Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus, a program designed to accelerate the success of technology startups, expanded its range of startup services by announcing $60,000 in free Windows Azure compute and storage over a period of 24 months for select startup accelerators. Specifically, the BizSpark Plus startup accelerator TechStars will allow TechStars accelerators in Boulder, Boston, New York, Seattle and Texas to provide the designated $60,000 in free Windows Azure services to each of their respective startups. In addition to TechStars, Microsoft is extending the offer of free Windows Azure services to startup founders that belong to a technology accelerator within the Global Accelerator Network, a network of roughly 40 startup accelerators that are similar to TechStars. The expanded relationship between Microsoft Corporation and the startup accelerator community represents an astute strategic move on the part of Microsoft insofar as it constitutes a golden sales and marketing opportunity to seed its Windows Azure platform in the IT infrastructure of up and coming technology startups all over the world.
Unconfirmed reports from the All About Microsoft blog by ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley suggest that Microsoft is gearing up to support Linux on its Windows Azure cloud platform in 2012. The blog claims that Microsoft will launch a persistent virtual machine on the Azure platform that enables customers to run Windows or Linux “durably,” meaning, without suffering any loss of data due to rebooting on the Azure platform. Support for the persistent virtual machine on Windows Azure will additionally enable customers to host applications using SharePoint and SQL Server. While the conjunction of Linux and Windows might seem unthinkable given Microsoft Corporation’s historical antipathy toward Linux and open-source computing, Linux support on Azure would represent a huge coup for Azure customers that would like the flexibility to run Linux-based instances in the vein of Amazon Web Services. Moreover, Linux support on Azure enables Azure to compete more squarely with VMware. Microsoft reportedly conceded to customer requests for persistent virtual machines because customers demanded the ability to host applications such as SharePoint within a persistent virtual environment.
Microsoft today announced a set of updates to Windows Azure, its Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud computing offering that was launched in February 2010. Microsoft grouped the updates into the categories of Ease of Use, Interoperability and Overall Value. Here are some highlights from the wide-ranging update:
• Node.js language libraries added to the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK)
Windows Azure now supports the Node.js software system, known for its suitability for highly scalable internet applications such as web servers. The Azure software development kit for Node.js includes libraries for blob, table and queue storage as well as PowerShell command-line tools for development.
• Apache Hadoop on Windows Azure – A Preview
Developers seeking to unlock the Big Data potential of Apache Hadoop can now obtain a preview of Hadoop on Windows Azure by taking advantage of a streamlined installation process that sets up Hadoop on Azure in hours as opposed to days.
• Upper Bound on Price for Large Azure Databases
The maximum Azure database size has been increased from 50 GB to 150 GB. Additionally, the maximum price for the 150 GB database has been set at $499.95, resulting in a 67% price decrease for customers using the largest size.
• Lowering of Data Transfer Prices
Data transfer fees in Zone 1 (North America and Europe) have been lowered from $0.15/GB to $0.12/GB. Data transfer fees in Zone 2 (Asia Pacific) have been lowered from $0.20/GB to $0.19/GB.
Additional updates include enhanced tools for Eclipse/Java, MongoDB, SQL Azure Federation, Solr/Lucene and Memcached as well as access to Windows Azure libraries for .NET, Java, and Node.js on GitHub via an Apache 2 software license.
Software application development company Aditi Technologies announced the acquisition of cloud computing company Cumulux on November 21. The acquisition is intended to enable Aditi Technologies to promote the adoption of the Microsoft Azure platform in collaboration with Microsoft Corporation. Aditi plans to invest $5 million in the Azure Acceleration Lab, a rapid application development environment that facilitates adoption of Microsoft Azure. The acquisition is poised to drive Aditi’s transformation from a top Microsoft National System Integrator Partner for “enterprise social, big data, mobile and digital marketing” to one of the leaders in Microsoft Azure adoption. Bangalore-based Aditi acquired the Seattle start-up Cumulux, the 2010 Microsoft Partner of the Year, for an undisclosed sum.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) promised to eliminate inbound data fees starting July 1 in a move that matched Microsoft’s recent announcement of the same with respect to its Microsoft Azure platform. Moreover, AWS slashed outbound data prices for up to 10 terabytes of outbound traffic per month from 15 cents to 12 cents per GB. After 10 terabytes of outbound data transfer within a month, the next 40 terabytes per month have been discounted from 11 cents to 9 cents (total: 50 terabytes) per GB. And the next 100 terabytes of outbound data transfer per month (total: 150 terabytes) will be discounted from 9 cents to 7 cents per GB. In a blog post, Amazon Web Services remarked: “There is no charge for inbound data transfer across all services in all regions. That means, you can upload petabytes of data without having to pay for inbound data transfer fees. On outbound transfer, you will save up to 68% depending on volume usage. For example, if you were transferring 10 TB in and 10 TB out a month, you will save 52% with the new pricing. If you were transferring 500 TB in and 500 TB out a month, you will save 68% on transfer with the new pricing.”
Microsoft announced its intention last week to eliminate inbound data transfer fees in the context of the case of Press Association Sport, a partner of the Press Association, the national news agency of the UK. Given that the Press Association Sport planned to upload “large amounts of text, data and multimedia content every month,” into Windows Azure, the CTO of the Press Association remarked on the benefits of free inbound data transfers as follows: “Estimating the amount of data we will upload every month is a challenge for us due to the sheer volume of data we generate, the fluctuations of volume month on month and the fact that it grows over time. Eliminating the cost of inbound data transfer made the project easier to estimate and removes a barrier or uploading as much data as we think we may need.” Amazon followed suit a week after Microsoft’s June 22 announcement. In a June 29 blog post, AWS CTO Werner Vogels indicated future price decreases from AWS were forthcoming as the company scaled and rendered its operations more efficient.
Microsoft Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation’s announcement that the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform will host telematics applications for Toyota’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles marks an important step in the battle for enterprise market share amongst the top cloud computing vendors. Disclosed on April 6, the agreement signifies Microsoft’s increasing dominance in the automotive vertical as it expands its market base beyond Ford, Kia and Fiat. Microsoft and Toyota plan to invest $12 million or $1 billion yen in telematics services for the Toyota subsidiary, Toyota Media Service. Telematics marks the conjunction of information technology with telecommunications in a way that allows users to obtain increased control of energy management, multimedia and location-related services. Expected features of the Microsoft Azure based platform include:
• The ability to determine when to most economically recharge an electric battery in relation to energy costs
• A mobile application that checks battery levels and calculates how far users can drive before recharging their battery
• The ability to manage home energy and air conditioning units from automobiles
• Increased customization over streaming audio and video content
Initial deployment of telematics applications is expected amongst Toyota’s electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012. Toyota plans to deploy a global, Azure based platform to provide advanced telematics services to its customers by 2015. The initial roll-out of Toyota’s partnership with Microsoft will focus on energy management but the platform will more broadly enhance information access and control for its users. Toyota plans to render its telematics platform available to other car manufacturers as well in a move that would increase standardization within the automotive vertical with respect to driver access to energy, entertainment and location information.