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.

Rackspace Targets Startups With its Rackspace Startup Program

Rackspace formally announced a program designed to target start-up companies as customers for its cloud computing products and services on March 11. Titled the “Rackspace Startup Program,” the strategy makes available Rackspace’s cloud computing offering to startups that are part of incubator and accelerator programs such as 500 Startups, TechStars, Y Combinator and General Assembly. Based on the understanding that Rackspace itself was a startup, the program offers customized guidance about deploying applications within a cloud computing environment alongside its Rackspace and OpenStack cloud resources. The program offers yet another illustration of divergences between Rackspace’s business model and that of Amazon Web Services. Whereas Amazon Web Services represents a pure product offering, Rackspace provides product enhanced services that complement its cloud offering with consulting services such as those recently formalized by its Cloud Builders service line. Dubset marks an example of a startup that uses Rackspace’s services to stream music and track and perform analytics on what gets played. In a note on Rackspace’s blog, Dubset reports that their “costs are low and we never have to worry about our Cloud Servers.” Alongside the release of its Startup Program, Rackspace also announced the availability of version 2.0 of its cloud computing application, Rackspace Cloud 2.0, which can additionally be accessed by iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The free iPhone and iPod Touch application enables cloud managers and development teams to access and transform their cloud computing environments while away from their desktop or laptop consoles.