Microsoft's answer to Amazon's Linux-friendly, sprawling cloud services platform officially launched on April 16 following months of work and previews since it first publicly debuted.
As its name suggests, Windows Azure Infrastructure Services is an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) play that pits the software giant against market leader Amazon Web Services in a bid to lure enterprises and cloud application developers onto their platforms. In a sign of what's at stake, Microsoft raised eyebrows on June 7, 2012, when the company announced very public support for virtual machines (VMs)—dubbed Windows Azure Virtual Machines—and Linux.
The move represented a major course correction, according to Forrester Research analyst John Rymer. He told eWEEK at the time, "I think this release is a big deal. It represents Microsoft's first major adjustment in its ongoing effort to create the leading cloud application platform.
"The adjustment aligns Microsoft much better with the preferences of developers working in cloud," added Rymer.
Now, Windows Azure Infrastructure Services is exiting its preview stage and is ready to take on enterprise-class workloads, informed Microsoft General Manager Scott Guthrie in a blog post.
"This morning we announced the general availability release of our Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) support for Windows Azure—including our new Virtual Machine and Virtual Network capabilities," Guthrie wrote. "This release is now live in production, backed by an enterprise SLA, supported by Microsoft Support, and is ready to use for production apps."
The April 16 launch brings with it some updates, including new SQL Server, BizTalk Server and SharePoint VM image templates. Azure can also accommodate larger VMs, including new four-core, 28GB RAM and eight-core, 56GB RAM configurations.
Microsoft isn't shy about drawing other parallels to Amazon, particularly concerning Azure pricing. Azure's new "pricing model delivers a 21% price reduction from the previously announced pricing of Windows Azure Virtual Machines (IaaS), and a 33% price reduction for solutions deployed using our Windows Azure Cloud Services (PaaS) model," explained Guthrie.
"Our new VM pricing also matches Amazon's on-demand VM pricing for both Windows and Linux VMs," concluded Guthrie. Beginning June 1, prices will range from $0.02 per hour for its Extra Small compute instances (shared virtual cores and 768MB of RAM) to $0.72 per hour for the Extra Large option (eight virtual cores and 14GB of RAM)—a slight increase over preview pricing.
The company also offered a glimpse into well how Azure is faring in the cloud services market.
After recounting a customer success story involving Norwegian telecommunications firm Telenor and a hybrid cloud SharePoint upgrade, Microsoft's Bill Hilf, general manager of Windows Azure Product Marketing, revealed an enlightening statistic in a blog post. He pointed to Telenor as "just one example on a growing list of more than 200,000 Windows Azure customers."