Microsoft sells Azure storage like a smartphone: free device with contract

When Microsoft(s msft) bought StorSimple, the storage appliance company in October, you just knew it was doing so to grease the skids onto Azure storage. Well, if you didn’t, you should now.

Microsoft is offering a free StorSimple 7520 appliance “to keep forever (a $138K value!!)” to customers willing to commit to $100,000 a year — or about 100TB of data — to Azure storage. There are strings attached:  you have to pay for Gold service at $7,500 per year for years two and three.

Windows AzureThat promotion shows just how competitive the battle to win people’s data is to cloud providers. In the past two weeks, Google(s goog), Amazon(s amzn) and Microsoft launched or responded to cloud storage price cuts four times.

It’s increasingly clear that these giants see storage as a way to lure customers into their respective cloud and then “upsell” them on higher-level and more profitable services.

StorSimple competes with TwinStrata and to some extent with Amazon’s AWS Storage Gateway — all of which offer an easier way for customers to move business data into the cloud. Microsoft’s acquisition of StorSimple sparked speculation that Rackspace(s rax) or some other cloud player would snap up TwinStrata. These companies and their technologies are seen as an easy on-ramp to the cloud and as such are valuable to big cloud providers scrapping for customer data.

 Photo courtesy of  Flickr user D.Begley