By now there have been a lot of blog posts on Windows Azure billing. I have stayed out of it since I figured that the billing scheme would generate some sticker shock on our end and some rethinking on Microsoft's end. For the most part it has, but I now want to tell my story since I think most early Azure users are thinking along my lines.
When Windows and SQL Azure went live, I wanted to deploy an application using some of Telerik’s products to “production”. I put my free MSDN hours into the Azure system for billing and uploaded the application. I actually could not get it to work and left it up there figuring I would get back to it and fix it later. Periodically I would go in and hoke around with it and eventually fixed it. For the most part I had nothing more than an advanced “Hello World” and simple Northwind data over forms via SQL Azure up there.
Recently, I received a bill for $7 since I went over my free 750 hours by about 65 hours. (I guess I had a test and production account running at the same time for a while.) Even thought for the most part I had no hits other than myself a few times, I still incurred charges since I left my service “live” in production. My bad, I learned a lesson as to how Azure works, luckily, it was only a $7 lesson.
It was then that I realized that I was guilty of treating Windows Azure as a fancy web hosting account. The problem is that Windows Azure is not web hosting, but rather a “web operation system” or a “Cloud” service hosting and service management environment. We’re not only paying for hosting, we are paying for Azure to manage our application for us- much like enterprise middleware 10-15 years ago, but for the cloud. I now look at Azure differently and this is good since I will use it differently (and how it was intended.) I am guessing that other developers with $7 bills in their inbox this month will do the same.
That said, I was in Redmond a month or two ago and had a chance to talk to the head of MSDN. I complained about how the MSDN subscription offer was only for 8 months, etc. He told me that for the first time in Microsoft’s history, they have hard physical assets that have to be paid for with this service. It is not like if they want to give me a free copy of Windows, it does not cost Microsoft anything except the bandwidth for me to download (which is a fixed cost.) I get that, and I am sure that there will be a cost effective MSDN-Azure “developer only” subscription option in the future. Or at least there should be. :)