Compare the Meerkat: Windows Azure Cost Planning

Saturday, May 15, 2010 / Posted by Luke Puplett /

Please read the comments. This was written before I confirmed that Azure compute time is uptime, not CPU time actually used.

I have another post written after establishing the above fact.

This weekend I had planned to get my data into the cloud, Microsoft's cloud to be precise, but was confronted with Microsoft's version of an online shopping service before I could provision my little slice of the cloud. Probably foolishly, I was expecting to just walk right in with my Live ID and MSDN sub, but it gave me the opportunity to compare the Windows Azure prices with the rest of the colo and hosting market.

As with any cost planning, a load of assumptions have to be made about capacity and requirements. In the ordinary world of hosting, this means basically wondering if you'll use all the RAM on the supplied box or not, but with the Windows Azure model so granularly broken down, it makes it slightly more trifling.

Azure has prices for storage transactions as well as for things like AppFabric Access Control transactions and Service Bus connections. For the sake of my planning I have conveniently pretended that they're not there in a sort of ignorance is bliss line of thinking. Well, I actually don't think I'll use this stuff for my project, yet.

I'll delay no longer and get to the interesting part. For £129.22 I'll be getting an equivalent of a 1Ghz processor running at full chat for a month, as well as 1Mbit of full chat bandwidth, 0.1Mbit incoming and 50Gb storage used. Oh and not forgetting 10Gb of SQL Azure - 1Gb being really rather too measly for anyone's use of a full blown RMDBS.


What's perhaps interesting is that MS don't seem to charge for extra RAM. To access more RAM you take a bigger instance with more processors, but if your workload is the same the clock cycles will cost the same, albeit spread over more cores.

For comparison's sake here's a similar costing scenario I did with a bunch of hosting companies in and around the UK. Stop squinting.


The company I has previously chosen was which charges about £100p/m for a dedicated dual core box with a single 500Gb HDD and Windows and SQL Server 2008. They give you 2Mbit for about £30p/m which equates to around 600Gb in/out data and 5% of your time you can be bursting to full 100Mbit.

Fasthosts might work out cheaper and CloudHosts have a very good reputation but little was setup by an ex colleague and while I don't get mate's rates, I do feel that his small company won't have a saturated network and a lack of care for any woes I might run into.

And regarding that bandwidth, most companies give an unmetered 100mbps mbit (whatever) connection and say that its shared but also that "no one has ever come near to rinsing it" - which makes me think that 1Mbit might probably suffice in my situation and thus the amount assumed in my Azure scenario.

Half Conclusion's £100 + £30 is very much like Azure's £129 and so this leaves me in a quandary. I could go with Azure and its instant scalability and other features to plug into etc. but that £130 in the Fido purse gives me much more than what I get with Azure, if I choose to use it. Remember that with Azure I'm pricing that exact usage, whereas with the others, there's a lot more room left before I need to buy and bigger or another dedicated server.

If I were to compare the cost of a fully utilised dedicated server with Azure, the dedicated box would win hands down. And therein lies the rub: those damned usage assumptions.

Mostly though, I am put off by that SQL Azure price; £60p/m for 10Gb when normal hosters will dish out the whole server and SQL Server with the freedom to fill the whole disk with a 250Gb database if you so desire.

I hope this gives someone food for thought, even if my costings aren't terribly scientific.

P.S. Doesn't factor in the 'offers' that Microsoft have for new joiners, which are about 50% off for 6 months ish.

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Comment by Luke Puplett on Saturday, May 15, 2010

Note about compute time: some are saying that compute time is available uptime, which I think is wrong on three counts, 1) its called compute time, not uptime 2) it would make Azure utterly uncompetitive 3) virtual environments make it easy and fair to charge by usage, and everything else they charge for is on usage. Saying that, the SQL Azure should really be charged as such as it would probably make it much more viable.

Comment by Luke Puplett on Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus, I eat my words, I'm seeing some convincing stuff about the compute time being charged like a hotel room - use it or not, you pay for it. Which pretty much renders Azure an enormous rip off!

1.6Ghz * 8 cores = 12.8Ghz = £418p/m while Fasthosts will do you an 8-way 2.5Ghz (20Ghz) with 16Gb RAM and 800Gb storage (on which can be a huge SQL db) box for £245p/m, including all bandwidth.

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