Microsoft, Amazon share Windows Server licensing for the cloud

Here's an upside of the newfound chummy relationship between Microsoft and Amazon.

Amazon has worked out a way to run Windows in in its EC2 cloud at roughly the same price as running Linux in said cloud. If you have enterprise license agreements for on-premises Windows Server (and Software Assurance), you can use those licenses with Amazon's EC2 cloud, at least for a trial period. Microsoft announced the pilot program on Thursday.

Updated 0326: It was a rather surprising announcement. Amazon has the most popular cloud and Microsoft would like to change that and bring you to its own cloud, Azure. Although, as a reader below points out, these are apples and oranges, with EC2 being an example of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and Azure and Google Apps Engine being examples of platform as a service. Looks like Redmond would rather have you try out a competitor the cloud and continue using Windows Server  than to have you go wandering off to Linux or the likes of Google, which many Microsoft users say they are thinking of doing. (Google's Google App Engine, is free up to a certain point of usage, and doesn't support Windows or .Net.)

Amazon is also a reseller to Microsoft, and I don't just mean selling Windows 7 and Office to consumers. Amazon already offers Windows Server services on EC2. So today's deal is about allowing you to save money. If you don't have enterprise licenses with software assurance, you can still rent a Windows infrastructure from Amazon but you have to pay a set-up fee roughly equivalent to the license fees for on-prem servers.

According to the companies:

To participate in this pilot, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your company must be based (or have a legal entity) in the United States
  • Your company must have an existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) that is valid for a minimum of 12 months after your entry into the pilot
  • You must have already purchased Software Assurance from Microsoft for your EA Windows Server licenses
  • You must be an Enterprise customer (Academic and Government institutions are not covered by this pilot)

Enrollment will close on September 23, 2010. (Here's the sign-up). Once you have enrolled in the pilot, you will be eligible to run your licenses in Amazon EC2 for the next 12 months. After the pilot has ended, Microsoft will have decided if it will make it a full-time regular deal or not. Amazon promises, " If they decide not to continue with the program, we will work to minimize any interruption to your services and will provide you with notification on whether you need to take any action."

It's not a carte blanche offer. Here's the space Microsoft will give you for your license.

Windows Server

Product License

Maximum Running Instances

per License
Windows Server Standard Edition 1
Windows Server Enterprise Edition 4
Windows Server Datacenter Edition 4

Pricing is complicated, as it always is for cloud computing. It is more expensive to rent a California cloud than a Virginia cloud.

Here is one sample of the kind of money you save with the license pilot, if you don't need a lot of memory and are renting from Virginia.

Standard On-Demand Instances Windows Pilot Usage Windows Usage
Small (Default) $0.085 per hour $0.12 per hour
Large $0.34 per hour $0.48 per hour
Extra Large $0.68 per hour $0.96 per hour

For more details on pricing/configuration, check out the rest of the charts, here.

Just for comparison, the cost for Google App Engine is quoted as follows.



Unit cost

Outgoing Bandwidth



Incoming Bandwidth



CPU Time

CPU hours


Stored Data

gigabytes per month


Recipients Emailed



But Google doesn't charge you anything if your usage of the cloud falls below certain parameters of 1,300,000 requests per day/ 7,400 requests/minute (or roughly 5 million page views a month for an efficient application that doesn't spike), with other bandwidth and CPU restrictions.

I'm wondering if this was one of the payoff items that Microsoft agreed to in exchange for last month's announcement that Amazon had bought into Microsoft's Linux patent protection scheme. In February, Amazon announced that it agreed to pay Microsoft an undisclosed sum as part of a patent cross-licensing deal. The agreement gives each company access to the other's patent portfolio and covers a wide range of products and technologies. Among them, the agreement shields Amazon from patent litigation against its Kindle e-reader, which includes some open-source software components, and against its use of Linux-based servers, Microsoft said.

But no bother. It's a win for Amazon, which can offer a Windows cloud at a lower cost, at least for a while. It could be a win for an enterprise, that wants to try out its Windows apps in the cloud, but doesn't want to go to Microsoft and doesn't want to pay twice for a license.

- Posted by Julie Bort

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