Microsoft offers free Azure trial

Microsoft tries to spur cloud computing with an offer of 750 hours of free usage on Azure

Recalling all those AOL disks promising hundreds of hours of free usage (minus the disks), Microsoft is offering up to 750 free hours of use on its Azure service as an enticement for developers to try cloud computing, the company announced Tuesday.

"This extended free trial will allow developers to try out the Windows Azure platform without the need for up-front investment costs," a Microsoft blog entry explained.

The offer arrives but a few weeks after Microsoft promoted Satya Nadella to head its US$15 billion server and tools business, which includes the Azure offering. The company extolled Nadella's experience in ramping up large-scale consumer-focused cloud services like Bing and hoped he could bring the same magic to getting Microsoft cloud services into the enterprise as well.

Participants of the free trial can choose one of two options: 750 hours of use on an Extra Small Compute Instance, or 25 hours on a Small Compute Instance. An Extra Small Compute Instance offers the equivalent of a 1GHz processor with 768MB of working memory, which normally costs $.05 an hour. The Small Compute Instance has a 1.6GHz processor, 1.75GB of working memory, and typically costs $0.12 an hour.

Trial users will also get 500MB of storage, as well as 500MB of storage transfers in and out. They also get 100,000 AppFabric access control transactions across two connections. Users will also get 90 days usage and 1GB of storage on a Web Edition SQL Azure database.

Nascent cloud computing services have been growing more competitive of late. Earlier this month, VMware announced that a number of new service providers are now offering Azure-competing VMware-based cloud services, including BlueLock, Computer Sciences Corp., Colt and Verizon (Verizon on a beta trial).

Microsoft's free offer will be available through the end of June. After that, if customers continue to use the service, they will be charged the standard rates.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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