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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Joyent Expands Instance Offerings To Match Amazon Web Services And Offers Reserved Pricing

Price wars in the IaaS space continue to heat up as Joyent joins the list of IaaS vendors that commit to matching Amazon Web Services in both price and functionality. Joyent recently announced that it was offering reserved pricing whereby customers can pay an upfront fee to reserve an instance for a period of one or three years and subsequently enjoy significant savings for having elected to “reserve” the commodity hardware for an extended period of time. Joyent’s reserved pricing option competes directly with the reserved pricing feature from Amazon Web Services, which allows customers to save up to 65% in fees in comparison to hourly, on demand charges. Joyent’s decision to offer reserved pricing comes soon after Microsoft’s recent announcement to match Amazon Web Services in terms of price.

In addition to revealing its reserved pricing option, Joyent revealed an expansion of its product line whereby its IaaS platform now offers a total of 58 instances, 13 of which mimic the most popular instances offered by Amazon Web Services. The 58 instances fall into the following five categories: Standard, High Memory, High CPU, High Storage, and High I/O. Joyent CEO Henrik Wasik remarked on the significance of the company’s recent expansion in product offerings by noting:

Our goal is to make our value fully visible to the market while continuing to make the Joyent public cloud easier to use. In dramatically expanding our compute products to meet and anticipate the breadth of customers’ needs, we’re reaffirming our commitment to make the Joyent public cloud truly accessible and affordable to any business.

Joyent’s goal is to underscore the value, accessibility and affordability of its public cloud platform. Importantly, it strives to accomplish this goal by mimicking the functionality and pricing of Amazon Web Services, the undisputed IaaS leader. Given the gargantuan challenge of competing with Amazon Web Services with respect to innovation, recent announcements by Joyent and Microsoft illustrate that matching AWS in terms of price and select functionality represents the strategy of choice for vendors seeking to expand their footprint in the IaaS space. Google Compute Engine (GCE) marks the likeliest candidate to deviate from the path of AWS mimicry, but the jury is still out on GCE’s ability to surpass AWS in innovation because of its recent release in general availability.