Azure October Roundup: Price drops, data analysis, and more

Microsoft's cloud has gotten better at gleaning insights from data and a bit cheaper to use

Put away the Halloween candy, and dust off your stuffed turkeys, folks. October is long gone, as are a fresh set of announcements from Microsoft about changes to its Azure cloud platform. Here's the important news you might have missed.

Price drops for a bunch of Azure compute instances

If there's one constant in the public cloud, it's the back-and-forth between competing providers over who gets to claim that they have the cheapest services. Microsoft fired another shot in that war in October, dropping prices for its A1, A2, Dv2 and F series compute instances. Here's how that breaks down, straight from a blog post by Microsoft Corporate Vice President Takeshi Numoto:

  • General Purpose Instances: Prices of our Dv2 series VMs will be reduced by up to 15%. We are also lowering prices of our A1 and A2 Basic VMs by up to 50%.
  • Compute Optimized Instances: Prices of our F series will be reduced up to 11%.
  • Av2 series: In November 2016, we will introduce new A series virtual machines (Av2), with prices up to 36% lower than the A series Standard VM prices available today.

The A series VMs are Microsoft's entry-level compute offerings, while Dv2 series VMs are designed to serve as general purpose computing instances with more power than the A series. F series instances focus on giving users access to a lot of raw CPU power.

SQL Server Analysis Services comes to the cloud

Microsoft has been heavily focused on building tools that help companies glean insights from their data. One of the company's key tools for on-premises database deployments has been SQL Server Analysis Services, a popular suite of tools for modeling data from relational databases.

Now, SSAS is coming to the cloud with the appropriately-named Azure Analysis Services. It's designed to help companies get the benefits of cloud processing for semantic data modeling, while still being able to glean insights from data that's stored either on-premises or in the public cloud. 

AAS is compatible with databases like SQL Server, Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Oracle, and Teradata. Customers who already use SQL Server Analysis Services in their private data centers can take the models from that deployment and move them to Azure, too.

Expanded beta for Azure SQL Data Warehouse

Azure SQL Data Warehouse is Microsoft's product aimed at helping companies store and analyze massive amounts of data. There's one problem: Running a full-scale test will very quickly blow through Azure's free tier restrictions and start costing potential customers money.

To help, Microsoft is running a limited free trial of Azure SQL DW. Users can sign up starting on Tuesday, and get a free month of use. Those customers who want to give it a shot will have to move quickly, though: Microsoft is only taking trial sign-ups until Dec. 31.

Microsoft's Cloud goes to France

As part of the continuing expansion of its cloud's physical footprint across the globe, Microsoft announced that it will be launching several data centers in France next year. The company hasn't yet said where the data centers will be based, or when they'll be available, other than that their availability is targeted for 2017.

Those data centers will build on Microsoft's existing European footprint, which includes cloud regions in Ireland, England, and Germany.  

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