msdnStarting January 4th, MSDN Premium subscribers and BizSpark members in 21 countries can sign up for Windows Azure Platform benefits. Previously, we communicated that the Azure benefit usage for subscribers would be limited to development and testing. We’ve lifted this restriction so that customers will be able to use their Azure benefits for normal (production) use! In doing so, they won't need a separate account to transition between development and production; however, customers cannot consolidate or pool the Azure benefits from multiple subscriptions onto one account.

As previously announced, the Windows Azure Platform is launching commercially (i.e., customers must begin paying for the service) on January 1, 2010 in the following countries:

· Austria

· Belgium

· Canada

· Denmark

· Finland

· France

· Germany

· Ireland

· India

· Italy

· Japan

· The Netherlands

· New Zealand

· Norway

· Portugal

· Singapore

· Spain

· Sweden

· Switzerland

· United Kingdom

· United States

Starting January 4, 2010, MSDN Premium subscribers and BizSpark members in the countries listed above will be able to sign up for a special introductory Windows Azure platform offer. This offer lasts 8 months from when the subscriber signs up and provides 750 hours of Windows Azure compute per month plus three SQL Azure databases, AppFabric, and bandwidth. An email communication will be sent out the week of January 11th to all MSDN Premium subscribers in the 21 countries alerting them that they can now sign up.

Subscribers who sign up for this introductory offer will incur overage charges if they exceed their allotted free service per month. As a one-time exception in January 2010, overages will not be charged for the month. Beginning in February, overages charges will be billed if the subscriber uses more than the free amount of service.

Other MSDN subscribers who do not qualify for Azure benefits (MSDN OS, MSDN Pro, MSDN Embedded, & Empower) in the launch countries can sign up for the 25 compute hours/month offer available from the Windows Azure Platform site.  This offer is available to anyone, so it is not necessary to be a subscriber to qualify.

Following the end of this special introductory offer signup period—at a date that is yet to be determined—we will provide different levels of Azure benefits to MSDN subscribers based on their subscription level:

· Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN – 250 hours/month of Windows Azure compute

· Visual Studio Premium with MSDN – 100 hours/month of Windows Azure compute

· Visual Studio Professional with MSDN – 50 hours/month of Windows Azure compute

Details on Azure benefits for subscribers: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/ee461076.aspx.