Microsoft recently announced the introduction of Azure Free Accounts — credit and resources that are free for a certain time period. This is aimed at competing with AWS's free tier and similar offerings. Before we take a look at what is on offer, there are a few caveats to check to see if you are actually eligible:
- To claim the free offer, you need to be a new Azure customer. That means your account has never used a previous trial and you have never been a paying Azure customer. This is a bit disappointing, as it is significantly different to the AWS free tier, which is available to all customers.
- Whilst it is free, you do need to add a credit card to your account to prevent fraud and misuse, etc.
- You are in one of the 140 countries eligible for this offer.
Ok, so now that is out of the way, what do you get? The offer is split into three components: credit, free resources for a year, and free resources forever.
When you sign up for a free account, you are provided with £150 credit to spend on any resources you like in the first 30 days. This is a one-off credit and will expire if not used after 30 days. This is similar to what was previously offered for the 30 days trials.
Free for a Year
This is the more exciting bit of the free account. A number of resources that would ordinarily cost money are provided free of charge for 1 year. These are listed below — the numbers are monthly, so your limits will renew each month
- 750 hours of Azure B1S VM for Windows
- 750 hours of Azure B1S VM for Linux
- 128GB of Managed Disks, comprising of 2 64GB P6 premium storage
- 5GB of Locally Redundant Hot Blob Storage
- 5GB of Locally Redundant File Storage
- 250 GB of Azure SQL database at S0 SKU
- 5GB of Cosmos DB
- 15 GB of outbound data transfer
This is a fairly reasonable amount of free resources, certainly enough to run some not too demanding applications or to get started with using Azure and trying out the services. The VM sizes are fairly small, so you are going to be limited on CPU and memory, plus they use the burstable VM types (which we will discuss in a future article).
This isn’t really an offer, but it is being touted as one. This is pretty much just the resources that have always been offered for free in Azure, either through a free tier or that it is always free. There is a long list of these here, but here are few of the key ones:
- Azure App Service Free Tier
- Azure Functions up to 400,000 GB/s
- Service Fabric and Azure Container Services (only pay for VMs used)
- App Insights up to 1GB per month
- Networking (vNets, Subnets, Load balancers etc.)
- Azure Automation up to 500 minutes per month
This is an interesting offer from Microsoft. Whilst they are touting these three areas, the only one that is really new is the “free for a year” section, which is very similar to the AWS free tier. The AWS offering does seem, on the face, to offer more services for free. However, depending on your use case, this may not be all that beneficial — things like Elasticsearch are only going to be useful for a certain group of people. The Azure services offered are the core Azure services that generally everyone will want to use, but the fact that this is only available for new customers is a bit annoying. I'm sure there are many people with paid for Azure subscriptions who would love this free service as well for personal projects, etc.
If you’ve been thinking about giving Azure a try, or if you want to test out some applications before committing to using Azure, then this free offering could be really appealing. If you’re already using Azure, it’s less exciting.