Microsoft Azure Uncovered

Everyone is talking about Microsoft Azure, which could leave some people left in the dust wondering what exactly Azure is, how much it costs and what it means for cloud computing and Microsoft as a whole. If you are among those who have unanswered questions about Microsoft Azure, look no further: here is your guide to all things Azure.

The Basics

When cloud computing first emerged, everyone wondered if and how Microsoft would make the transition into the cloud—and Microsoft Azure is the answer. Windows Azure is a cloud operating system that is essentially Microsoft’s first big step into the cloud. Developers can build using .NET, Python, Java, Ruby on Rails and other languages on Azure. According to Windows Azure GM Doug Hauger, Microsoft plans on eventually offering an admin model, which will permit developers to have access to the virtual machine (as with traditional Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings like Amazon’s EC2, they will have to manually allocate hardware resources). SQL Azure is Microsoft’s relational database in the cloud while .NET Services is Microsoft’s Platform-as-a-Service built on the Azure OS.

The Cost

There are three different pricing models for Azure. The first is consumption-based, in which a customer pays for what they use. The second is subscription-based, in which those committing to six months of use receive discounts. Available as of July 2010, the third is volume licensing for enterprise customers desiring to take existing Microsoft licenses into the cloud.

Azure compute costs 12 center per service hour, which is half a cent less than Amazon’s Windows-based cloud, while Azure’s storage service costs 15 cents per GB of data per moth, with an additional cent for every 10,000 transactions (movements of data within the stored material). .NET Services platform costs 15 cents for every 100,000 times the applications build on .NET Services accesses a chunk of code or tool. As for moving data, it costs 10 cents per GB of inbound data and 15 cents per GB of outbound data. For up to a 1 GB relational database, SQL Azure is $9.99, while it costs $99.99 for up to a 10 GB relational database.

The Impact on Microsoft and Cloud Computing

Although the introduction of Microsoft Windows Azure comes a bit late into the burgeoning field of cloud computing and as a Platform-as-a-Service party, Microsoft remains ahead of enterprises which the company is hoping to attract as customers. In other words, by eyeing enterprises that still remain skeptical of cloud computing, Microsoft may tap into customers not snatched up by other more established cloud computing parties. No enterprise data center runs solely on Microsoft software, which is likely why the company seems willing to test out other programming languages and welcome heterogeneous environments in Azure. Additionally, the Azure platform as has a service-level agreement that offers 99.9 percent uptime on the storage side with 99.95 percent uptime on the compute side.

As many have pointed out, Microsoft may be behind Amazon and others for the time being, but there is room for an open platform directed at enterprises, which is Azure’s niche. For more Azure related information visit

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