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Microsoft's 'almost ready' Azure set for April delivery?

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Microsoft plans to start fully charging customers for use of its planned Azure cloud until the spring, it seems.

The Windows Azure platform team has said it will be April when Microsoft starts charging for the components that comprise Azure’s AppFabric - the Service Bus that connects applications and services, and the Access Control system for federated log in by users.

"SLAs will take effect when charges begin to accrue in April, 2010," the Azure platform team wrote here.

The date emerged while the team announced changes to the way Microsoft charges for the Service Bus and Access Control. Customers have been given until April "to adjust to the new pricing structure" that was introduced as a result of the CTP, Microsoft said.

The service bus will now be charged per application or service connection at a rate of $3.99 per connections a month, instead of the previous "message operations" charge. Microsoft also plans to make connection packs available priced in batches of five, 25, 100 and 500 connections starting at $9.95 and going up to $995.00. Access Control, meanwhile, will be charged by number of transactions instead of "message operations" at a rate of $1.99 per 100,000 transactions.

The news came as Microsoft said that early adopters who'd helped test the service can now start upgrading their Windows Azure Community Technology Preview (CTP) Azure platform accounts to paid commercial subscriptions.

Billing and SLAs for the compute and storage aspects of Azure will begin on February 1, a separate Windows Azure team blog also announced Monday here. February 1 was the plan announced at Microsoft’s Professional Developers’ Conference last November.

Confusingly, this team’s blog lumped AppFabric in with the compute and storage elements of Azure helping confuse what Microsoft would be charging for – and when.

The blog defined the Azure platform here as "Windows Azure, SQL Azure and/or Windows Azure platform AppFabric".

During the time it's been building Azure, Microsoft has re-architected elements such as storage and renamed other elements - the AppFabric was .NET Services - helping confuse the picture even for its own people, it seems.

Either way, it's further proof that - as we wrote in November - Microsoft is playing softball with the dates and definitions on what comprise the delivery of an actual, fully completed version of Azure.

Now it seems Azure won't be fully operational until April, five months after Microsoft planned to "have the ability to go to market" with Azure. That had been a suitably vague term designed help Microsoft claim it had hit its goal of delivery of Azure within 12 months.

Once November 2009 hit, new dates were given: January when Azure would be opened to paying customers and February for actual billing and SLAs.®

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