Technology

Cloud Competition: Microsoft Expands Offerings, Cuts Prices

By / Apr 16, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

With expanded offerings and a price that matches certain Amazon services, Microsoft hopes its revamped Windows Azure platform could entice some businesses away from the market leader.

Amazon may be the king of the cloud-competing heap, but that doesn’t keep competitors from trying to knock it off its throne.

One challenger is Microsoft, which is making a full-court press complete with a price cut that could take away one of Amazon’s biggest advantages.

Could it prove useful for your association? More details:

The cloud industry, in a nutshell: Cloud computing, which relies on remote storage and processing of data and other products, has been transformed in recent years with the rise of easily scalable platforms, opening up big data and instantly accessible storage for businesses. The current market leader, Amazon Web Services (AWS), has grown dramatically. Some estimates suggest the service could grow into a $20 billion business by the end of the decade. Microsoft’s no slouch, however, as its infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platform, Windows Azure, has more than 200,000 customers, according to Reuters. (The company, unlike Amazon, doesn’t break out financials for that sector, however.)

We want customers to be able to take [the price] for granted so we can talk about which is the best cloud platform for a particular workload.

Microsoft’s expanded offering: On Tuesday, Microsoft announced a broader offering for Windows Azure in an effort to compete with Amazon. The platform will now offer service-level agreements for guaranteed 99.95 percent uptime and 24/7 support. The servers are also getting a boost and can now have as much as 56 gigabytes of memory. With the enhanced offering, Microsoft will also try to match Amazon’s prices on its most popular services, leading to price cuts of 21 percent to 33 percent. That move could take away one of Amazon’s biggest advantages: The online retail giant is noted for its low prices on the cloud-computing front, and has in fact cut them nearly two dozen times since the platform launched in 2006. Microsoft’s goal? It wants to take cost out of the equation and instead focus on who has the better service. “We want customers to be able to take [the price] for granted so we can talk about which is the best cloud platform for a particular workload,” Michael Newberry, who leads the Azure service for Microsoft UK, told ZDNet.

The strategic importance: Microsoft’s move to compete on price comes weeks after Amazon scored its most high-profile cloud-computing deal ever: a contract with the Central Intelligence Agency. The $600 million deal was seen as further validating cloud computing for business usage, and while startups for years have relied on Amazon’s cloud, such platforms have grown in popularity outside the tech sector, most notably with the 2012 Obama for America campaign. So far, Microsoft’s cloud platform has attracted corporate partners like BMW Latin America, Herbalife, and the IT heavyweight Harris. A lower price point for certain services could help Microsoft attract a larger variety of names to its platform.

How are you using cloud computing at your association? Could Microsoft’s offerings entice you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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