Microsoft (MSFT) and its 10-day-old Azure cloud computing platform wants to compete against established players like Amazon’s (AMZN) EC2, but Amazon already has a track record with startups and published reliability guidelines (which Azure does not).
So how does Redmond plan to convince startups to base their businesses around its software — and catch up to Amazon at the same time? With free software and server licenses for three years.
The new program, “BizSpark,” is only open to small start-ups: To qualify, a company needs to meet a laundry-list of criteria, including being less than three years old, and having less than $1 million in revenue. (Large-scale enterprises can’t qualify for a free Azure trial, but large businesses will avoid the cloud for years anyway until its reliability has been proven.)
Participating companies don’t have to build their services on Microsoft’s (MSFT) cloud computing platform at all, and they’re free to use as much non-Microsoft sofware as they want. But, “We expect many of them will be taking advantage of cloud services,” Microsoft exec Dan’l Lewin told InfoWorld.
Either way, a smart long-term play by Microsoft. Even if Azure is less reliable than EC2 during the first few months until the bugs are shaken out, cash-strapped start-ups getting free service won’t complain too loudly. And if any of those BizSpark start-ups makes it big, a company that’s been on Azure for three years could be very reluctant to switch cloud services and jeapordize their architecture down the road.
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