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Microsoft To Cut Windows Azure Charge

Microsoft plans to change its Windows Azure pricing next month, offering free inbound data transfers during peak hours, in addition to off hours.

The deal, announced today, will be open to all Windows Azure customers, beginning on July 1, 2011. It's designed to take the guesswork out of uploading data to Microsoft's cloud computing platform, at least in terms of calculating the costs. Microsoft previously didn't charge for off-hour data transfers, but next month it will also drop the costs for peak-hour data transfers.

Users of Windows Azure still get charged for outbound data transfers, which are region specific. Outbound data transfers are priced at $0.15 per GB in North America and Europe, as well as $0.20 per GB in the Asia Pacific region.

The pricing structure for Windows Azure remains rather complex ever since its introduction in July 2009. Essentially, organizations using Windows Azure pay for the compute time, data storage and data access, plus the bandwidth of the data transferred in and out of the cloud. The various cloud computing phases get priced at specific rates, usually per GB. There's also a monthly fee rolled into the overall cost if an organization uses SQL Azure.

Microsoft offers different monthly plans and discounts, as well as pay-as-you-go plans. To get an idea of the pricing complexity, see Microsoft's "Windows Azure Platform Offer Comparison Table" here.

Microsoft has attempted to make the process of calculating Windows Azure costs a little easier by introducing a Windows Azure Pricing Calculator, which apparently was first released in May. Users of the calculator will get a warning before using it that the calculator's results don't imply "a commitment on the part of Microsoft." Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, described the calculator as "a starting point."

"The estimation tools are getting better, but organizations should be wary of usage when first deploying cloud-based applications to determine whether there are unexpected resources required," Sanfilippo stated via e-mail. "Variables such as the number of users, types of usage, length of deployment, and development architecture can affect costs in unexpected ways if they are not carefully considered and tested."

Microsoft offers a free 90-day "extra small" trial of Windows Azure, which is available until Sept. 30, 2011.

In other Windows Azure news, Microsoft this week announced the release of the June Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Azure AppFabric. AppFabric is a middleware platform used to develop, deploy and manage Windows Azure cloud-based applications, according to Microsoft's description. The new CTP contains developer tools for Visual Studio, an application manager program and .NET Framework extensions, among other enhancements.

Microsoft provides a demo of some of the new CTP's features in a Channel 9 video here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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