Windows Azure is too expensive for small apps

I’m researching Windows Azure development; and as soon as you check out early feedback one problem jumps out immediately. Azure is prohibitively expensive for small applications.

Here’s a thread that makes the point:

Currently I’m hosting 3 relatively small ASP.net web applications on a VPS. This is costing about $100 per month. I’m considering transitioning to Azure.
Q: Will I need to have 1 azure instance per each ASP.net application? So if I have 3 web apps, then I will need to run 3 instances which costs about $300 per month minimum, correct?

The user is correct. Each application consumes an “instance”, costing from $0.12 per hour, and this cost is incurred whenever the application is available.

Amazon also charges $0.12 per hour for a Windows instance; but the Amazon instance is a virtual machine. You can run as many applications on there as you like, until it chokes.

Google App Engine has a free quota for getting started, and then it is charged according to CPU time. If the app is idle, you don’t pay.

In addition, all these services charge extra for storage and data transfer; but in a low-usage application these are likely to be a small proportion of the total.

Summary: Azure’s problem is that it does not scale down in a way that makes business sense. There is no free quota, unless you count what is bundled with an MSDN subscription.

I realise that it is hard to compare like with like. A cheap Windows plan with a commodity ISP will cost less than either Amazon EC2 or Azure, but it is worth less, because you don’t get a complete VM as with Amazon, or a managed platform as with Azure, or the scalability of either platform. The point though is that by cutting out smaller businesses, and making small apps excessively expensive for customers of any size – even enterprises run small apps – Azure is creating a significant deterrent to adoption and will lose out to its rivals.

Check out the top feature request for Azure right now: Make it less expensive to run my very small service.

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10 comments to Windows Azure is too expensive for small apps

  • Yi-Sen

    For small apps, force.com doesn’t charge you for the first 100 users (there are some limits to the number of objects and amount of storage you can use, but hey it’s free…)

  • Free is too expensive for force.com. They should pay you to use it, because once you do, you’re stuck with them forever. The free service could go away next year (or the paid service could quadruple in price), and then where would you take your code in their proprietary language?

  • I totally agree with this article. I was very keen to develop on Windows Azure, primarily because I believe that for my consultancy work it’s something that will be quite important in the coming years. The problem is however that to take it into the large companies I do consultancy for, I need to have experience with it, to get experience I need to use it, to use it, I need it to be affordable. Even with MSDN, it just… isn’t. I currently have a dedicated server with 1and1 internet, this does everything I need, SQL Server, any ASP.NET I need, unlimited bandwidth, etc. This costs me about £100 a month, and I’m totally OK with that. Azure however will need instances for each web role I’d develop, and it would cost me huge amounts.

    I wish they could have “fixed price” hosting to compete with other packages, like £20 a month gives you XYZ. I have a site called walkmate.co.uk, i originally built this to run on Azure, but when Microsoft released the pricing, I knew there was just no way. So now, I can’t in good faith say that I can recommend Azure, because I just don’t know enough, and can’t see myself knowing enough. Microsoft are obviously really smart people, so I would guess their anticipated route to getting this platform supported by enterprises isn’t through the likes of me, but that said, I’ve brought .NET into dozens of enterprises.

    We’ll see. I’m keen to develop for it, but it’s just too much right now.

  • Azure isn’t meant for small apps. Cloud platforms are specifically built for scalability. If the service is “very small” then maybe it should be hosted in a more traditional manner for a cheaper price.

  • Chad

    Force.com is more expensive…once you go over 100 users…it’s priced at $50/user per month…ouch! It would be nice if Azure would offer a Salesforce like (100 users free) pilot option.

  • Graeme,

    I take your point about “very small” applications, however, the point of scaling up is to start off small and scale up as your application grows. If you’ve already opted for the traditional hosting routes, as you’ve suggested, then you’ll lose the ability to run on Azure. So, perhaps Microsoft should allow single instances of AppFabric to run on more traditional hosting services, so we can still build ‘cloud compatible app’, only not necessarily run them on the the Azure platform.

    I’m just not sure how you can organically grow from being very small to very big using Windows Azure. I can see that big companies could probably jump straight in, but no IT Manager I know would do that without first having a number of developers or architects come to them and say “hey, this could work”.

    So, I do hear what you’re saying, and probably agree in the case of Azure, that it’s not designed or priced for small scale applications. I suspect it should be though to aid adoption among developers.

    Anyway…

  • DM

    I have to agree with this article. I am the lead software architect for a large corporation with a large software engineering department. I should be able to create some small low traffic applications for myself at an inexpensive price on the Azure platform so that I can become familiar with it, learn to love it, and subsequently want to steer my employer or future clients in that direction. Microsoft should make it easier for people to make the leap. I suspect things will change things when adoption is low (ex. Team System pricing anyone?) but unfortunately that could take several years. As it stands, I’ve read a few articles and thats as far as it will go.

  • Kiran Asokan

    Right now the MSDN/ BizSpark subscriptions have 16 months free use of Azure Data Centers..!!

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/ee461076.aspx?ppud=4

    We avail this thru BizSpark program from MS .. Small business S/W start ups out there ..Don’t think twice enroll for BizSpark..Best thing MS have done for small business ever…I love it…

  • Trevor Green

    Free Azure helps no one if the price is ultimately wrong. I did a deployment of a site that nobody was using, just a test site for learning purposes, this is before I got the free services for dev. I forgot to take it down for a month or so. I got a $50 bill. This is complete crap. If free baits you into using this that doesn’t change the fact that you might need to put up something that has zero cash flow and zero traffic.

    I’m not against paying for things but the bottom end up the scalability needs to be in the $15 a month range. I’ll accept that I have to pay that much to have something live. $50, that is a joke.

    It’s also garbage when you consider that you might want to architect your service with multiple parts that might have separate instances. $50 is just not a scalable approach.

    I’m really perplexed, Microsoft keeps trying to crack the web market but has some mental block regarding being truly affordable and competitive. They will loose money for years on the Xbox 360 to make it work and maintain competitive pricing. But in the web world they consistently charge a premium and try and bait developers into forgetting about the costs by giving them temporarily free stuff so they get locked into their expensive platform.

    I really want to use what they have but they need to take their pound of flesh after services have scaled up, not before.

  • Michael McGee

    I am having the same issue with Azure. I have a MSDN license and I am still trying to figure out if I can use this or not. While my website is really small in my mind it will be really big one day and make me a ton of money. A man has to dream. I just can’t figure out what it will cost me each month.. they need an easier plan..