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Microsoft overhauls Windows Azure in a bid to challenge Amazon

Said it will match Amazon's prices
Tue Apr 16 2013, 14:00
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CLOUD SERVICE PROVIDER Microsoft has rolled out a major update to its Azure cloud computing service and said that it will match Amazon on price.

Last year Microsoft announced it would preview a host of changes to its Azure cloud computing service including new virtual machine configurations, a virtual private network and a new Azure software development kit. Now the firm has taken those features out of preview and made them generally available in what it is promoting as the largest single update to Windows Azure to date.

Since Microsoft announced most of the features in its "hybrid cloud" last June, the firm said the only changes from the preview release to today's public release are higher memory capacity and higher performance compute nodes. However the firm touted its Windows Azure Virtual Network as a way for customers to view cloud based services as if those were located on their premises.

Microsoft couldn't rely on features alone to take the fight to Amazon and its Web Services division. Amazon's cloud service is the biggest rival to Microsoft Azure and has a reputation for cutting prices aggressively. Now Microsoft has said it will do the same in a bid "to take the price discussion off the table".

Michael Newberry, Windows Azure lead at Microsoft UK told The INQUIRER said that companies are in a process of moving applications that presently reside on servers located in the office onto the cloud. He said, "It is important that we get them through the process, price shouldn't be a barrier for the customer to choose the best cloud provider.

"At the end of the day it should be about different technical facilities, what is the right environment for a particular workload, a particular application scenario. And that's why we wanted to take the price discussion off the table and say 'look, we know prices are changing and this is a market that is developing, but lets make this about the best environment, the best architecture, the best cloud environment for your particular customer."

Newberry said that Microsoft's Windows Azure service will appeal to those customers who want to make use of existing applications rather than develop ones specifically for cloud deployment. He said, "With customers who have existing infrastructure, existing applications, existing datacenters, that's not something they want to throwaway. They still want to take advantage of cloud technologies, either in terms of private cloud, or using the public cloud as a spiking mechanism - an overflow if you will - for their existing on premise environment."

Microsoft has also started to offer support for Linux on its Azure cloud service. Newberry said customers should have no problem running open source software or Linux on its services. However the firm does see its Windows Azure cloud service being particularly enticing for those firms that already run their network infrastructure services using Microsoft's software, such as Active Directory, SQL Server and Sharepoint.

With Microsoft saying it will match Amazon's pricing, the cloud provider industry might start to see a focus on performance rather than simply competing on low prices to attract customers. µ


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