Nissan has signed a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) deal with Microsoft to support its dealers around the world.

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM system in the Windows Azure cloud will blend dealer and CRM and social collaboration tools, aimed at helping Nissan to increase dealer sales and develop a stronger relationship with its customers.

Andy Palmer, executive vice president at Nissan, said: "We are delivering a next-generation dealer management system. It will help meet our business needs, especially to better understand our customers and dealers. This will enhance our sales and brand power."

The new dealer management system will initially be rolled out to Nissan's dealership networks in Japan and "other strategic regions across the globe", said Nissan. It did not say when the system would be extended internationally.

The system will have the flexibility to be customised for the needs of a specific country, region or manufacturer. Nissan also intends to explore how Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Windows Azure can work together as a platform to deploy other applications across the company's global network, "and to standardise its information architecture in the cloud", it said.

The Azure platform consists of various on-demand services sold through three product brands. These are Windows Azure, an operating system providing scalable compute and storage facilities; SQL Azure, a cloud-based, scale-out version of SQL Server; and Windows Azure AppFabric, a collection of services supporting applications both in the cloud and on premise.

Microsoft has now installed a version of Apache Hadoop on its Azure cloud service. The company now offers a limited preview version of the open-source data analysis platform, often used for Big Data analysis.