New Azure Pricing Changes

As of October 1st, many changes have gone into effect regarding Microsoft Azure. There are several ways to purchase Azure, and Microsoft has taken steps to create price parity between the different licensing programs (with a couple of exceptions), which makes it more important than ever to take a step back and look at your Azure investment to ensure you are positioned to maximize the benefits and savings available. These changes will also make it easier, and more dangerous to your bottom line, to utilize Azure without properly analyzing your configuration. The great (and not so great) thing about Azure is that it is easy to start using; however, you can waste money in configurations that are not optimized.

An article by Sarah Cahill, National Licensing Solutions Manager at COMPAREX USA

Sarah Cahill, National Licensing Solutions Manager at COMPAREX USA

Sarah Cahill

Microsoft Announces Changes

So let’s start with the changes. What is important to know?  As of October 1st, Microsoft has aligned previously varying Azure pricing levels across its Pay-As-You-Go portal and all the traditional volume licensing programs through which a customer purchases Azure. This is an attempt to make it easier to procure Azure because you don’t have to compare pricing across programs to determine the lowest rates associated with consumption. The pricing parity is supposed to allow customers to focus on the actual Azure configuration, rather than the pricing. Some important details about the changes include:

  • This price re-leveling has been coupled with an increase in the minimum commitment level in the SCE (Server and Cloud Enrollment), previously the preferred licensing model for Azure because of its aggressive pricing. SCE, post-changes, still offers the best pricing for storage workloads in Azure by 38% versus pay-as-you-go and other licensing programs. It also provides the most admin-friendly and robust management portal for Azure.
  • Azure will be available in all other Volume Licensing programs, like the EA or MPSA, with no minimum commitment amount.
  • There are no safe guards built into the programs to help organizations streamline their Azure investment to eliminate risk of over-spending. This makes it essential to use any available support so as not to spin up a configuration that results in unexpected costs.

Challenges and Opportunities

I consulted Randall Crippen, Azure Cloud Architect at COMPAREX, to gain a better understanding of what challenges exist for organizations that are in the early stages of Azure adoption, or those looking to see if Azure is the right fit for them.

What do you feel is the biggest concern organizations utilizing Azure have in regard to their investment?

Typically, the largest concern customers face when utilizing Azure’s portfolio of over 200 services is whether or not they are using the correct service and doing so in accordance with Microsoft best practices. Anyone is able to spin up a virtual machine or cloud service but making sure that service remains available, doesn’t incur data loss, and makes the most of each euro or dollar spent is the larger challenge.

In your experience, where do organizations using Azure need support and/or guidance?

Support is by far the number one need companies face. Customers want a single place to call not only when there are issues with their environment, but even when they are in the planning and architectural phases to be sure that they are doing things correctly. The ability to work through the various considerations and challenges is paramount to their successful adoption of cloud services.

Are there any “gotchas” that you run across frequently when helping organizations optimize their Azure investment?

There are many considerations to take into account when determining the Azure services to use, how to use them, and how to configure them. Some of the common ones are as follows.

Virtual Networks: What kinds of firewalls does the customer use and what limitations does that impose on our connectivity?

Virtual Machines: What considerations do we need to take into account for availability and resiliency and how does that impact our costs?

SQL Server: When it comes to VMs, there are multiple technologies to consider when thinking about availability, replication, and disaster recovery. Selecting a technology can have implications on both the performance of the application, RTOs and RPOs, as well as costs of licensing that SQL instance. In addition, there are considerations on what type of Azure service to use (IaaS or PaaS), which will change how easily these things are accomplished and what the associated costs are.

Monitoring and Analytics: Customers can deploy a workload or application relatively easily on Azure services, but commonly need tools to monitor those applications – whether its performance, availability, or logging errors. Customers need an easy way to troubleshoot issues and it isn’t always obvious how to accomplish this, but there are services within the Azure platform specifically designed for this purpose such as Visual Studio Application Insights.

Service Selection: Many of the factors listed above along with something as simple as choosing an A Series VM vs a D Series VM can have a big impact on the overall cost, performance, and, at the end of the day, customer experience when using the Azure platform so having an advisory resource to lean on for these types of questions is important to the customer’s success both technically speaking and monetarily.

Thanks very much, Randall, for your insight!

How does COMPAREX’s support offering help companies tackle some of the considerations and challenges mentioned in the article?

First and foremost, COMPAREX has the ability to assess a customer environment. This gives customers insight into what is currently running, on what resources, and what the utilization of those resources is. This helps architect a highly utilized and cost effective solution within Azure and make recommendations on which Azure services to utilize.

COMPAREX experts take into account Microsoft best practices and their knowledge of the Azure platform to build a solution that is cost-efficient and meets customer SLA, uptime, and performance requirements.

In addition to this, both the Microsoft team and the COMPAREX engineering and architect team will work with the customer on specific initiatives or projects in the form of cloud consults. Cloud consults are typically around a ten day engagement which COMPAREX can work with the company’s team on architecture, deployment, and post deployment activities to make sure their project goes smoothly.

Lastly is ongoing support in which COMPAREX can assist through a ticket system with any issues that may arise. In addition to on-demand support, COMPAREX proactively provides monthly IT administrator webinars to go over new Azure technologies and best practices to stay up to date on an ever changing cloud landscape.

Leipzig, 21.10.2016

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