Microsoft says its cloud-based Windows Azure platform is now generally available in 21 countries. Having previously offered Azure for free to attract developers, Microsoft will start charging for use of Azure starting on Feb. 2. The cloud computing arena is a potential $150 billion market in which Microsoft already faces strong competition from Google and Amazon.com, and Microsoft executives have suggested that promoting the Azure platform is a vital part of the company's strategy in 2010 and beyond.
The Windows Azure platform, Microsoft's competitor in the cloud computing
arena, achieved general availability in 21 countries starting on Feb. 1. As
part of that rollout, Microsoft will begin charging for Windows Azure and SQL
Azure starting at 12:00 a.m. GMT
on Feb. 2, in order to give all countries in all time zones the chance to
complete their full January of free service.
"Starting today, customers and partners in countries across the globe
will be able to launch their Windows Azure and SQL Azure production
applications and services with the support of the full service-level agreements,"
read a post on the Windows Azure Team Blog.
"The Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus and Access Control will
continue to be free until April 2010 for those that sign up for a commercial
subscription. Additionally, 'Project Dallas' will continue to be in a free
Customers who do not upgrade their Windows Azure Community Technology
Preview accounts will have their service disabled and Windows Azure storage
rendered read-only; SQL Azure CTP customers will not be able to create new
databases. Any SQL Azure CTP accounts and Windows Azure Storage CTP accounts that
haven't been upgraded will be deleted by March 1 and April 1, respectively.
"It is important to export your data if you do not plan to upgrade to a
commercial subscription prior to these days," the Windows Azure Team Blog
Jan. 28 earnings call,
Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein told analysts
and media that Azure would provide developers with a "smooth transition to
the cloud with tools and processes" and that the platform was one of the
key products for the company in 2010.
The Azure platform is composed of three parts designed to operate in
symphony for the creation of Web applications and services: Windows Azure, an
operating system as a service; SQL Azure, a cloud-based relational database;
and .NET services, designed to provide
secure connectivity and federated access control for applications.
of Azure's model was inspired by Bing, Microsoft's search engine,
of which had been built on an Autopilot platform that allows automatic data
"Autopilot is a great prototype, but it wasn't built as a platform that
could be generalized," Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and
Tools Business Division, said during a Nov. 17 keynote at the 2009 Professional
Developers Conference in Los Angeles.
"That's where Azure has come in-to take those ideas and generalize them in
the form of an application platform that can be broadly used."
Azure was offered as a Community Technology Preview until the end of 2009,
after which it was fully switched on. In order to encourage developers to adopt
the system, Microsoft chose to offer it for free until February 2010.
Customers have three payment options: a pay-as-you-go model, a subscription
format and volume licensing. For any of those three types of service, users
will pay 10 cents per gigabyte for incoming data and 15 cents per gigabyte for
outgoing data. Under the "consumption" model, users will pay 12 cents
per hour of infrastructure usage, while storage will cost 15 cents per
gigabyte. The business edition of the SQL Azure database will cost a flat
Microsoft is placing Azure in competition with cloud-based offerings from
Google and Amazon.com, fighting for a chunk of what analysts estimate will grow
to be a $150 billion market. Other Microsoft cloud-based initiatives include
Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V virtual machine support on Azure, and Microsoft
Pinpoint Marketplace, which will let partners make use of the cloud to market
and sell applications. The RTM of Windows Identity Foundation will allow
developers to provide simplified user access to both cloud and on-premises
In addition to these developer-focused initiatives, Microsoft is taking
steps into the cloud in the arena of end-user experience, by offering
stripped-down versions of its productivity applications to Windows Live
subscribers. These applications include OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint;
however, users wanting the full range of options for each of these will need to
purchase the full version of Office 2010, due for release in June. The move
seems tailored on Microsoft's part to counter a growing threat from cloud-based
productivity application platforms such as Google Apps.