Microsoft launches dedicated host service alongside licensing changes

Azure's new platform catches up with sole-tenant hosting provided by Google Cloud Platform and AWS

Microsoft Azure splash screen on a smartphone

Microsoft is previewing an Azure Dedicated Host' service for enterprises looking to run their Linux and Windows virtual machines (VMs) on their own physical servers, alongside a set of changes to licensing costs.

The dedicated host service will target enterprise customers which prioritise the security benefits of physical hosting over shared cloud hosting, as well as the isolation of their sensitive information.

These servers will not be shared with any other customer, and businesses which opt for one will retain full control over how services run on the machine.

The Azure Dedicated Host is available in two iterations. The first type is based on the 2.3GHz Intel Xeon E5-2673 v4 processor and has a maximum of 64 virtual CPUs available. This can be chosen in a 256GiB and 448GiB RAM configuration, priced at $4.055 per hour and $4.492 per hour respectively.

The second version, meanwhile, is based on the Intel Xeon Platinum 8168 processor with 72 virtual CPUs available and is priced at $4.039 per hour in a 144GiB configuration.

Moreover, several can be grouped together into larger host groups in a particular region, so businesses can build clusters of physical servers.

The dedicated hosts will be subject to automatic maintenance by default, although administrators can defer host maintenance operations and apply them within a 35-day window. It's possible, during this window, to retain full control over the server maintenance.

This has been announced in conjunction with a set of key changes to the pricing of software licenses, which sees a separation between on-premise outsourcing services and cloud services. Customers will need an additional software assurance' to run Microsoft software on public cloud services from 1 October this year.

Businesses using rival cloud providers, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP) should, therefore, expect the cost of running Microsoft software to increase.

The introduction of Azure Dedicated Host, on the other hand, has also seen Microsoft roll out an Azure Hybrid Benefit licensing option, which allows customers to use software without the need for a software assurance'.

Both Google and Amazon have launched similar dedicated physical services in recent, years, with Azure the latest major cloud provider to follow suit.

Google, for instance, launched sole-tenant nodes in its Compute Engine last June, which allowed businesses to run instances on their own dedicated architecture as opposed to sharing hosting with other customers. These are similar to AWS' EC2 dedicated hosts.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has increased the bug bounty rewards as part of a big security push that has also seen the launch of the Azure Security Lab.

The highest bounty will be doubled to $40,000, while those with access to the lab can attempt a set of scenario-based challenges with a maximum award of $300,000.

The new lab itself is a set of dedicated cloud hosts that offers security researchers a secure space to test against Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) attacks.

Organisations are invited to apply to join the new security-focused community by requesting a Windows or Linux VM, with successful applicants given access to campaigns for targeted scenarios and added incentives.

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