Microsoft Cuts Azure Storage Pricing As Amazon Obsession Heats Up

Microsoft, not content with battling Google in cloud productivity software, is now officially hell-bent on knocking Amazon Web Services off its perch in the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service market.

Starting March 13, Microsoft will be cutting pricing for Windows Azure Block Blobs Storage and Disks/Page Blobs Storage by up to 20 percent, matching what AWS charges its East Region customers for its S3 and Elastic Block Store services, Steven Martin, Microsoft's general manager for Windows Azure, said in a blog post Friday.

Microsoft is cutting pricing for its Locally Redundant Disks/Page Blobs Storage by up to 28 percent, and slashing the cost of Azure Storage transactions by 50 percent, Martin said in the blog post.

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Here's the kicker: Microsoft is also applying the lower Azure storage pricing worldwide, which means Azure storage will be "less expensive than AWS in many regions," according to Martin. Amazon couldn't be reached for comment.

AWS has cut pricing for its cloud services around 40 times since launching in 2006, and its executives like to frame them as stemming from its relentless quest to make its data center operations more efficient. Yet a good many industry observers believe AWS is undercutting other vendors' pricing to build market share.

Microsoft's pledge to match AWS' pricing is bold, but Ric Opal, vice president at Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., said Azure offers other important advantages besides cost.

"For customers that want a hybrid cloud, if they want to move an app out of the AWS cloud they're looking at a rewrite of the code," he told CRN. "With Azure, it's a slight modification, or no change at all."

"Moving things in and out of the public cloud is hugely important for customers that want to get as much return on investment from their development cycles as possible," Opal added.

Another way Microsoft is better than AWS, Martin said in the blog post, is that customers can get "highly durable" data storage for virtual machines running in the cloud.

Microsoft's Azure IaaS Disks cost $0.095 per GB per month with geographical redundancy, which replicates data to a secondary location. But according to Martin, AWS customers would have to buy EBS Standard Volumes ($0.05/GB per month) and EBS Snapshot to S3 ($0.095/GB per month) to get the same functionality, and pay 34 percent more.

This isn't the first time Microsoft has cut Azure pricing. In November, Microsoft debuted what it called "significantly lower" pricing than AWS for compute, storage and bandwidth, but only for customers willing to sign up for its Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE) volume licensing plan.

At this point, it's clear that Microsoft versus AWS in cloud IaaS is going to be the second front in a battle for cloud supremacy that began when Microsoft started comparing Office 365 to Google Apps.