerging oligopoly of cloud infrastructure providers is solidifying with each service seeking to enhance its offerings for enterprise clients faced with more IT options than ever before.

That's why Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) just bought a small company out of Pittsburgh called Avere Systems. Though terms were not disclosed, here's what we know about Avere and why Microsoft made the purchase.

Two businessmen shake hands.

Image source: Getty Images.

A storage expert

Avere was founded back in 2008 -- when cloud computing was still in its infancy -- initially to make products and services to optimize storage resources in the data center. As cloud computing took hold, Avere expanded its hardware and software technologies as well, now an expert in optimizing storage and compute resources across a variety of locations -- whether they be in an on-premise data center, private cloud, or public cloud. The company's products span hardware, with its FXT Edge filers, software-based "virtual" Edge filers for use in public clouds, and its Avere Operating System, which allows clients to simplify their storage needs across a heterogeneous IT environment.

Basically, the company is a storage expert, helping customers increase speed, achieve visibility and simplicity, and save on costs. The cost savings are a big factor, as Avere's optimization of resources means customers won't have to buy more data center space than they need, or any more "pay as you go" cloud computing than is necessary. According Avere's website:

Avere FXT Edge filers offload the performance from your existing NAS [network-attached storage], enabling them to be built with cost-effective and dense nearline storage at a savings of 50% or more. [...] When you separate your performance from capacity, your physical costs go down. You need less space, less power, and less cooling even while performance improves. Operating expenses can stop climbing as the infrastructure gains performance in a smaller footprint. 

Clients for Avere span media and entertainment, life sciences, education, government, and financial companies. Government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control, the Library of Congress, and even NASA use its services.

Microsoft takes interest

In a blog post, Jason Zander, VP of Microsoft Azure, wrote: "Avere uses an innovative combination of file system and caching technologies to support the performance requirements for customers who run large-scale compute workloads. [...] customers will benefit from industry-leading innovations that enable the largest, most complex high-performance workloads to run in Microsoft Azure." 

Interestingly, Avere is not exclusive to Azure, as its virtual platforms also integrate with both Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. Avere has been integrating with Microsoft Azure since 2015.

Cloud wars continue

It's unclear exactly why Microsoft bought Avere, though obviously the cloud giant thinks Avere's hybrid capabilities and products provide a point of differentiation. Microsoft may think it can expand Avere's offerings, or that a tightly integrated Avere will cause more clients to choose Azure as opposed to other platforms, or perhaps both. With Microsoft's experience in traditional enterprise data-center servers, it does seem best positioned out of the "big three" for hybrid cloud environments versus the 100% cloud offerings Amazon and Google bring to the table.

According to Synergy Research, Microsoft is growing the fastest of any cloud platform, and is solidly in second place in cloud infrastructure and platform as a service, behind only Amazon. With the Avere purchase, the company appears to be targeting hybrid cloud clients, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. 

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Billy Duberstein owns shares of Alphabet (C shares), Amazon, and Microsoft. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares), and Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.