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MICROSOFT SEES WINDOWS AZURE MOMENTUM
Similar to HP and IBM, Microsoft is trying to use its massive partner base and technologies to capture cloud business. The company is steadily making its products available on the Windows Azure platform. In early June, it said it was adding virtual machine capability by enabling users to host Linux, SharePoint and SQL server on Windows Azure.
Microsoft in late September updated its Windows Azure cloud services pricing program to let users making a monthly commitment to receive steep discounts regardless of what services they use. However, the discounts apply to large purchases only on a monthly basis, starting at $500 and rising to $40,000 per month.
For medium-size workloads, which do not apply to Azure's discount program, Microsoft comes with the highest prices of those cloud providers surveyed.
For a year-long contract for use of a medium-size workload, Windows Azure would cost $5,679, above the average of $3,656, according to the CRN/Cloud Spectator analysis. For a monthly use of a medium workload, Windows Azure would charge $473, above the average of $329. For hourly use, its cost would be 66 cents, above the average of 45 cents.
Nonetheless, Steven Martin, general manager of Windows Azure Business Planning, said customers report they are enjoying the discounts Microsoft is offering.
"The monthly commitment scale awards customers both big and small," he said. "A commitment of just $500 offers a 20 percent discount, and the larger commitment you make, the more you save. Furthermore, monthly commitment amounts can be increased at any time without increasing the term length."
Martin said customers are coming to Azure at a rapid pace.
"We've seen tremendous momentum on Windows Azure, with tens of thousands of customers, hundreds added daily and over 2X growth in compute in the last six months," he said. "We believe Windows Azure offers the best overall value in the industry with its services, features and simplified pricing."
In March, Azure suffered an outage due to the so-called Leap Year bug, and in response, issued 33 percent credits to Azure customers and overhauled its cloud disaster recovery, testing and customer services.
David Geevaratne, president of New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner and provider of cloud services, including Office 365, applauded Microsoft for revising its Azure best practices, especially for improving testing.
"Partners and customers think testing and quality assurance are extremely important parts of any system, and I'm glad Microsoft is devoting more attention to them," he said.
Joseph Giegerich, managing partner of New York-based Microsoft partner Gig Werks, said Microsoft's experience in tuning its applications to business needs is helping it develop cloud apps that can be delivered over Azure.
"With Office 365 and SharePoint, Microsoft has a more mature understanding of the business needs of its customers," said Giegerich. "Office Web Apps [one of Office 365's products] is a remarkable application," Giegerich said. "And SharePoint is a big game-changer."