Microsoft is satiating customers’ appetites for affordable pricing with news today of per-minute billing, no charge for stopping virtual machines (VM) and discounted developer and test rates.
In a blog post this morning, Microsoft announced:
- No charge for stopped VMs
- Pay by the minute billing
- MSDN use rights now supported on Windows Azure
- Discounted MSDN dev/test rates
- MSDN monetary credits
- Added portal support for tracking MSDN monetary credit usage
Paying by the minute allows a customer to run a VM, cloud service, website or mobile service for only the minutes used in an hour. Previously a customer would be charged for the full hour even if the customer used only a few minutes. Google offers per-minute billing on Google Compute Engine. Amazon Web Services charge by the hour. ProfitBricks was the first infrastructure as a service provider to offer per-minute billing.
Microsoft is in essence dropping prices again by not charging for halting virtual machines. It makes sense when considering the barriers it had placed for adoption. Scott Guthrie explains on his blog that Azure used to keep a reserved instance running unless the customer explicitly deleted the deployment. That can inhibit adoption, especially with Microsoft pushing its cloud and on-premise story, which it says differentiates it from other providers.
Now, developers can use Azure to test and run apps in production on the cloud. Now Microsoft preserves the deployment state and configuration when customers turn off the VM free of charge, thus reducing the friction for the end-user. This makes it useful for development and test teams that want to save some money by cycling down environments during low times such as nights and weekends. Granted, you can essentially do this already on Amazon Web Services, but Microsoft is trying to make the process a bit easier by doing more of the leg work.
For MSDN subscribers, Microsoft is now reducing the cost to “spin up any number of Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, and BizTalk Server VMs for testing scenarios using Windows Azure and pay only 6 cents per hour when running them (or, if you run them for less than an hour, the pro-rated per-minute equivalent).
I have heard the argument that only Google and Microsoft can compete in the IaaS market with such steep price drops. Even AWS, it has been argued, will have difficulty in this race to the bottom. You have to wonder with these constant drops in pricing by IaaS providers.