At the end of last month, Microsoft execs said they would be adding a new "basic" pricing tier to the company's Azure cloud line-up.
On April 21, Microsoft added the Basic option for production sites, supporting smaller sites and development/testing situations. Microsoft is touting the Basic SKU as adding "some high-end features at a reasonable cost."
The Basic pricing tier includes core Azure Web Sites; up to three instances of dedicated Virtual Machine running web sites, SSL support, scheduled jobs, endpoint monitoring and more, according to today's blog post. The price of Web Sites Basic ranges from about $56 a month for a small instance, to about $224 for a large instance.
Details are available on the Azure pricing site.
With the new additional tier, Microsoft now offers free Azure Web Sites for evaluation purposes (with no SLA); Shared Web Sites, which are limited in capacity and feature set (also with no SLA); Basic Web Sites; and Standard Web Sites, which provide high availability and support for dev-ops type tasks.
Any existing Web sites already running on Azure, whether in free, shared or standard mode, retain their current mode. However, the Standard SKU now includes more storage, a free SSL connection and other additional features for no extra charge beyond what a user is paying currently, according to the post.
Microsoft is in a pricing war with Amazon.com, and offered last year to match Amazon on all "commodity" cloud services, including compute, storage and bandwidth.
Update (April 22): With the introduction of the new Basic tier, here's how Azure stacks up against the platform-as-a-service competition, courtesy of Microsoft MVP Richard Seroter on InfoQ.