“One aspect of VMs that is not well known but that I think is super cool is the wide variety of VM sizes that we now offer,” said Sanders. “And the fact that when we stop a VM through the portal, we actually stop billing for it. The combo of those two has resulted in very few points of contention around billing.”

The Azure Billing Alert Service can create customized billing alerts for your Azure accounts, and the pricing calculator is your friend.

2. Elastic Scale for Azure SQL Database
Performance and price limits on Azure SQL Database, which offer a subset of SQL Server features, can slow you down while also burning cash.

“People use SQL Service instead of the full server,” said Garcia. “Whenever you do that, you pay for Database Throughput Units. You could be paying for 10 databases with five DTUs [database throughput units], which is a small number of DTUs to use. What you can do is start using this elastic scale, say ‘I’m going to assign 100 DTUs to 10 databases,’ and they are going to share that processing power among all the databases.” In other words, a P3 tier database costs US$4.65 per DTU per month, while the same number of DTUs scaled out rather than up on an S2 instance cost $1.50 a month.

“They are all able to use that shared pool of resources rather than being constrained,” said Garcia. “It gets along with the idea that cloud allows you to draw resources from anywhere as needed.”

Currently in preview, Elastic Scale simplifies the scaling of data tiers from just a few to thousands of database shards via .NET client libraries and Azure service templates. High-volume OLTP, multi-tenant SaaS, and continuous data collection from telemetry and Internet of Things applications are likely use cases.

3. Preview pricing
The aforementioned Elastic Scale is just one example of many new features available at preview pricing, which may be free or 50% less than the general availability pricing. Taking advantage of preview pricing lets you play with new features, stay ahead of the technical curve, save money, and possibly beat the competition by having production-ready deployments when the features go live for all customers. A list of preview services for Azure is available here.

4. The Azure Portal
Also in preview is the Azure Portal, a new dashboard for accessing IaaS and PaaS deployments.

“I was not happy with the portal at first, but now it’s growing on me,” said Hanselman in his June 2015 TechDays UK keynote. “If you double-click on the background, you can change the theme to dark. This made me so happy.”