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Microsoft's Azure cloud slides onto OCZ flash

Cheap-as-chips service strokes solid disk

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Microsoft is taking the fight to Amazon, cutting Azure cloud storage transaction prices by 90 per cent.

A statement on Microsoft's Windows Azure team blog says: "We heard you loud and clear that you want cheaper transaction costs for Windows Azure Blobs, Tables, Queues, and Drives. We are therefore very pleased today to slash transaction prices 10 fold for Windows Azure Storage and CDN. This means that it now costs $0.01 for 100,000 transactions ($1 per 10 million)."

Microsoft introduced this and new features, "including built-in VM, Web site, Storage, and Cloud Service monitoring support," for Azure on Wednesday, by way of a blog written by Scott Guthrie, a Microsoft Developer Division VP. Azure now supports the ability to deploy and run durable virtual machines (VMs), that is VMs whose state persists across reboots.

Guthrie's blog mentions other new features added to Azure: "New Virtual Private Networking capabilities, new Service Bus runtime and tooling support, the public preview of the new Azure Media Services, new Data Centers, significantly upgraded network and storage hardware, SQL Reporting Services, new Identity features, support within 40+ new countries and territories, and much, much more."

Solid state

The new "storage hardware" is thought to include solid state drives (SSDs) and these are, informed sources say, OCZ drives.

According to a Gigaom source, Azure's "all-SSD block storage infrastructure boosts performance and differentiates Azure from AWS, which offers solid state storage, but only with some higher-end services like DynamoDB".

OCZ CEO Ryan Petersen said in the latest OCZ earnings call that the company had recently won business from "a leading cloud and content delivery provider". This is now thought to be Azure.

Our sources close to OCZ tell us that the world's largest independent SSD company is supplying SSDs, possibly Z-Drive R4 drives with VXL caching software, to Microsoft for use by the Azure cloud. That would be a huge win for OCZ and elevate its credibility as an enterprise SSD supplier sky-high. ®

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