Microsoft's Azure cloud to arrive by the end of the year

Clouds floating in a blue sky

Microsoft has confirmed that its Windows Azure platform will become commercially available by the end of the year, with a pricing model based on micropayments for compute time per hour and storage used per month.

Mark Taylor, director of developer and platform evangelism for Microsoft, said that the pricing model would be the first step to enable Azure to, "become a utility in and out of the enterprise".

Taylor said that while cloud computing had many definitions, the most crucial for enterprise was "monetisation" as it enabled them to increase their computing power without having to heavily increase their capital expenditure.

The pricing model is broken down into three parts for use of Windows Azure, SQL Azure and .NET services as follows:

Windows Azure:-Compute - Per service hour - $0.12/hour-Storage - $0.15 GB/month - $0.01/10K transactions

SQL Azure:-Web Edition - 1GB database - $9.99/month-Business Edition - 10GB database - $99.99/month

.Net Services:-Messages - Per message operation - $0.15/100K

In addition, Microsoft also announced details of the Service Level Agreements for Azure, saying it will offer a 10 per cent credit in the event that compute connectivity falls below 99.95 per cent, or 99.9 per cent for role instance and storage availability .

The service will be available for 21 countries by the fourth quarter of the year, taking in the US, Europe, India, Australia and Japan. It will initially be available in English only. The data centres will be located in the US, Dublin and Singapore.

Microsoft said that companies would be able to specify which location they wished their data to be housed at, to meet either performance or legal requirements.

Speaking to IT PRO ahead of the launch, Dan Scarfe, chief executive of .NET Solutions, a Microsoft only development house, said that the computing-on-demand nature of Windows Azure let it to take on board projects that previously weren't commercially viable.

Scarfe added that the pricing model was key as it enabled forward planning of resources. "It was no good having customers who did not know what their bill would be at the end of the month."

Scarfe also had high praise for Microsoft as a technology company. "They're not dinosaurs... some of the technology they have is exceptional."

Benny Har-Even

Benny Har-Even is a twenty-year stalwart of technology journalism who is passionate about all areas of the industry, but telecoms and mobile and home entertainment are among his chief interests. He has written for many of the leading tech publications in the UK, such as PC Pro and Wired, and previously held the position of technology editor at ITPro before regularly contributing as a freelancer.

Known affectionately as a ‘geek’ to his friends, his passion has seen him land opportunities to speak about technology on BBC television broadcasts, as well as a number of speaking engagements at industry events.