Microsoft's cloud computing service, Azure, has experienced one of its biggest outages, one that affected a significant part of its customer base globally and lasted for five hours.

According to Microsoft's dashboard, the interruptions started at 17:49 UTC and included "Cloud Services, Virtual Machines Websites, Automation, Service Bus, Backup, Site Recovery, HDInsight, Mobile Services and possible other Azure Services in multiple regions".

The issues appeared to have been resolved by 22:00 UTC, with Microsoft reporting that only a small subset of customers using the services in North Europe are likely to be experiencing "intermittent connectivity issues".

Azure is a vital component of the new vision that Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, is trying to steer the world's largest software company in the direction of. In a world that's increasingly moving to software-as-a-service, the cloud is becoming the de facto platform for services.

Microsoft's cloud services did experience some localised outages days before this major issue, and it is not yet known if these events are related.

Azure integrates with other elements within the Cloud OS ecosystem envisioned by Nadella, one which federates multiple Microsoft technologies to deliver a platform-agnostic experience for the end-user.