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In today’s era of computing, businesses face the challenge of reducing their IT infrastructure costs while extending the value of their current investments. For us, this has meant that the experiences of our customers and the developer community are key in building a cloud services platform that provides the flexibility and agility our customers need to tackle their business problems in new ways.  As we continue this journey, today marks a significant milestone, not only for us at Microsoft, but also for our customers and partners.  We are excited to announce the general availability of Windows Azure and SQL Azure in  21 countries.  

Starting today, customers and partners in countries across the globe will be able to launch their Windows Azure and SQL Azure production applications and services with the support of the full Service Level Agreements (SLAs).  The Windows Azure platform AppFabric Service Bus and Access Control will continue to be free until April 2010 for those that sign up for a commercial subscription. Additionally Microsoft codename “Dallas” will continue to be in a free CTP.

We continue to get great feedback from those who are developing and deploying applications and services on the Windows Azure platform.  Since January 2010, thousands of customers have moved from CTP to production, and partners like Origin Digital, GXS, tradefaciliate, and 3M are actively building and deploying solutions to the Windows Azure platform.  Starting today, they, along with all of our partners, will be able to begin selling their solutions to their customers, ultimately enabling them to reach new markets and increase their revenue. 

Not only are our established partners and ISVs looking to the Windows Azure platform as a way to extend their revenue capabilities, but start-ups like Lokad are betting their business on the platform as a well.  Lokad has deployed a scalable forecasting cloud-based service to its retail and manufacturing customers. This service provides real-time forecast data to allow for inventory optimization and ultimately bring Lokad’s customer base retail profitability.  Today, with the power of the Windows Azure platform, Lokad is able to compute and deliver forecast data in less than 60 minutes to its 300 plus and growing customer base, including multinational retailers. Over the course of the next few months we will continue to share stories of companies who are building and deploying new applications and services on the Windows Azure platform.  

Customers who have yet to upgrade their CTP accounts to paid commercial subscriptions are encouraged to do so at the earliest in order to maintain access to their accounts.  Customers who have not yet upgraded their Windows Azure CTP accounts will have their service disabled and any Windows Azure Storage will be made read-only. SQL Azure CTP customers who have not upgraded their accounts will be able to keep using their existing databases but will no longer be able to create new databases.  On March 1, 2010, the SQL Azure CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. On April 1, 2010, the Windows Azure Storage CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. It is important to export your data if you do not plan to upgrade to a commercial subscription prior to these dates.

As a number of time zones apply to our customers and partners worldwide, Microsoft will begin charging for Windows Azure and SQL Azure starting at 12:00 AM February 2, 2010 GMT to ensure that customers and partners are not charged for their free usage in the month of January.

New customers can visit www.WindowsAzure.com to sign up to start building and deploying cloud applications today on the Windows Azure platform. 

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