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Changes May Come to Free Windows Azure Usage in MSDN Subscriptions

Microsoft might change the terms that give developers 750 hours of free Windows Azure usage, according to Craig Kitterman, a senior technical product manager for Windows Azure at the company.

Kitterman dropped the hint during his keynote address today at the Visual Studio Live! conference in Chicago. Kitterman didn't say whether significant changes are in the works or if Microsoft is merely looking at slight adjustments, but he suggested they will be for the better.

"The MSDN offer as it exists today, wink-wink, is one small sized VM continuously running," Kitterman said in his keynote. "You want to run a Web site non-stop [or] if you want to spin up a bunch of machines to do some testing for a couple of hours, and spin them back down, you can do that. We are looking at potentially changing that offer in the future to make it even better for those scenarios today, but we are working hard to make it even better. But with 750 hours, you can still get quite a lot done."

In an interview following the keynote, Kitterman declined to elaborate nor would he say whether the number of hours might increase or decrease. "We are constantly trying to figure out how we can improve the developer experience around Windows Azure and there's lots of different things we look at," he said. "How do we make the MSDN offer better is something we are looking into but I don't have any specifics."

Kitterman polled the audience and estimated that approximately 25 percent were aware that Microsoft offers the free 750 hours of usage with their MSDN subscriptions. One attendee who is aware of the offer said one show-stopper for signing up is the requirement to give a credit card number before taking advantage of the free Windows Azure usage. While Kitterman didn't say whether that would change, he acknowledged that some have an issue with that. Others simply aren't ready to use the cloud.

Jeremy Gruenwald, an application architect with the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, after the keynote said he set up an Azure account but is reluctant to use it due to the fact that applications are architected to run on premise. "Honestly our decision isn't really about the pricing, though obviously pricing enters into it," Gruenwald said. "But ours is more about figuring out how to manage our data. We have all these existing applications that are built under the assumption that they've got on premise, cross-database access. We just have to learn how to make that transition."

As one of the world's largest accounting firms, privacy and compliance are also key issues, Gruenwald said. "The idea of putting client data in the cloud has a lot of people nervous," he said. Kitterman acknowledged that concern in his session, but said organizations can use the cloud for certain capabilities without coming against these restrictions.

"In certain cases where people have specific regulatory issues, where they can't put data in the cloud, we have the capability to do things with virtual networking where they can put some of their assets and resources and applications in the cloud while keeping some other things back on premises," Kitterman said in an interview with Visual Studio Magazine editor in chief Keith Ward . "So they really have a lot of flexibility to do hybrid architectures but meet all their security and compliance needs."

Corey Nease, an associate applications analyst at Integrys, an energy company based in Chicago, said he hopes Microsoft extends and enhances the offer. "I hope they keep the free things because I have already spun up a free instance of TFS 2012 that our company is going to migrate to eventually," Nease said. "So I think it would be nice, especially since our whole company has MSDN, and they don't utilize it very well."

Kitterman emphasized developers should take advantage of the free Windows Azure usage with their MSDN subscriptions and try using it to develop and test their apps. "Take advantage of that MSDN Windows Azure benefit," he urged attendees. "Go play around with things like Windows Azure Web Sites and think about how that's going to change the way you think about designing your next project. You can easily deploy and update, very fast and very, very quickly and have the ability to scale on demand so you never run into capacity issues."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/15/2013

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