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.
The Windows Azure team maintained that the Windows Azure Platform would be “very price-competitive” prior to posting the cloud service’s pre-commercial-release price list. Stuart J. Johnson’s Microsoft Says Cloud Offering Will Be Price-Competitive post of 2/9/2009 includes this quotation:
Doug Hauger, Microsoft's general manager of business strategy for cloud infrastructure services, told attendees at the Thomas Weisel Partners 2009 Technology & Telecom Conference that Azure is "a pay-as-you go system [and it will be] very, very price competitive." [Emphasis added.]
The team’s Confirming Commercial Availability and Announcing Business Model post of 7/14/2009 and subsequent Pricing & Licensing Overview provide details of charges for Windows Azure per-hour compute, and per-GB storage, and bandwidth changes, as well as SQL Azure 1GB and 10GB monthly instance charges.
Doug Hauger didn’t name the services with which Windows Azure would be “very, very price competitive.” Amazon was the 800-lb cloud-computing gorilla of the time, so most folks compared Azure pricing with Amazon’s posted pricing for its S3, EC2, and SimpleDB Web services. I made the point in my A Comparison of Azure and Google App Engine Pricing post of July 19, 2009 that Azure’s real competition is the Google App Engine, not Amazon Web Services:
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.
Jeff Barr’s Don't Forget: You Can Use Amazon SimpleDB For Free! post of 10/2/2009 to the AWS blog reminds potential users:
You can keep up to 1 gigabyte of data in SimpleDB without paying any storage fees. You can transfer 1 GB of data and use up to 25 Machine Hours to process your queries each month. This should be sufficient to allow you to issue about 2 million PutAttribute or Select calls per month. [Emphasis Jeff’s.]
While Amazon’s SimpleDB charge threshold doesn’t represent a substantial amount of money, it’s still better than Azure’s pricing for instances, table/blob storage and bandwidth, especially for demo applications or projects in development.
I’m still Lobbying Microsoft for Azure Compute, Storage and Bandwidth Billing Thresholds for Developers and will continue to do so at PDC 2009.