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Microsoft announces General Availability of Windows Azure, promises to match Amazon’s AWS pricing

In a move that could completely shake up the market, Microsoft today announced general availability its Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, along with a commitment match Amazon’s AWS service prices for commodity services such as compute, storage and bandwidth. To begin with the same, Microsoft has reduced GA prices on Virtual Machines and Cloud Services by 21-33% and promised to match any price drop in future from Amazon Web Services. Earlier this month, Microsoft announced general availability of Windows Azure Active Directory.

As part of the Infrastructure Services release, Microsoft has added in new high memory VM instances up to 28GB and 56 GB to run demand intensive workloads along with new Microsoft validated instances to it’s list including SQL Server, SharePoint, BizTalk Server, and Dynamics NAV. In addition, today’s IaaS release also includes some small VM enhancements like:

  • Increased default OS disk size: The default OS disk partition size has increased from 30GB to 127GB.
  • Ability to customize the Administrator username: As a good security practice, users can now customize the login name of the administrator account when creating VM images.
  • Remote PowerShell Enabled By Default: Making it easier to automate setting up VMs without having to login interactively to a newly deployed instance, Microsoft has enabled remote PowerShell by default in all Windows Server OS images – including the SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and SharePoint images.
  • Durable Data Disk: Virtual Machines in Windows Azure can optionally attach and use data disks for storage (each disk can be up to 1 TB in size)
  • Built-in Load Balancer Support: Virtual Machines in Windows Azure can also optionally utilize a network load-balancer (LB) , thus enabling a user to distribute traffic sent to a single IP address/port to multiple VM machine instances.
The cloud should be an enabler for innovation, and an extension of your organization’s IT fabric, not just a fancier way to describe cheap infrastructure and application hosting.
– Bill Hilf, GM, Windows Azure product marketing.

“Customers don’t want to rip and replace their current infrastructure to benefit from the cloud; they want the strengths of their on-premises investments and the flexibility of the cloud. It’s not only about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), it’s about Infrastructure Services and Platform Services and hybrid scenarios,” said Mr. Bill Hilf, GM, Windows Azure product marketing. “The cloud should be an enabler for innovation, and an extension of your organization’s IT fabric, not just a fancier way to describe cheap infrastructure and application hosting,” he added.

Microsoft has also enabled an hourly billing model which gets rid of upfront costs to get started. This means that customers don’t have to pay for an upfront license of Microsoft’s server products; they can instead pay an additional hourly rate above the standard OS rate for the hours they run the software. To push the new offering, Microsoft has also announced a free three month trial of Windows Azure.

Microsoft’s Windows Azure service is more likely to appeal to customers who have existing infrastructure, existing applications, existing datacenters, and want to take advantage of cloud technologies.

Whether Microsoft can compete with AWS across it’s the entire spectrum of cloud remains to be seen. However, the decision to match AWS’ pricing will sure make the cloud provider industry focus on performance rather than simply competing on low prices to attract customers.

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