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Windows gets reserved seating on Amazon cloud

And beta treatment on Rackspace

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Following the official opening of Microsoft's Azure "cloud" earlier this month, conspicuous competitors Amazon and Rackspace are hoping to woo developers onto their own sky high services with an array of new tools and discounts.

Yesterday, Amazon introduced two additions to its so-called infrastructure cloud, EC2, an online service that serves up on-demand compute power and storage. Most notably, EC2 is now offering "reserved instances" for use with Microsoft's Windows operating system. Nearly a year ago, Amazon gave developers the ability to reserve space on its cloud for up to three years - as opposed to purchasing instances as they're spun them up - but this was only an option for Linux and Open Solaris instances.

Now, you can purchase Windows instances up front as well, and as with Linux and Open Solaris, these reserved instances are cheaper than those spun up without notice. In a blog post, Amazon also said it will eventually offer reserved instances for its Relational Database Service (RDS), which runs MySQL atop EC2.

At the same time, the etailer cum online infrastructure provider has introduced a new flavor of instance meant for high-memory applications. The new 64-bit "High Memory Extra Large" instance offers 17.1GB of RAM and 420GB of local storage, and it's available across all EC2 geographical regions: US East, US West, and the European Union.

Meanwhile, Rackspace has introduced a new partner program atop its EC2-like Cloud Server, which includes discounts for companies using the platform to serve their own services to world+dog. "This is designed to enable to create their own hosting business that is focused on a niche market or functionality they serve," Jeff Omstead, director of sales for the Rackspace Cloud tells The Reg.

Discounts of up to 12 per cent are available, depending on hosting volume, and this involves an up-front pricing agreement. The company makes a point of saying the discounts apply to the company's Cloud Servers for Windows beta. About three weeks ago, around the same time Microsoft began charging Azure customers, Rackspace began offering instances for use with Windows. Previously, it only provided instances for various flavors of Linux.

The company has also launched an affiliate program that pays fees for sites that drive potential customers to the service.

Unlike services from Amazon and Rackspace, Microsoft's Azure cloud does not offer access to individual server instances. It's a platform cloud - as opposed to an infrastructure cloud - providing on-demand development and hosting services while scaling up virtual machines behind the scenes. But it's still a competitor of sorts - a web service for building and hosting sites and applications.

Microsoft has said that in the future, it will offer access to individual server instance on Azure for developers looking to test applications, but these will only run Windows. ®

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