Editor’s Note: This post comes from Eron Kelly, General Manager for SQL Server Product Management. This is the first in our 5-part blogging series on HDInsight Service.

Microsoft has been hard at work over the past year developing solutions that allow businesses to get started doing big data analytics with the tools and processes familiar to them. Today, I’m happy to share that one of those solutions, Windows Azure HDInsight Service – our cloud-based distribution of Hadoop – is now available as a standard preview service on the Windows Azure Portal. As Scott Guthrie noted in his blog today, customers can get started doing Hadoop-based big data analytics in the cloud today, paying for only the storage and compute they use through their regular Windows Azure subscription.

Windows Azure HDInsight Service  offers full compatibility with Apache Hadoop, which ensures that when customers choose HDInsight they can do so with confidence, knowing that they are 100 percent Apache Hadoop compatible now and in the future.  HDInsight also simplifies Hadoop by enabling customers to deploy clusters in just minutes instead of hours or days. These clusters are scaled to fit specific demands and integrate with simple web-based tools and APIs to ensure customers can easily deploy, monitor and shut down their cloud-based cluster. In addition, Windows Azure HDInsight Service integrates with our business intelligence tools including Excel, PowerPivot and Power View, allowing customers to easily analyze and interpret their data to garner valuable insights for their organization.

Microsoft is offering a 50% discount on Windows Azure HDInsight Service during the preview period. A Hadoop-based cluster will need one Head node and one or more compute nodes. During the preview period, the head node is available as an Extra Large instance at $0.48 per hour per cluster, and the compute node is available as a Large instance at $0.24 per hour per instance. More information regarding Windows Azure pricing is available here.

Click here to get started using Windows Azure HDInsight Service today. For more information about Windows Azure HDInsight Service and our work with the Hadoop community, visit the Data Platform Insider blog. We look forward to seeing where your Hadoop clusters take you!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog that will provide a walkthrough of the updated HDInsight Service.

-Eron