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April 17, 2013

Windows Azure Ready to Take on AWS

Tiffany Trader

After a lengthy incubation phase, Microsoft is finally ready to release its IaaS product into the wild. Yesterday, the Windows vendor announced general availability for its Windows Azure Infrastructure Services along with a new pricing policy that paints a target on the back of its number one competitor, Amazon Web Services. Azure has been offered in preview mode since last June.

Bill Hilf, general manager of Azure’s product marketing team, emphasized Microsoft’s hybrid approach, which allows companies to harness both on-premise and cloud resources:

“…[E]nterprises know that success with the cloud lies in the power of “and.” 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. It’s not only about Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS), 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.”

The Microsoft rep goes on to state that customers don’t want to be forced to choose between quality and price…they want both. To that end, the enterprise software vendor turned cloud champion is committing to matching competitor Amazon Web Services on commodity services, like compute, storage and bandwidth. Azure announced an immediate reduction for prices on Virtual Machines and Cloud Services of 21-33 percent.

Microsoft is also debuting new high memory instances, including 28GB (4 core) and 56GB (8 core) versions, for its customers’ most demanding workloads. In addition, the Redmond, Wash.-based giant rolled out several new Microsoft validated server instances, including SQL Server, SharePoint, BizTalk Server, Project Server, Dynamics NAV, and more. Azure also supports Linux variants Ubuntu, CentOS, and SUSE.

One early customer cited by Hilf, marketing and media firm Digital Air Strike, utilized Azure’s infrastructure and platform services to create an instant feedback mechanism for General Motors car purchases and service transactions. The firm’s Chief Marketing Officer said the company originally considered Amazon Web Services, but ultimately decided that “when you work for the enterprise, you have to choose Microsoft.”

It’s a telling remark – one that is not so much an assertion of quality or innovation, but rather a testament to the hold that the Windows vendor maintains on the enterprise.