Microsoft has revealed more details of its Azure cloud service, including availability and how – although not how much – it will charge. In an FAQ document on its website, the company says that Azure will be available in the second half of 2009. Prior to that, a Community Technology Preview will be available free of charge 'subject to certain limits'.
When commercial service is started, Microsoft says it will charge for CPU time, bandwidth, storage and transactions, billing users for actual consumption of each service. The company promises "robust service level agreements and guarantees on quality of service", and says that access to the services will be direct, through a Customer Portal, or via third parties who will set up and sell their own services based on Azure. MS, like every cloud company, has happy visions of the world being delighted to provide a constant revenue stream that merrily rises as usage increases. The world's opinion of these visions has yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, Dell has been happily telling everyone that it's providing the hardware for the Azure computing centres – and then clamming up when asked for details of how much, what, where and when. Also unclear is how security will work, how reliability will be maintained and – perhaps most interesting of all – how easy it will be for a company that signs up for Azure to move its business elsewhere if it wants.
We'll be returning to that particular can of worms with our very largest tin opener later.