Microsoft Launches Windows Azure Discounts To Keep Customers Away From Amazon


When Microsoft entered the cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service market in April, it vowed to match Amazon Web Services' pricing and features, and now it's following through on that pledge.

On Nov. 1, Microsoft launched its Server and Cloud Enrollment (SCE), a new three-year licensing option that's part of the Enterprise Agreement volume licensing plan. With SCE, Microsoft intends to make Azure pricing "significantly lower than AWS' prices on commodity services like compute, storage and bandwidth," as a spokesperson described it to CRN last month.

SCE has four components, and customers must choose at least one. They include: Core Infrastructure Suites (Windows Server and System Center), Application Platform Products (SQL Server, Biztalk Server and SharePoint Server), Developer Platform Products (Visual Studio) and Windows Azure.

[Related: 10 Illuminating Points From Microsoft's Q1 Earnings]

Once customers make the SCE commitment, they'll get to take advantage of "new cloud-optimized licensing options, simplified license management and the best pricing and terms," Microsoft explained in a document outlining the benefits of SCE.

"SCE offers our lowest Windows Azure pricing," Microsoft said in the document.

Ric Opal, vice president at Peters & Associates, a Microsoft partner in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., is seeing strong growth in his Azure business and believes the SCE discounts will help that continue. In addition to AWS, he thinks Microsoft is targeting Google and Salesforce.com with its cloud discounts.

"Microsoft is taking the gloves off a little and saying we're going to do what we have to do so customers can have the experience of getting cloud services through a single vendor," Opal said in an interview.

With SCE, customers get a 15 percent discount for new license and Software Assurance purchases, and a 5 percent discount on Software Assurance renewals. If customers choose the Core Infrastructure commitment, they get the benefit of managing Windows Azure workloads from within their in-premise System Center.

However, customers that go this route also will be required to purchase Software Assurance coverage on all their old Windows Servers. Under the previous program, known as Enrollment for Core Infrastructure (ECI), there was a minimum commitment of 25 licenses.

So while Microsoft is pitching the cost advantages of SCE, some partners and licensing experts aren't so sure. Some feel SCE could amount to a significant price hike for large enterprises.

Meanwhile, Microsoft also launched a preview of Windows Azure Import/Export, a new service that addresses the issue of transporting large amounts of data into and out of blob storage systems.

With the service, "customers can place requests to ship encrypted data in hard disk drives through FedEx to our data centers, where Microsoft's high-speed internal network is used to transfer the data to or from the customer's blob storage account," Steven Martin, Microsoft's general manager for Windows Azure, said in a blog post Monday.

As security is hugely important for enterprises, Martin noted that all data moving back and forth is encrypted with Microsoft's BitLocker technology, and the customer holds the key.

PUBLISHED NOV. 4, 2013