With its roots in the enterprise, what differentiates Microsoft Azure IaaS from AWS is its recognition that many enterprises are not willing to put everything in the public cloud

Microsoft Embraces Enterprise Roots with Windows Azure IaaS

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Taking a cue from big box retail stores, Microsoft has announced on Tuesday its commitment to price match Amazon Web Services prices for commodity services like compute, storage and bandwidth, aligned with the general availability of Windows Azure infrastructure services.

Microsoft calls the announcement a “significant step” in its cloud computing strategy, which has been driven directly by conversations with customers and partners, many of which are hosting providers. Microsoft acknowledged in the past that web hosts are a key driver of its cloud strategy, and make up a considerable percentage of its cloud services business. It will be interesting to see how the general availability of Windows Azure helps its web hosting partners compete in the cloud.

With its roots in the enterprise, what differentiates Microsoft Azure from AWS is its recognition that many enterprises are not willing to put everything in the public cloud, instead opting for hybrid cloud implementations, combining public cloud like Microsoft Azure, on-premise, and clouds hosted in service provider data centers.

While AWS is used by enterprises too, its messaging has always been directed at the cloud user that wants to plug in credit card information and spin up a VM instantly, not the enterprise that has many moving bits and pieces it needs to work seamlessly across the platform, as Microsoft has enforced through its Microsoft Cloud OS vision.

The release of Windows Azure is live in production, and backed by an enterprise SLA supported by Microsoft.

“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,” Bill Hilf, general manager of product management for Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Windows Azure said in a blog post. “It’s not only about Infrastructure as a Service or Platform as a Service, it’s about Infrastructure Services and Platform Services and hybrid scenarios. 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.”

As part of its commitment of combining a low price with good performance, it is reducing its GA prices on virtual machines and cloud services by 21 to 33 percent.

Jason Verge, in his Data Center Knowledge post, Windows Azure Launches IaaS Cloud, Targets Amazon, says that in matching Amazon’s pricing, Microsoft actually appears to have raised prices on some virtual machine instance types that were discounted during the trial period.

The new infrastructure services release includes high memory VM instances, 28GB/4 core and 56 GB/8 core. Microsoft has also added a number of new Microsoft validated instances to its list including SQL server, SharePoint, BizTalk Server, and Dynamics NAV.

“Windows Azure uses the same Hyper-V virtualization service built-into Windows Server 2012, which means that you can create and use a common set of VHDs across your on-premises and cloud environments,” Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president in the Microsoft Developer Division said in his blog post.

This year, Windows Azure suffered a setback when an expired SSL certificate managed to bring down its cloud storage infrastructure for 12 hours.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that Windows Azure Active Directory was generally available.

Talk back: Do you think AWS price matching is a good strategy for Microsoft winning over AWS customers, or is it enough that it is focused on the enterprise cloud needs? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.

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