On April 16, 2013, Microsoft announced the availability of their new Windows Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Microsoft has long resisted moving into the IaaS section of the market and instead attempted to push the Windows Azure Platform as a Service (PasS) and their other Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings. However, the continued success of Amazon in infrastructure services undoubtedly motivated Microsoft to shore up their IaaS offerings.

Related: Ways to Manage Virtual Machines Running in Windows Azure IaaS

The new Microsoft Windows Azure IaaS is direct competitor to Amazon's EC2 and it uses the same Hyper-V virtualization as Windows Server 2012, which enables you to extend your datacenters into the cloud while using your current Windows IT skills and resources. Windows Azure allows you to create and use the same Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs) in your on-premise infrastructure and in the cloud. Microsoft is the only cloud provider that offers both on-premise and hybrid cloud solutions with both platform and infrastructure services.

Easy Management

The new Windows Azure Management Portal makes the Windows Azure IaaS easy to manage. The Windows Azure new VM wizard streamlines the creation of new VMs by offering a number of VM templates ranging from Extra Small shared core 768 MB VMs, to the Large 4 core 7GB VMs, all the way up to the newest A7 8 core 56 GB VMs. The management portal provides a set of pre-built VM templates that make it very fast to deploy new Azure IaaS VMs. The available images include Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server, BizTalk Server, and SharePoint Server. The Windows Azure IaaS provides Linux VM images including Ubuntu, CentOS, and SUSE Linux distributions. Windows Azure Management Portal also provides built-in management and monitoring support for the VMs running in your portal.

On the networking side, Azure IaaS VMs can optionally utilize Azure’s built-in network load-balancer. Windows Azure Virtual Networks allow you to use your own preferred IP address space. You can also extend your on-premises network to Windows Azure and manage Windows Azure VMs just like they were in your private network by using a VPN. Your Windows Azure Virtual Networks can have their own DNS or they can use your on-premise DNS servers.

Windows Azure IaaS Pricing

In addition to the new technical features, Microsoft has made a number of significant price changes in the Windows Azure IaaS, making it much more competitive with Amazon. Some of the new price changes include:

  • Windows Azure Virtual Machines prices have been reduced by 21 percent for standard instances
  • Linux Virtual Machines prices have been reduced by 25 percent for standard instances
  • Windows Azure Cloud Services web and worker role prices have been reduced by 33 percent for standard instances
  • Windows Azure Virtual Network is priced at $.0.5 per hour.

You can find more information on the new Windows Azure IaaS pricing on Microsoft's Pricing Details web page.

The fact that Windows Azure IaaS can run your existing Hyper-V VMs and can be used to seamlessly extend your Windows IT infrastructure to the cloud, makes it a compelling alternative to Amazon’s EC2. You can find more technical details about Windows Azure IaaS in ScottGu’s Blog.  If you want to give Microsoft’s new Windows Azure IaaS a try, Microsoft offers a three month free trial.