Windows Azure: avoiding charges; feature voting; UK Azure Awareness week

Windows Azure logoToday is the day that Microsoft’s cloud-based computing platform, Windows Azure, which has been running through a phased launch over recent months, becomes a chargeable service.

I don’t know if it’s expensive or not – it looks a bit steep to me – but I don’t have a reference point (other than simple web hosting) and, because of the granular charging structure, it’s difficult to get a true idea of what the charges might be for any given application.  Expensive or not – what Azure provides is flexibility (i.e to mix on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure), elasticity (e.g. to cope with bursts in computing resources requirements) and familiarity (i.e. the code deployed to the web is still Microsoft .NET code, or  indeed it could be something else - like C++, Java, Ruby or PHP… although you might need a small amount of .NET “veneer”).

I don’t pretend to understand all of the details of Windows Azure – I’m no developer – but Steve Marx has produced a great introduction to Azure video for non-techies:

If this sounds interesting to you, then read on… because, last Friday, I was at Microsoft UK’s offices, where I was fortunate to see Microsoft UK Developer Evangelist Eric Nelson (Twitter @ericnel) present his seven things that may surprise you about the Windows Azure platform. In his presentation, Eric also highlighted a couple of offers that can be used to avoid paying for Azure – for example if you have a small cloud-based app (perhaps a demonstration), or if you’re just dipping your toe into the water:

If you’ve already been having a look at Azure, you might want to take a look at the Windows Azure Feature Voting forum where it’s possible to vote (up to 10 times) for Windows Azure features – as the site is run by Mike Wickstrand, who is Microsoft’s Senior Director for Windows Azure Product Planning, it should be somewhere that opinions get noticed (and I’d like to see a few more Microsoft product groups take on this idea…).

If you want to know more about Azure, then the Windows Azure Team Blog would be a good place to start but, for those of us in the UK, 20-27 February 2010 is UK Azure Awareness week – watch the UK fans of the Windows Azure Platform site for more information.

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