Microsoft Cuts Azure IaaS and Storage Prices While Emphasizing Quality And Innovation

At its Build Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft joined Google and Amazon Web Services in slashing IaaS and storage prices by announcing price cuts of up to 27-35% on compute services, and 44-65% on storage. Additionally, Microsoft revealed details of “Basic” VM instances that lack the load balancing and auto-scaling functionality that comes with the Standard instances. Price cuts were deepest for “Memory-Intensive” virtual machines and ranged from 35% for select Linux machines, and 27% for Windows-based machines. Microsoft also announced a new redundancy storage option branded Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS) that allows customers to store three copies of their data across “multiple facilities” which may be located either within the same region or across different regions. Zone Redundant Storage provides customers with an alternative redundancy option to the currently available Geo Redundant Storage (GRS) choice which enables customers to store data in regions “hundreds of miles apart” marked by 3 copies of their data in each region. Zone Redundant Storage will be 37.5% lower than Geo Redundant Storage in price. Notable about Microsoft’s announcements of Azure price reductions was its concomitant emphasis on quality and innovation in the cloud computing space:

While price is important, and something that will continue to grab headlines, there are three key factors at play in cloud computing: innovation, price, and quality. Innovation and quality will prove far more important than commoditization of compute and storage. Vendors will ultimately extol their track records for building and running services far more than their prices and SLAs.

Microsoft will continue to focus on bringing our customers a world-class service with an unrivaled user experience. This means best-in-class value while still providing the most complete cloud experience on the market. It means massive investments in cutting-edge infrastructure and world-class R&D. It means continuing to grow our developer and partner ecosystems. Simply put, it means devoting the bulk of our efforts to delivering innovation and a quality experience for our customers, developers, and partners.

With cloud guru Satya Nadella now at the helm of Microsoft, the industry should expect Microsoft to hold good on the promise made by Steve Martin, General Manager of Windows Azure, in his blog post regarding the devotion of “the bulk of our [Microsoft’s] efforts to delivering innovation and a quality experience for our customers.” All this suggests that, what had previously been a two horse race between Amazon Web Services and Google has now, within a matter of days, morphed into a three horse race that prominently features Microsoft and its renewed commitment to cloud and mobile technologies under Nadella as evinced by Microsoft’s release of Office on the iPad. Without question, Microsoft’s experience serving enterprise customers exceeds that of Google by far, but its ability to innovate in the cloud space with the frequency and depth of Amazon Web Services and Google remains to be seen.

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AWS Cuts Prices For 42nd Time, Announces VPC Peering Capability And General Availability Of Amazon Workspaces

A day after Google announced price cuts and enhancements to its cloud computing products, Amazon Web Services responded with price cuts of its own at its AWS Summit in San Francisco. Price cuts for Amazon Web Services are nothing new, and the company took care to note as such by pointing out that the April 1, 2014 price reductions represent the 42nd time the Seattle tech behemoth has slashed prices since its 2006 inception. Amazon EC2 pricing cuts ranged from 10-40% for Linux/Unix virtual machines and 7-35% for Windows-based machines. Similarly, AWS announced deep price cuts on its reserved instances offering on the order of 10-40%. Prices for Amazon S3 were reduced by 51% on average, with a hefty discount of 65% for the 0-1 TB range. Meanwhile, Amazon RDS experienced a price cut of 28% on average. AWS also announced the general availability of Amazon Workspaces, a fully managed desktop as a service offering that allows customers to configure and deliver desktop environments for their employees from a centrally hosted location on the AWS cloud. Amazon Workspaces supports the synchronized, bundled delivery of designated software applications to end users on multiple devices. In addition, AWS elaborated on new functionality in the form of “peering connections” between virtual private clouds (VPC) in the same AWS Region that supports use cases such as separate virtual private clouds for different business units within a large organization. As an example of one such use case, VPC peering connections allow EC2 instances from a VPC for the Finance department to access data in a VPC dedicated to Operations, but not necessarily vice versa, depending on the business rules established by the customer for “peering” or data sharing. Finally, AWS took note of its recent achievement of Department of Defense (DoD) provisional authorization, which certifies it as compliant with DOD security protocols over and beyond those achieved by the FedRAMP certification which AWS has already earned. Overall, today’s announcements from the AWS Summit failed to match the depth and variety of cloud-specific product enhancements revealed by Google, but they confirmed Amazon’s enduring ability to cut prices and innovate as well as its growing credibility amongst U.S. government customers.

Google Announces An Impressive Array Of Cloud Price Cuts And Enhancements

At Google Cloud Platform Live, Google just announced a range of enhancements to its Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Big Data analytics platforms. For starters, Google announced price cuts to its Google Compute Engine platform ranging from 30-85%. Prices for Google’s Infrastructure as a Service offering will be slashed by 32% for all “sizes, regions and classes.” Meanwhile, Google Cloud Storage and Google BigQuery experienced price reductions of 68% and 85% respectively. Google simplified the pricing of its platform as a service, Google App Engine, and reduced it by roughly 30%. In addition to price cuts, Google unveiled an analogue to the Amazon Web Services product reserved instances which provides deep discounts on VM pricing in the event they are used for one or three year time periods. Branded “Sustained-Use Discounts,” Google offers price cuts on top of its already announced reduction for customers who use a VM for more than 25% of a given month. Customers who use a VM for an entire month can see additional discounts of up to 30%, resulting in price cuts of over 50% compared to original prices given today’s other price reductions. Google is also launching BigQuery Streaming, an enhancement that enables the BigQuery platform to consume 100,000 rows of data per second and render the data available for real-time analytics in ways comparable to products such as Amazon Kinesis and Treasure Data. Moreover, Google announced a Managed Virtual Machines service that allows users to configure a virtual machine to their own specifications and subsequently deploy the VM to the Google App Engine infrastructure, thereby giving developers more flexibility vis-à-vis the type of machine managed that can take advantage of App Engine’s auto-scaling and management functionality. For developers, Google announced integration with Git featuring automated build and unit testing of changes committed as well as aggregated logs of testing results. Finally, Google revealed the general availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Windows Server 2008 R2 in limited preview for VMs.

All told, today’s price cuts and news of functionality represent much more than a price war with Amazon Web Services. Just a day before the AWS Summit in San Francisco, Google confirmed the seriousness of its intent to increase traction for its development-related cloud-based products. The variety of today’s enhancements to Google Compute Engine, Google App Engine, BigQuery and the introduction of its Managed Virtual Machines service indicate that Google is systematically preparing to service the cloud computing needs of enterprise customers. Despite all the media hype over the last two years about companies gearing up “take on Amazon,” no other cloud vendor has even been close to the depth of IaaS features and functionality possessed by Amazon Web Services with the exception of Google as it revealed itself today. All this means that we now have a two horse race in the Infrastructure as a Service space until the commercial OpenStack community convincingly demonstrates the value of OpenStack-based cloud inter-operability in conjunction with richness of features and competitive pricing.