Microsoft rings in 2010 with commercial cloud services

Microsoft is starting the initial phase of commercializing its cloud-computing platform this month, as planned. The company announced on Monday that developers can now upgrade their Windows Azure preview accounts to commercial subscriptions or register for new services. Billing is slated to start in February.

Developers who are using the community technology previews of Windows Azure compute and storage, SQL Azure relational database or the Windows Azure AppFabric, which provides Service Bus connectivity and Access Control (formerly .NET Services), can upgrade to commercial services by using the Windows Live ID associated with their accounts and providing credit card or purchase order information at the Windows Azure Platform offers site on MSDN. View Microsoft's Offers Comparison Chart here.

Windows Azure Platform services are initially available in 21 countries in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific, with plans to expand to more regions sometime this year.

Developers who upgrade to commercial accounts in January will have access to usage information starting this month. Service level agreements will take effect on February 1 in conjunction with actual billing, according to Microsoft.

For those who do not opt for Microsoft's commercial cloud services, the CTPs will be "disabled" on Feb. 1, 2010. At that time, developers participating in the Windows Azure storage previews will have access to read-only files and users of SQL Azure will have access to their existing databases. The final phase out of the data storage accounts will occur in March and April, as stated in the Windows Azure Team blog:

"On March 1, 2010, the SQL Azure CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. On April 1, 2010, the Windows Azure Storage CTP accounts and Windows Azure platform AppFabric namespaces that have not been upgraded will be deleted."

Dallas, the codename for Microsoft's data-as-a-service that will enable developers to consume public and private data for SQL Azure, SQL Server, Microsoft Office among other applications, is still in the early preview phase. The first CTP was announced at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in November. The service as described is part of the Windows Azure platform and will offer developers access to free data as well as content for purchase. At this time, Dallas is not affected by the commercialization of Windows Azure, and the CTP accounts will remain active, according to Microsoft.

Based on early feedback, Microsoft has also changed the pricing for the Windows Azure Service Bus and Access Control "messaging operations." The Service Bus is now $3.99 per connection per month and Access Control is $1.99 per 100,000 transactions, according to the Web site. "Based on discussion and feedback from hundreds of customers during the CTP process, we have made the pricing simpler and more predictable," Microsoft stated in its Windows Azure AppFabric team blog, which offers details on the new pricing scheme.

Both services are part of Azure's AppFabric, the new moniker for .NET Services, which was renamed at PDC09 in conjunction with the introduction of the Windows Server AppFabric. "AppFabric" refers to a set of on-premise and cloud components designed to provide connectivity and services for composite apps.

The on-premises counterpart, Windows Server AppFabric, is an extension of IIS that supports Windows Communication Foundation, Windows Workflow Foundation (formerly codenamed "Dublin") and caching services ("Velocity"). The first beta was released at PDC09.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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