Azure gets more affordable with reserved instances and new cost management features

In case you didn’t know, Microsoft is hosting its annual Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida this week and while a lot of the event focuses on the company’s productivity apps, it wouldn’t be a Microsoft event without lots of talk about the Azure cloud computing platform, too. Among the updates to Azure today are the launch of reserved instances and the integration of Cloudyn, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year, into a new cost-management tool.

“A key aspect of trusting the cloud is fully understanding the costs. No one wants a surprise bill,” Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie noted in today’s announcement. Yet it’s no secret that it’s often hard to figure out the exact costs of a cloud deployment ahead of time. The new Cloudyn-based Azure Cost Management services will be available for free to all Azure customers and will help users maximize their cloud investments and give them a better view of how they are using their cloud computing resources and manage their cost.

Reserved instances have long been a feature of Amazon’s AWS cloud, so the concept here is anything but new and it’s actually a bit of a surprise that Microsoft waited this long to bring this feature to Azure. With reserved instances, users lock themselves into longer-term contracts of one to three years, but in return, they get savings of up to 72 percent of using on-demand instances. Microsoft’s twist here is that it allows you to cancel or refund your reserved instances at any time. On AWS, you typically have to find a third-party buyer if you want to cancel your contract ahead of its expiration date.