Microsoft Boosts Azure Developer Scalability, Cuts Costs
Microsoft has made a sweeping series of updates to its Windows Azure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud, improving interoperability, adding a new sign-up process that caps usage ensuring that a free trial stays free, tripling the maximum SQL Azure database size to 150GB and capping those same databases at a $500 monthly fee.
In the official blog entry, the Microsoft Windows Azure team hyped the solution as expanding the Azure experience for developers. Here’s a bullet-pointed list of all the updates, as per that blog.
- A new, three-step sign-up process is designed to make it easier to get started with Windows Azure, and the aforementioned usage caps make it impossible to go over the terms of your 90-day introductory offer.
- Improved subscription management makes it possible to change your Windows Azure rate plan without having to sign up for a new plan. It also now shows metrics on your overall usage vs. your subscription level.
- Streamlined invoices now summarize what users owe, with in-depth statistics available on request.
- Automatic Microsoft Developer Network detection alerts users to new MSDN benefits on the Azure platform.
- A new SQL Azure management portal, based (sigh) on Microsoft’s much-vaunted Metro interface, is built to make it easier to drill down into various performance reports and schema.
- SQL Azure Federation is designed to make scaling and managing a cloud database painless and automatic using a new sharding pattern. To go along with this easier scaling, SQL Azure databases have tripled to a 150GB cap.
- A new Windows Azure SDK for Node.js, including Node.js libraries for Windows Azure blob, table and queue storage. It also includes PowerShell for Node.js, providing command-line support for developing and deploying applications.
- A preview of Apache Hadoop big data integration, granting a limited way to run Hadoop projects in the cloud. This preview is going to be limited — if you want to try it out, Microsoft has a form for you to fill out on your big data needs. If it likes what it sees, you’ll get an access code.
- Azure also ups its open source game with this update, as Microsoft bolsters support for Eclipse for Java, adds integration with MongoDB, the release of the SQL Azure Federation specifications under an open license, a new set of guidelines for running Solr/Lucene, and guidance on how to deploy memcached on Azure from non-.NET languages.
- Price Cap for Large SQL Azure Databases—In addition to tripling the maximum database size from 50GB to 150GB, we are also introducing a price cap which lowers the effective cost per GB for customers with large databases. Effective today, the maximum price per SQL Azure DB is $499.95. This change allows customers with 50 GB databases and larger to continue to grow without additional costs. Customers that use 150 GB DBs will see their effective price per GB drop by 67%.
- Reduced Data Transfer Prices—Effective immediately, Zone 1 (North America and Europe) data transfers are now $0.12/GB (previously $0.15) and Zone 2 (Asia Pacific) data transfers are $0.19/GB (previously $0.20)
- Simplified Pricing and Free Promotional Period for Service Bus—Based on your feedback, we are changing the way we charge for Service Bus to increase value and simplify usage breakdown. Beginning April 1st 2012, Service Bus usage will be billed using two new meters and we will no longer charge based on connections.
- Relay Hours – $0.10 per 100
- Message Operations – $0.01 per 10,000
That’s a lot of updates. But will developers respond? Microsoft has been courting partners and cloud integrators, bringing the best of the best into its Azure Circle program. This could be the first shot in an aggressive campaign of price-lowering and feature-boosting. And while I can’t stress enough how skeptical I am about the PaaS market in general right now, Microsoft is clearly in this for the long haul.
And when the big guns of the PaaS market compete, it can only be a good thing for cloud ISVs. Stay tuned to TalkinCloud for more.