[caption id="attachment_10139" align="aligncenter" width="588"] Microsoft wants to make its Virtual Machines a cheaper proposition.[/caption] In a bid to better compete with Amazon and other Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, Microsoft is restructuring how it charges for Virtual Machine usage on its Azure platform. “Starting today, customers will be charged for usage by the minute rather than by the hour, with no minimum use requirement—which means no more rounding up for our customers; you will now pay only for what you use,” read a June 3 note on the Windows Azure Team Blog. “If you stop your VM, you don’t pay for the compute.” In theory, that differs from other cloud providers who rely on an hour as a minimum unit, even if the developer only uses a fraction of that compute time. Although the difference between an Azure developer being charged 13 cents for 65 minutes of work and a developer on a competing platform being charged 32 cents for a full two hours may seem like chump change, those pennies can add up over the long term. That wasn’t Microsoft’s only announcement at its TechEd North America 2013 conference, taking place in New Orleans. Brad Anderson, president of Microsoft’s Server & Tools division, gave a keynote in which he pushed Microsoft’s vision of the cloud as ideal for enterprises. The company whipped the curtain back from Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2, and SQL Server 2014, all of which will debut in preview later in June; all of these platforms supposedly boast advances in virtualization, SDN (Software Defined Networking), data storage, and in-memory transaction processing. Microsoft also revealed a bit more about Windows 8.1, its first major update to Windows 8, which will supposedly address many users’ complaints about the lack of legacy features such as a Start button. On the Azure front, Microsoft also announced an upcoming preview of what it calls BizTalk Services, which it bills as a “cloud-based B2B integration platform service” that allows developers (and others) to build and manage cloud applications that can leverage a variety of enterprise data. BizTalk features include cloud-application integration and hybrid connectivity to on-premises systems. But Microsoft has a long road ahead if it wants to make Azure the reigning king of business IaaS. One of Google’s biggest announcements at its I/O conference in May was Google Compute Engine, which offers resources for crunching massive datasets and high-performance computing. And then there’s Amazon, which markets a considerable portfolio of cloud-infrastructure products under its AWS (Amazon Web Services) banner. For the past few quarters, Amazon and Google have been engaged in a not-so-quiet pricing war, which could make things more difficult for Microsoft if it wants to differentiate Azure on cost.   Image: Microsoft