This is part of what has turned out to be a series on running an eCommerce solution in the Cloud using nopCommerce and Azure. The other posts are:
eCommerce in the Cloud: Running nopCommerce on Azure
More on nopCommerce for Azure
Over on the nopCommerce forum, somebody asked what pricing would be for such a solution. In theory, the benefit of Azure is that you pay for what you use, so you wouldn't need to pay much until your store was successful. In practice, the cost may be somewhat prohibitive for entry-level stores. For a baseline, single instance store, based on the available pricing, you would need:
~740 Compute Hours / month = ~$90
~1G storage = $~0.15
~SQL Azure Web (unless you have a very very large store) = $10
~Bandwidth between Azure and SQL = varies
~Bandwidth between Azure and users = varies
So, I'm _guessing_ about $120 a month, but the billing and monitoring features are not available yet, so I can't confirm. Definitely higher than typical shared hosting, but comparable to a dedicated server, and better than Amazon EC2 Windows.
At this point, for our customers, if the store is just starting out or is small, we would still advise using a shared hosting provider like Discount ASP. As business demands load balancing, high availability, geographic proximity, etc., move to Azure.
Another compelling option is the BizSpark program, which comes with ~750 free Azure hours /mo for 3 years, if you qualify.
At some point, I'd also like to look into writing providers that work against Azure table/blobs/queues. That would offer infinite storage at .15c/GB/mo instead of the 1GB limited SQL database at $10/GB/mo.
Yet another option would be to set up a multi-tenanted solution, where multiple stores could be hosted on a single instance for a SaaS-type solution. I haven't looked to see if nopCommerce supports this, but from a business perspective, this is where the cloud concept really takes off. Instead of buying hardware to scale out your turnkey eCommerce company, you can simply add or remove instances to cover demand. For example, every 50 stores, you may turn on another instance, literally with the flip of a switch. If 50 stores went out of business, you could similarly scale back. This would be way more cost-effective than buying and setting up servers to cover demand.