Windows Azure Drive: A Sign of Things to Come for Microsoft

In the full spirit of cloud computing, Microsoft is making it a top priority to charge by the minute for applications that are ported to Windows Azure.

This is the case in today’s beta release of Windows Azure Drive, which allows Windows users to run their applications in the cloud using the Windows NTFS APIs.

The service is intended to make it simpler to migrate to the cloud.

According to the Windows Azure Team blog, Azure stores the data in what Microsoft is calling “page blobs.”

“For the beta release of Windows Azure drive, customers will be billed only for the storage space used by the Page Blob and the read/write transactions to the Page Blob. This will be incorporated into the standard Windows Azure usage rates and there will not be a separate line item on the bill.”

Microsoft officially launched its Azure service on Monday. Beginning immediately, the company is charging for most of the services offered. As is standard with cloud computing, Microsoft is charging on a usage basis.

Does the strategy make sense? We think so. The economy is not getting better any time soon. Resources are constrained for IT shops of any size. The pay-as-you-go model makes it a bit easier to manage infrastructure costs.

According to Information Week, the pricing for Windows Azure Drive is as follows:

“In the standard plan, a virtualized Windows Server ranges from 12 cents to 96 cents per hour, depending on CPU usage. Storage starts at 15 cents per GB per month, plus one cent for every 10,000 transactions. Microsoft’s SQL Server costs $9.99 per month for a 1 GB Web database.”

The push to the cloud will continue unabated for Microsoft. Case in point is the deal with Hewlett-Packard, worth $250 million. The two companies are building a cloud infrastructure that spans hardware and software integration.

Azure is Ray Ozzie’s baby. He believes in it. And it may just be the path that Microsoft needs to be relevant in a world dominated by cloud-based applications.

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