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Microsoft To Drop Cost of Inbound Azure Data Transfers

Starting July, Microsoft will allow for free inbound Windows Azure data transfers during peak hours as well as off-hours.

The new pricing should take some of the guesswork out of calculating the costs of uploading data to Microsoft's cloud computing platform. Effective July 1, 2011, all Azure customers will be able to perform inbound data transfers during peak hours at no cost, Microsoft announced on Wednesday. (Inbound off-hour data transfers had always been free.)

Azure users will still get charged for outbound data transfers, which are region-specific. Outbound data transfers are priced at $0.15 per GB in North America and Europe, as well as $0.20 per GB in the Asia Pacific region.

The pricing structure for Azure has been rather complex ever since its introduction in July 2009. Essentially, organizations using Azure pay for the compute time, data storage and data access, plus the bandwidth of the data transferred in and out of the cloud. The various cloud computing phases get priced at specific rates, usually per GB. There's also a monthly fee rolled into the overall cost if an organization uses SQL Azure.

Microsoft offers different monthly plans and discounts, as well as pay-as-you-go plans. To get an idea of the pricing complexity, see Microsoft's "Windows Azure Platform Offer Comparison Table" here.

Microsoft has attempted to make the process of calculating Azure costs a little easier by introducing a Windows Azure Pricing Calculator, which appears to have been released in May. Users of the calculator will get a warning before using it that the calculator's results don't imply "a commitment on the part of Microsoft."

Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with the Directions on Microsoft consultancy, described the calculator as "a starting point."

"The estimation tools are getting better, but organizations should be wary of usage when first deploying cloud-based applications to determine whether there are unexpected resources required," Sanfilippo stated via e-mail. "Variables such as the number of users, types of usage, length of deployment, and development architecture can affect costs in unexpected ways if they are not carefully considered and tested."

Microsoft offers a free 90-day "extra small" trial of Azure, which is available until Sept. 30, 2011.

In other Azure news, Microsoft this week announced the release of the June Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Windows Azure AppFabric. AppFabric is a middleware platform used to develop, deploy and manage Azure cloud-based applications, according to Microsoft's description. The new CTP contains developer tools for Visual Studio, an application manager program and .NET Framework extensions, among other enhancements.

Microsoft provides a demo of some of the new CTP's features in a Channel 9 video here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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