Microsoft goes head-to-head with Amazon Web Services on price, cloud VMs

Microsoft is making generally available its Linux and Windows Server virtual machines, plus its Azure Virtual Network, both of which are key to making Azure competitive with Amazon Web Services.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft wants the world to know it is ready to go head-to-head with Amazon Web Services on both features and price.

As expected, Microsoft announced on April 16 that its Linux and Windows Server virtual machines (VMs) on Windows Azure are now generally available and ready for deployment. These are the persistent VMs that Microsoft publicly unveiled last June, and which provide users with a way to run existing Linux and Windows Server apps in the Azure cloud without having to completely rewrite them.

Microsoft announced last year that these persistent VMs will allow users to run Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, OpenSUSE 12.1, CentOS 6.2, Ubuntu 12.04 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP2 and apps built on these Windows Server and Linux variants on Windows Azure.

Today, officials added some new pieces to its Azure VM line-up, aimed at customers with highly demanding workloads. In addition, Microsoft is adding Microsoft-validated instances to its VM options for common Windows applications that users may want to run on Azure, including SQL Server, SharePoint Server, BizTalk Server and Dynamics NAV.

Microsoft also is making its Azure Virtual Network technology (codenamed "Brooklyn") generally available, as of April 16. Windows Azure Virtual Network is designed to allow business users to extend their networks by enabling secure site-to-site IPsec VPN connectivity between the Enterprise and Windows Azure. The idea is this will allow users to better connect their hybrid on-premises and cloud set-ups.

On the pricing front, Microsoft also made an official commitment today to match Amazon Web Services on price for all "commodity" services, including compute, storage and bandwidth. As part of this pledge, Microsoft is reducing its general-availability pricing on VMs and cloud services by between 21 to 33 percent, officials said.

To benefit from the cuts, users need to make monthly commitments to Azure for either six months or twelve months.


Just last week Amazon announced its latest round of price cuts on a number of its Amazon Web Services. Microsoft and Amazon have been locked in a price-cut battle in the cloud for months.

Microsoft's new pricing will go into effect on June 1. 

Azure General Manager Bill Hilf said Microsoft is dropping prices of both its VMs and its platform-as-a-service as a whole. He said Microsoft won't be reacting to what Google does on the cloud pricing front because Google isn't really a full-service cloud player, despite announced intentions to play in both the IaaS and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) fronts.

When I asked Hilf about the status of another of Microsoft's already announced cloud-networking technologies, Azure Connect, he said the company's plans for this have changed. Over time, Microsoft plans to fold the Azure Connect (codenamed "Sydney") technology into Azure Virtual Network, he said.

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