Microsoft Announces New Azure Plans, Software Marketplace, and Partnerships

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Microsoft Announces New Azure Plans, Software Marketplace, and Partnerships
Microsoft has announced a slew of updates to its Azure cloud platform, including new pricing options for customers, new industry partnerships, social initiatives, and expanded support for third-party software, at an event in San Francisco this week. The company, which has been pushing a mobile-first, cloud-first approach under recently appointed CEO Satya Nadella, is hoping to compete better with Amazon, Google and others in the big data and high-performance compute spaces.

Microsoft will be partnering with Dell to launch new cloud-in-a-box offerings called the Microsoft Cloud Platform System for those who do not want to use the company's hosted data centres. Features and capabilities will be on par with hosted offerings. Such on-site resources would be certified by Microsoft and Dell, though the former would handle all service and support calls. The companies will be targeting large enterprises and government bodies. ZDNet has published information saying that pricing could start from $2.6 million, including hardware, software and services, when the devices roll out next month.

Additionally, new Azure instances called the G series will be offered to customers who need something optimised for big data workloads. The G series will provision up to 32 cores, 450GB of RAM and 6.5TB of solid-state storage. Premium storage tiers will allow up to 32TB of storage per virtual machine with less than 1ms read latency.

A new Azure Marketplace will allow integrated system vendors (ISVs) and smaller companies to offer software to customers. New partners include the container-based CoreOS Linux distribution, and data management company Cloudera. The Marketplace will handle billing and distribution in one central place. After years of trying to lock out Linux software and vendors, Microsoft also appears to be embracing third-party offerings on its own platform, to strengthen appeal to customers.

Microsoft claims to have over 10,000 new Azure customers coming on board each week, and presence in more parts of the world than either Amazon or Google.

The software giant also announced it would be providing free cloud computing applications and hardware capabilities, including specialised tools built to aid the development of Ebola vaccines. The offer is open to qualified academic institutes and researchers who are working on the Ebola virus. Azure's storage and compute resources could prove useful to workers who have to store, share and analyse huge amounts of data. Microsoft is already soliciting proposals from interested parties.

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