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Julia White, Microsoft Azure VP, speaks at Microsoft Ignite 2016 (Photo by GeekWire/Kevin Lisota)

Microsoft this morning released a third technical preview for its Azure Stack hybrid technology, which will let businesses and developers run a version of the company’s cloud computing platform on servers they purchase and own, rather than Microsoft’s data centers.

With the new preview, the company also announced the planned business model for this new product, saying it will largely mirror how normal Azure pricing works, allowing customers to pay as they use the service, even though it’s on premises.

“It’s going to be essentially the same as Azure — there’s no upfront fee. It’s a pay-as-you-go model,” said Julia White, corporate vice president for Microsoft’s cloud business, in an interview with GeekWire. “As you use the services in Azure Stack, the meters would spin just like you were using Azure in the public cloud.”

The prices will be lower than those for the Azure public cloud, reflecting the fact that customers are running their own servers, explained Jeffrey Snover, Microsoft Enterprise Cloud Group technical fellow, in a post this morning. He added, “For scenarios where customers are unable to have their metering information sent to Azure, we will also offer a fixed-price ‘capacity model’ based on the number of cores in the system.”

Azure Stack is the latest effort by Microsoft to differentiate itself from rivals including Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, leveraging the Redmond company’s strengths in enterprise technology appealing to large corporate customers.

The company says it will continue to refresh the current technical preview until it reaches general availability, scheduled for the middle of this year. Azure Stack will be available on specialized hardware from Dell EMC, HPE, Lenovo and ultimately Cisco.

In addition to bug fixes and other improvements, here’s the list of new features in the technical preview as detailed by Microsoft this morning.

  • Deploy with ADFS for disconnected scenarios
  • Start using Azure Virtual Machine Scale Sets for scale out workloads
  • Syndicate content from the Azure Marketplace to make available in Azure Stack
  • Use Azure D-Series VM sizes
  • Deploy and create templates with Temp Disks that are consistent with Azure
  • Take comfort in the enhanced security of an isolated administrator portal
  • Take advantage of improvements to IaaS and PaaS functionality
  • Use enhanced infrastructure management functionality, such as improved alerting

PREVIOUSLY: Microsoft explains why Azure Stack will initially work on only a handful of servers

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