Thursday, January 14, 2010

Is Azure priced too high?

A colleague at the office mentioned that over the holidays he helped build a custom application for a small business in his town and they made some a startling discovery about Azure versus Google pricing. I did track down a blog post by Danny Tuppeny where this was talked about in more detail:
As a .NET developer, I was quite excited to hear about Windows Azure. It sounded like a less painful version of Amazon's EC2, supporting .NET (less painful in terms of server management!). When I saw the pricing, it didn't look too bad either. That was, until I realized that their "compute hour" referred to an hour of your app running, not an hour of actual CPU time. Wow. This changes things. To keep a single web role running, you're looking at $0.12/hour = $2.88/day = $20.16/week = $86.40/month. Anyone that's bought hosting for a small site/app recently will know that this is not particularly cheap!
I also tracked down the Azure pricing at Microsoft's web site and it pretty much confirms the above. You can find Google’s pricing here if you’d like to compare.
Compute time, measured in service hours: Windows Azure compute hours are charged only for when your application is deployed. When developing and testing your application, developers will want to remove the compute instances that are not being used to minimize compute hour billing. Partial compute hours are billed as full hours.
Google is charging per CPU hour versus clock hour. As we probably all know, most applications use very little CPU. Sure, a database or analytics product will suck it back but most middle-of-the-road applications don’t. Especially ones that are used by smaller businesses. In a lot of ways I do agree with the my colleague and the blogger cited above that Microsoft’s pricing is out-of-whack. Should the pricing be competitive? Yes, absolutely. The final point I want to make is based on this quote from Danny:
...and while all programmers will have a preferred language/framework (I'm no exception), many can be swayed by a cool framework or hosting.
If I were Microsoft this is what I’d be worried about: A developer like Mr. Tuppeny who is totally comfortable in .NET who has been converted by this pricing to working in Python with the Google App Engine. Microsoft knows how much “owning” the developer means to their business and this isn’t a great indicator in my opinion. I really do not think that the Azure pricing is geared towards smaller businesses and that’s a problem.

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