Microsoft to eliminate its Azure branding in billing portal

Microsoft to eliminate its Azure branding in billing portal

Summary: Microsoft is cutting the name "Azure" out of the branding for its cloud services on its billing portal.


Microsoft is informing customers of its Windows Azure cloud that it is rebranding many, if not all, of the component services in a way that eliminates the "Azure" name on its billing portal.

"Windows Azure Compute" will now be known simply as "Cloud Services," according to the Microsoft officials. SQL Azure is now known as "SQL Database." Here's the full list of what's being rechristened:

(click on the table above to enlarge)

I'm wondering whether the Softies also will be renaming the still-yet not formally announced Windows Azure Active Directory to plain old "Active Directory."

Update: Still no word from any Microsoft officials on this, but hearing from others that the rebranding may be limited to the billing portal only and won't be applied externally. I've asked for and am still hoping to get an official response at some point.

Update No. 2: A Microsoft spokesperson responded with this statement: "Microsoft continues to invest in the Windows Azure brand and we are committed to delivering an open and flexible cloud platform that enables customers to take advantage of the cloud. We have no additional information to share at this time." A Microsoft spokesperson asked me to replace the original statement with a more direct one: "Today we informed customers that we simplified the naming of services in our billing statements. This does not affect the Windows Azure brand or name."

(A couple of my contacts are saying the real reason Microsoft made these changes was actually to emphasize the Azure uber-brand. Not that you can tell that from the customer mail that went out or from the official statement, but that's supposedly the grand plan, for what it's worth.)

Update No. 3: Now the @WindowsAzure twitter account is getting into the act. Here's the clearest update about the naming change yet: "Per our recent customer letter, we r simplifying service naming in billing statements. This doesn't affect the Windows Azure name or brand."

Now back to the original story.

"In the coming weeks, we will update the Windows Azure Service names that appear in the usage records you download. These are only name changes – your prices for Windows Azure are not impacted," according to the note accompanying the table above.

One Azure user said he believed Microsoft's goal with the change was to align its on-premises and cloud services better.

Microsoft's stance -- almost since 2008, when Windows Azure was still known by its codename "Red Dog" -- is that its on-premises Windows products all have cloud complements. This mirroring has been at the crux of Microsoft's private/public/hybrid cloud positioning, meaning its customers are free to mix and match its on-premises and cloud wares in ways that best suit their businesses.

Microsoft combined its Server and Cloud teams into a single unit in late 2009.

It's been a busy couple of weeks for the naming police at Microsoft. Last week, Microsoft announced it would be doing away with its Windows Live branding. The company also is renaming some of its components of its Microsoft Advertising platform as "Bing."

As part of its Azure portal rebranding move, the Azure team also updated its privacy policy, according to the note sent to customers this week. "The new version includes the same commitments we previously made to maintain the privacy of your personal information, while adding more detailed information," the note said.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • It's just simplifing of billing report

    Why I have to read two additional words in Service Name column of my billing report?
    • Well said

      Well said. There's no story here, much as tho journalists would like to invent one.
    • Good Point

      The first word or two in a list is what people look at, and it should be the information-carrying words. Starting every item in the list with the same words defeats that, and decreases usability. Beyond that, though, Azure was an attempt to establish a brand that failed. Might as well go with the brand they already established - "Microsoft" - and use that.
      • .

        "Azure was an attempt to establish a brand that failed"
        What? Got any numbers to back that up?
  • Confusing

    I guess I understand why they'd want to do this from a marketing point of view, and in some ways it makes sense. But "SQL Database" is the most generic name I can possibly imagine and really doesn't tell me anything about the product.

    As much as they'd like people to think that the "cloud" is fully interchangable with their other offerings, it's just not... and that's doubly true if you're outside the US and have issues like local privacy laws that make it all but impossible to legally use Azure to store data. (That one isn't just a Microsoft issue, all the US based cloud providers have real problems selling services in countries like Canada and Australia, particularly to governments. Once they hear the data is stored in the US, management slams on the brakes.)

    So in the end we can use Microsoft SQL Server as our SQL Database, but not Microsoft SQL Database. That's not a great naming system at all.
    • I can think of a more generic name...

      "Cloud Services"
  • About time

    The "Azure" brand resulted in unnecessary product confusion and added no value.
    Your Non Advocate
  • How Typical

    Microsoft spends years and millions of dollars getting us to known the term "Azure" as a synonym for "Microsoft's cloud offerings", only to yank it out once we all know what it means. Same with "Live ID" being replaced by the generic almost-meaningless "Microsoft account". In general, Microsoft has always done a terrible job with advertising (Seinfeld, the butterfly, etc.) and the constant re-re-re-naming of their products. It only confuses the marketplace.
    • Oh really?

      So "Apple ID" is more meaningful then "Microsoft Account". I can see you have your iBlinders on again.
    • Generic doesn't have to be bad at all

      Live - what? Microsoft - we know who that is. ID and account are practically synonymns in this context, though obviously one is longer than the other, and can be used to describe more. I think it's an improvement.
      • Don't Know

        Seems to remove a unifying element from the services' menu, though perhaps these are all modules and one can get the precise functionality one needs without signing up for all. Were customers resisting because they thought they were going to get sold all Azure services in order to get Azure?

        To state the obvious, changing branding is an expense item, so one does not do it casually.

        Having a set of discrete services may appeal to the crowd that still digs the fun of building with Legos. Other folks would rather get a car instead of Engine, Tires, Transmission, Steering, Seat, and Cupholder, some assembly required. There are more of the call-me-when-integrated types in the general population, but maybe the I'll-integrate-to-my-needs type better represents the ones who could say yes to acquiring and paying for licenses. Microsoft has the MBAs and I don't. Rebranding noted; we'll see if it boosts divisional revenues.
  • What I'd like to see...

    Microsoft has their "Private Cloud" docs on how to set up Windows Server as a service host, but I'd still like to see their Azure-in-a-box solution for private clouds that they talked about when Azure was still in its infancy.

    Also, the push to privatizing cloud computing doesn't work for most SMB's. There is no reasonable option for SMB's to own their own private cloud solution because with the prices where they are, you're either talking about shared hosting or a co-lo server. The prices are just too high, so we still need on-premise traditional servers to meet the needs of SMB's.
    • You mean ...

      like the Windows Azure Appliance?

      (P.S: ZDNet - PLEASE fix your commenting system - it's just TOO broken!)
  • emPHAsis on the Wrong syLLAble

    I would suggest that the goal is to simplify and reduce confusion across the Windows Azure services.
  • Misunderstanding

    I'm almost certain that what they're doing's just cleaning up the messy naming but will retain Windows Azure as the brand for the overall service. This makes a lot of sense. Not attaching Azure to everything is just smart. Adding azure to everything was like .net all over again.
    Simon Wells63
  • Copy

    Is that something like as the last company coming with graphical user interface using windows and a mouse and calling that product Windows?
    Not that this product was any better then the existing ones, more to the contrary, but there was already a market dominance with a somewhat related product.
    Will it be so easy with a cloud copy?
  • Wound Healer 2.0

    A few years ago, Microsoft Marketing had a banner hanging in some of their cafeterias. It showed an adhesive bandage and said "This in not Wound Healer 2.0. Names Matter" or something similar. The point was that names have value and making them generic gives way potential value. Seems like they need to put the banners back up.
    • @neillfam comment

      Names do matter. The problem that many companies have, including Microsoft, is that they name too many things. In the case of Windows Azure, the only thing that really matters is Windows Azure. The names of the various features underneath Windows Azure are there to help people find what they need. Naming them with cute names isn't going to make them any more or less interesting.
      Simon Wells63
  • Azure name

    Seems pretty simple. Azure is the product and will continue to use the name. All the other things are features of the product, so reusing the Azure name in each feature is not really necessary.