Microsoft has begun offering a "service preview" of Apache Hadoop for its Windows Azure cloud as part of the computing giant's big data roadmap, unveiled in October.
The company promised the capability will be made available to customers that sign up for the preview this week. The preview was available "based on usage scenarios" but Microsoft did not specify eligibility criteria.
While Azure users have previously been able to deploy a Hadoop cluster manually, Microsoft hoped the new capability would streamline the process from days to hours.
It also plans to integrate the Hadoop distribution into SQL Server 2012 from next year.
The company's Hadoop integration moves form part of a roadmap toward implementing big data capabilities in its business intelligence products, outlined in October by Microsoft's corporate vice president of business platforms, Ted Kummert.
Along with Hadoop integration, Kummert said Microsoft would offer data visualisation offerings optimised for touch screens as well as a global data marketplace that would combine a business' data with other, publicly available information.
"As we turn more and more to the cloud, data becomes its currency," Kummert said following the launch of SQL Server 2012 in October.
"Imagine if everyone, regardless of what type of data frameworks or platforms they use, could achieve deep business insights by amassing and analysing enormous amounts of data not just from their own organisation, but from all over the world using a global data marketplace. As futuristic as that may seem, we believe we are uniquely positioned to bring this vision to life.
"Our existing assets across the public and private cloud, as well as our commitment to providing choice and flexibility for our customers, make us the only vendor delivering on this vision today."
Azure price changes
Microsoft used the Hadoop update to also revise its infrastructure pricing structure.
The biggest change appears to affect SQL databses on Azure, with the maximum database size increased from 50GB to 150GB at the same current pricing.
The new changes mean database pricing per gigabyte is reduced to US$9.99 per month, with a ceiling cost of US$499.95 for a maximised, 150GB database.
Pricing changes come as a response to increasing competition from large cloud database providers. Both Google and Oracle launched their own cloud-based SQL database offerings in October, with the search giant currently providing it for free.
In addition, Microsoft lowered bandwidth from its Singapore-based data centre to US$0.19 per gigabyte, previously US$0.20. Those accessing Microsoft's multiple US-based or Ireland-based data centres, however, would see data transfer prices drop to US$0.12 per gigabyte, down from US$0.15.