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The first ones are free. After that you have to pay.
That's the message Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has been putting out for months regarding its Windows Azure cloud-computing platform. Now, the second part kicks in.
Microsoft began charging customers for use of its Azure platform Monday, Feb. 1, after making the service free to vendors who want to develop and sell services hosted in the software giant's cloud.
Now, the question is will customers decide to pay for the services and remain loyal to the software giant's play in the cloud-computing space? Or will they stiff Microsoft and move on?
"We are announcing the general availability of Windows Azure and SQL Azure in 21 countries," Doug Hauger, general manager of Windows Azure business and marketing, said in a blog post on The Microsoft Blog on Monday. "Starting today customers and partners across the globe will be able to launch their Windows Azure and SQL Azure production applications and services with the support of the full service level agreements (SLAs)."
In other words, vendors can now start charging their customers for services provided via the Azure cloud as Microsoft, in turn, starts billing the vendors.
In January, Microsoft transitioned the Azure platform, which had been in a community technology preview (CTP) mode for months, to a production system, although it didn't charge for Azure's use last month.
Microsoft gave an example of early Azure usage in the blog post, citing a forecasting firm named Lokad. In the example, Hauger said Oscaro.com, a large European e-commerce company that is one of Lokad's customers, "already has more than 300,000 product references in store, with plans to upgrade to 1 million product references during 2010."
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