Grab some popcorn. Microsoft has thrown down the proverbial gauntlet for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), upgrading its Azure cloud service for direct competition with Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

This week, the Redmond, Washington-based technology giant announced the general availability of Linux and Windows Server virtual machines on Azure and the official launch of Windows Azure Infrastructure Services, adding to Azure’s previous offering of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). The IaaS capability had been in preview since June of last year.

IaaS + PaaS + Hybrid

In a posting on the Windows Azure blog, the Azure team noted that “customers don’t want to rip and replace their current infrastructure to benefit from the cloud,” but rather want “the strengths of their on-premises investments and get the flexibility of the cloud.” It’s not about either IaaS or PaaS, the team said, but about IaaS and Paas “and hybrid scenarios.”

To indicate its seriousness in challenging AWS, Microsoft also announced a commitment to match AWS prices for such commodity services as computing, storage and bandwidth. And, in an effort to retire any perception that Azure is more expensive, the price match begins with an opening shot: a reduction on prices for Virtual Machines and Cloud Services by 21 to 33 percent.

In addition, Infrastructure Services will offer new high memory virtual machine instances for memory-hungry applications -- 28 GB/4 core and 56 GB/8 core.

Microsoft’s Strength

The blog post cited one of Azure’s clients, Digital Air Strike, which has utilized the service’s IaaS/PaaS to create an instant feedback mechanism for General Motors car purchases and service transactions. Digital Air Strike’s Chief Marketing Officer is quoted as saying that they looked at AWS and decided that, “when you work for the enterprise, you have to choose Microsoft.”

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That is key to Microsoft’s competitive angle, as it tries to catch up with the big lead that AWS has. AWS currently has twice the annual revenue of Azure, but Microsoft can build on its 200,000 Azure customers and its major Windows Server footprint in data centers, offering IaaS as a virtual machine extension of the infrastructure enterprises already have. AWS has won over companies with an irresistible pricing structure, but now Microsoft has taken that advantage away.

Image courtesy of ponsuwan (Shutterstock)