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Microsoft details Cloud Computing Windows Azure on-demand pricing

By annie shum | July 15, 2009

At its Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft detailed its on-demand pricing for the core Windows Azure operating system, as well as for Azure’s storage and messaging services. When it launches in November, Azure will be available through the consumption-based model announced today, as well as under subscriptions and through volume licensing contracts.

On-demand pricing for Azure services breaks down as follows: for compute, US$0.12 per hour; for storage, $0.15 per GB stored; and for transactions, $0.01 for every 10KB moved. The SQL Azure cloud-based relational database platform is available in two editions: The $9.99 Web Edition that caps storage at 1GB, and the Business Edition that provides 10GB of storage for $99.99. Microsoft charges $0.15/100KB for message operations in .NET Services, which include Service Bus messages and Access Control tokens.

Microsoft’s prices are marginally lower than the $0.125 Amazon Web Services (AWS) charges per CPU hour for Windows instances, as of July 14, but Amazon’s Linux-based services undercut Microsoft at $0.10 per computing hour.It is also less costly to store data in AWS, which charges $0.10 per gigabyte stored each month versus Microsoft’s $0.15.

Microsoft has given no indication that it will provide a free threshold similar to what Google provides with App Engine, Roger Jennings, a principal at OakLeaf Systems, said in his blog. OakLeaf is a software consulting organization that specializes in Microsoft’s Web service platforms. Partners will receive a 5% discount for every Windows Azure component, the company told convention attendees. MSDN Premium level subscribers will receive services to test their software on Windows Azure.

End users will be billed for Azure usage either directly from Microsoft or as part of the fee that they pay service creators, said Prashant Ketkar, senior director of product marketing for Windows Azure. “They [developers] would take [the cost], mark it up, and bundle it with the application or service that they decide to sell.”

“Microsoft’s pricing for Azure is competitive without being predatory, at least for now,” said Jason Bloomberg, a managing partner at ZapThink. “As competition in any market heats up, you’d expect prices to drop. Whether Microsoft, Google and/or Amazon will enter a price war with the intent of driving each other or smaller players out of the business remains to be seen.”

Microsoft is offering a service-level agreement (SLA) that covers connectivity, data availability and service uptime.

“For compute, we guarantee that when you deploy two or more role instances in different fault and upgrade domains, your Internet-facing roles will have external connectivity at least 99.95% of the time,” the company wrote in its Windows Azure blog.

“Additionally, we will monitor all of your individual role instances and detect within two minutes when a role instance‚Äôs process is not running and initiate corrective action.

“For storage, we guarantee that at least 99.9% of the time we will successfully process correctly formatted requests that we receive to add, update, read and delete data. We also guarantee that your storage accounts will have connectivity to our Internet gateway.”

If the SLA is violated, Microsoft will credit accounts in the following month if it is determined that Microsoft was to blame, Ketkar said.

The Azure.com portal will share information about network status after the services become commercial, he said. He added that developers already receive tracing and logging information through the Community Technology Preview.

Microsoft’s key challenge will be building trust around Azure, Bloomberg said. “There are already serious questions about the reliability and confidentiality of cloud computing in general, but add that to the general mistrust of Microsoft we saw with .NET My Services, and later with the Connected Systems Framework [now Connected Services Framework], and they already have two strikes against them.”

By David Worthington, July 14, 2009

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