Amazon's (AMZN) maintains a sizeable lead in cloud computing, but Microsoft (MSFT) Azure is fast gaining ground.

Azure should grow at 70% to 80% in fiscal year 2018, Evercore analyst Kirk Materne wrote after meeting with companies that work with the large cloud providers. That's nearly double the rate that Amazon Web Services has posted in recent quarters.

"While [Amazon Web Services] remains the clear leader in terms of public cloud computing today, one of the most notable takeaways from our meetings was the improving position of Azure, both as it relates to product maturity and market presence," Materne wrote. A slate of new features ranging from speech recognition tools to an app for coding on their phones brings Azure closer to Amazon Web Services' rich suite of tools, while Microsoft has refocused its sales force on the cloud. 

Check out how you can literally @CodeAnywhere on multiple devices & platforms via the #Azure cloud: https://t.co/qGtRakCxDA @MSPartnerApps pic.twitter.com/YnBKq2xDhU

— Microsoft Azure (@Azure) August 15, 2017

AWS had 41% of the global market for public cloud services at the end of the second quarter, according to Synergy Research Group. Microsoft is second with 13%, Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google Cloud Platform has 7% and IBM Corp. has 5%.

Growth of 80% in 2018 would actually mark a deceleration for Azure, which reports its growth rate but does not disclose revenues. Microsoft's cloud service grew 97% in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2017, which closed June 30. Azure grew 93%, 93% and 116% in the prior three quarters, respectively.

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