Company helps ISVs assess cost of Microsoft's Windows Azure

PreEmptive's tool allows applications to be monitored for usage behavior as well as resource consumption on the platform

With the commercial release of Windows Azure scheduled for later this year, one Microsoft partner is giving ISVs a tool to figure out how much deploying their application might cost once Microsoft starts charging for the cloud-computing platform.

As part of a new release of its existing Dotfuscator Suite, PreEmptive includes a way for ISVs (independent software vendors) to monitor an application not only to find out how many computing resources it requires when running on Windows Azure, but also to find out how people are using it, said Sebastian Holst, the chief marketing officer at PreEmptive, based in Mayfield Village, Ohio.

[ Check out InfoWorld's guide to making sense of Windows Azure. | Microsoft recently opened Windows Azure to PHP developers. ]

This latter functionality is especially key to helping ISVs calculate how much it would cost to run the application on Azure once Microsoft begins charging a fee because it allows them to specifically weigh the usefulness of the application, he said. By doing so they can decide which components of an application they may want to host on Azure and which parts they may want to sell for an on-premise deployment, Holst said.

"The challenge for developer organizations who are targeting Azure is to figure out how their application will be used," he said. "If you don't know what features [people] use, how much activity will be generated inside the cloud, you will have no way of predicting what the cost will be and what the behavior and value [of the application] will be ultimately to their business."

Dotfuscator is a tool that injects code into an application so its usage can be remotely monitored either through a company's own or third-party analytics software, he said. Alternatively, PreEmptive can provide a hosted dashboard for people to view the information.

Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said it's certainly going to be useful for companies to monitor applications as they begin deploying more of them on a third-party cloud infrastructure. While companies like RightScale and Hyperic offer tools for monitoring how applications consume computing resources, monitoring how people use them is still an emerging area of functionality, he said.

"The whole overall category of getting better visibility into your application is going to become a more important area," Gillett said.

He added that it's likely Microsoft will begin enhancing Azure with similar features as the platform evolves, although there will still be room for third parties to play in this market.

To this end, Microsoft actually bundles a lightweight version of Dotfuscator in its Visual Studio developer toolset, and will do the same with the release of Visual Studio 2010 once it's available so ISVs can measure application usage on Azure, PreEmptive's Holst said. Visual Studio 2010 is currently in beta.

PreEmptive charges $12,000 for a development group to use the full suite, and then if users want to subscribe to a PreEmptive-hosted dashboard to view the data, it's $2,000 per user per year, Holst said.

At its Worldwide Partner Conference last week, Microsoft made Windows Azure available free for anyone to use until November, when it will begin charging for it mainly on a per-consumption basis so people pay only for what resources an application uses.

Microsoft also will offer what it's calling a development accelerator that will allow people to pay a one-time fixed price for six months of access to Windows Azure as a more predictable pricing option. In that scenario, Microsoft calculates how much it would cost to run an application on the platform for that time period and then discounts it 45 percent as part of the six-month promotion.

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