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Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Microsoft Azure Data.

A new cloud service unveiled by Microsoft today sets the stage for the company’s customers to share and monetize some of their most valuable internal data.

The new Azure Data Share service, announced as a preview Thursday afternoon, comes at a time of heightened concerns about the use and monetization of data by big companies. Microsoft, which has largely avoided that minefield in its own business, says it sees big potential in giving other companies a way to easily share data with partners and business customers.

In many cases, the internal data produced by an organization or its customers is broadly applicable enough that it’s valuable and insightful to other companies and groups, as well, said Rohan Kumar, corporate vice president for Azure data, during a briefing with reporters on the Microsoft campus this week.

“It’s just a completely new category for us,” Kumar said.

Microsoft is focusing first on offering the technology for its corporate customers to share data with their partners in compliance with governance restrictions, data controls and privacy policies. For now, monetization will be up to those customers. Longer term, Microsoft is also considering whether it could operate a marketplace where data could be more easily monetized and shared, Kumar said.

About 20 customers have been participating in a private preview, he said. Microsoft says it collaborated closely with financial services company Finastra to integrate Azure Data Share with its data platform as part of that private preview. The public preview is making its debut in advance of Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference next week in Las Vegas.

Expected pricing for the service was not announced. Azure Data Share works via the Azure online portal, and Microsoft says it doesn’t require additional infrastructure.

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