Google, Amazon, Microsoft Fluff Up Their Clouds

Three of the cloud industry’s biggest players made some interesting competitive moves this month, with Microsoft and Google slashing prices for certain cloud-based applications, and Amazon announcing an expansion into Asia.

Out of the three announcements, Microsoft’s seems to have the most relevance for U.S.-based business customers. As Network World reported last week, “Microsoft has cut in half its per user per month list price for Exchange Online services [from $10 per user per month to $5] and cut by 33% the price of its Business Productivity Online Services suite of online productivity applications.”

That makes Exchange Online just $60 per user per year – pretty close to the $50 Google charges for Google Apps Premier Edition. Microsoft also increased mailbox size from 5GB to 25GB, again putting the company on par with Google’s enterprise offering. Microsoft has a lot more experience in the office applications market than Google, obviously, so customers on the fence may decide to go with Microsoft now that Google’s price advantage has been almost eliminated.

One question is, will Google cut its Apps prices to try to regain that advantage over Microsoft? The company hasn’t done so yet, but it did cut prices for storage that is shared between Gmail and Picasa Web Albums. This week, Google said customers can now buy 20GB of storage for $5 a year, “twice as much storage for a quarter of the old price.”

The Google Apps enterprise edition price has been stuck at $50 per user per year since it was unveiled in February 2007. Google itself noted this week that “storage costs have been dropping naturally, [and] we've also been working hard to improve our infrastructure to reduce costs even further.” Is it too much to ask for a cheaper version of Google Apps Premier Edition? Only time will tell.

Elsewhere in the cloud computing industry, Amazon Web Services this week said it will expand its infrastructure to the Asia-Pacific region, which means customers in that part of the world will get better performance for Web-based services such as Amazon’s virtual server, storage and database platforms.

Planned for the first half of 2010 in Singapore, and other regions in the second half of the year, the expansion will let business “deploy compute and storage resources in close proximity to their end-users in the region,” Amazon says.

This means Amazon customers in Asia no longer have to access computing resources from data centers in Europe and the United States.

“Developers and businesses located in Asia, as well as those with a multi-national presence, have been eager for Asia-based infrastructure to minimize latency and optimize performance,” said Amazon Web Services vice president Adam Selipsky.

Just a couple weeks ago, Amazon slashed prices for some of its cloud services and offered a new online relational database. We can’t predict what’s coming next, but at this pace it looks like Amazon will stay busy beefing up its cloud services for the foreseeable future.

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