Update 10/24/2009: See my MSDN Premium Subscribers and BizSpark Members to Receive Windows Azure and SQL Azure Benefits post of 10/20/2009 for updated information on developer quotas for Windows Azure and SQL Azure.
Since the introduction of what became the Windows Azure Platform at MIX 07 (then SQL Server Data Services, SSDS), the Azure team has promised that Azure would be priced competitively with other cloud computing offerings. For example, Speaking at a Thomas Weisel investor conference in February 2009, Microsoft general manager Doug Hauger said, in general, that Microsoft will price Windows Azure services on a pay-as-you-go model that he promised will be "very, very price competitive" with rivals such as Amazon.
However, Azure’s real competition is the Google App Engine, not Amazon Web Services. As I pointed out in my A Comparison of Azure and Google App Engine Pricing post of July 19, 2009:
The computer trade press on 7/14/2009 was full of comparisons of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Windows Azure pricing with headlines such as Is Microsoft Starting a Cloud Price War? by Reuven Cohen. What’s missing from the price-war posts I’ve seen to date is a comparison between Google App Engine (GAE) and Azure pricing.
Most cloud computing observers (including me) classify GAE and Azure as Platforms as a Service (PaaS) and AWS as an Infrastructure as a Services (IaaS) offering. Both GAE and Azure offer a multi-lingual development environment: Google supports Python and Java, while Azure accommodates .NET’s Visual Basic and C#, IronPython and IronRuby plus Java on the desktop and in the cloud. Therefore, it seems much more logical to me to compare GAE and Azure costs.
Patrick Meader quotes me in his Comparing Microsoft Azure's pricing policies post of 8/28/2009 to the SearchCloudComputing.com site:
Says Roger Jennings: "If Microsoft doesn't change this policy, it will likely prove to be a significant barrier to the adoption of the Azure platform. Historically, Microsoft has made it possible to test its new or significant technologies for free or, at a minimum, for less cost than its competitors. Being able to test … the GAE platform for free is a compelling advantage of GAE over Azure."
George Moore explains in his Windows Azure Business Model for Developers - An Introduction Channel9 interview of 9/8/2009 that the business folks are in charge of the Windows Azure Platform:
21 year Microsoft veteran and Software Architect George Moore is involved in defining and implementing an effective strategy for taking Windows Azure from technology preview to enterprise business ready. Specifically, George is responsible for all integration of all Azure services (Windows Azure, SQL Azure, .NET Services) to other systems at Microsoft. This includes the billing system integration across all Azure services, the business owner portal, and the developer portal for all Azure services.
Developers are Microsoft’s lifeblood and the key to continued success of the Windows, Office, SharePoint, Silverlight, Visual Studio, and SQL Server brands. What we developers need when the Windows Azure Platform and SQL Azure services go commercial at PDC 09 is a billing threshold similar to that offered Google App Engine developers.
For starters, this could be a flat $9.95 per month for a single, publicly-accessible CPU instance with up to 1 GB of Azure storage and, say, 10 GB/month of free ingress/egress bandwidth with no SLA. This would enable developers like me to justify maintaining and upgrading demo and test projects in the Azure data centers. If I need an SQL Azure database to go with the Windows Azure project, I’ll cough up the $9.95 per month.
Have a different developer threshold in mind? Leave a comment.