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Amazon has launched a beta version of its Elastic Compute Cloud running Windows, while taking early steps to make EC2 appealing to business users.

The company has begun offering the option of running instances on 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows with data backed up to the 64-bit edition of Microsoft's SQL Server database.

Amazon will add it's DevPay in the "near future" so you can charge customers for your hosted applications running on the Windows portion of EC2.

The company said it's expecting a range of Windows-related services, including ASP.NET sites for hosted web services and services utilizing High-Performance Computing (HPC). Pricing for the Windows service starts at $0.125 per hour.

The launch comes a week ahead of Microsoft's Professional Developers' Conference in Los Angeles, California, where Microsoft will talk about its own roadmap for cloud-based computing services. Amazon will be running EC2 at PDC.

Amazon, meanwhile, has taken the "beta" sticker off of the Unix-powered portion of its cloud and announced service-level agreements (SLAs) for EC2's use in real business.

The agreement, though, is a little bare bones and more a commitment to service uptime. Amazon has promised 99.95 per cent uptime or a 10 per cent "service credit."

Missing are some SLA basics such as a commitment to notify users of potential problems or service changes, an outline of back up or contingency plans in the case of outage, numbers of users that can be supported simultaneously, specific performance benchmarks or usage statistics that'll be provided by Amazon or the EC2 system.

Amazon has promised some capabilities in 2009 to make management "even easier." These include a management console for configuration and operation of your applications in the Amazon cloud, and real-time, multi-dimensional monitoring of host resources that Amazon said would let you aggregate data across instances, time slots, and "availability zones." ®

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