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IT shops seeking IaaS consider Windows Azure Infrastructure Services

IT shops in the midst of determining their cloud strategies see Microsoft’s Windows Azure Infrastructure Services as a viable IaaS alternative to AWS.

IT shops in the midst of determining the direction of their cloud strategies see Microsoft’s new Windows Azure Infrastructure Services platform as a viable alternative to Amazon Web Services.

Microsoft delivered Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, accompanied by aggressive price cuts, this week. The company has positioned the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform to compete against Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In addition to the core improvements contained in the beta version, Microsoft has added several new features including improved virtual machine (VM) Image Templates for SQL Server and SharePoint images and roomier VM sizes to accommodate larger memory servers. It also reduced VM pricing ranging from 21% to 33% for IaaS and Platform as a Service (PaaS) VMs.

Some IT shops were encouraged by Microsoft’s apparent commitment to compete against AWS.

“Amazon has some nice things to offer, but Microsoft can probably deal with our existing platforms better,” said one senior systems engineer in the information technology group of a large Wisconsin-based retailer. “Microsoft has decided it’s not going to lose this battle (with AWS) on price.”

Another industry observer agreed the more attractively priced services enhances Microsoft’s competitive position among larger IT shops, but doesn’t put them on the same par as AWS in terms of the broader cloud competition.

“This move gives them table stakes in the cloud game, but it doesn’t draw them even with AWS," said Mark Eisenberg, a consultant and former Windows Azure sales specialist. "[Microsoft] has the stronger play in the enterprise but in terms of the head-to-head competition (with AWS) they aren’t there yet.”

Many enterprise-class customers would not commit to Windows Azure VMs simply because they were not ready for production platforms, Eisenberg said. But after banging out the dents in Azure services through an almost year-long beta program, enterprise shops may now be more receptive.

“[Beta testers] got a lot of the kinks worked out of it, so now we’ll see how it will play among the big boys,” Eisenberg said. “So if you need to get into the cloud and you think AWS is not really ready for enterprise, you should now have a viable option.”

In addition to the new VM and Virtual network capabilities, the new services in Windows Azure Infrastructure Services are backed by an enterprise Service Level Agreement (SLA), along with Microsoft’s technical support.

Customers can sign up for a free trial and begin using the services now, according to a blog post by Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president who leads Microsoft’s Windows Azure Application Platform Team.

Two companies, Digital Air Strike and Telenor, a Norwegian telecommunications company, have deployed Windows Azure Infrastructure Services in their respective production environments, according to Microsoft.

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