A Quick Visit to the Clouds

These evening (23 Feb 2010) I attended a Melbourne .NET session presented by David Lemphers who’s the Senior Program Manager on the Windows Azure team.

David presented an introductory level discussion how Azure works; we were run through the basics of setting up a hello world application. Running it locally on a simulated cloud, side note here is currently a simulated cloud can only be accessed on a single developer machine – meaning you can’t yet host a simulation cloud as a networked machine to test your application. Such a feature should be coming in the future.

We also got taken through what it takes to push it up to the real cloud. The walk through continued to cover how the Azure system works, with Roles; a web-role representing IIS in the cloud and worker-role representing a windows-service in the cloud. Storage Accounts representing containers for data, message queues and blobs.

Windows Azure

Windows Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the internet through Microsoft datacentres.

Now that just means it’s supposed to be easier to get your applications hosted up servers you don’t need to own or administer for a fee. From what I have seen so far, it is in fact simple in terms of developer difficulty, but there’s a whole host of other considerations before pushing up a business critical application up into the cloud. A quick list of concerns would begin with; security, availability, privacy and confidentiality, but that’s a discussion I would rather not kick off here at least not right now.

There was a brief discussion of load handling and scaling in terms of pricing, so I asked an AllYourClouds.com question about it here. Along with a mention of a possible programmatic control of active instances, but probably only within the range of what’s already part of the billing plan.

From an Australian perspective the Windows Azure service is lacking for the moment, with prices significantly more expensive in the Asia data-centres , that combined with no locally (Australia) based datacentres available. The lack of on Australian soil datacentres ties back to concerns of certain types of data being able to be stored up in the cloud.

Some take away notes:

  • In Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate to use the Azure SDK you need the Febuary release
  • For VS 2010 Beta 2 and prior the older Azure SDK is fine
  • Microsoft is dogfooding the Azure platform with the billing system for Azure.
  • Also services like Sea Dragon the Deep Zoom tech use a similar approach as Azure’s core functionality.
  • You currently cannot run .NET 4 Framework applications on Azure, will be available when it reaches RTM.
  • Expecting a 6 month release cycle, with road map coming soon.
  • The storage capacity of Azure based X Drive for cloud storage
  • Data caching and concurrency is still a problem to be solved in development, example suggestion for caching is memcached.
  • Azure team currently investigating SMTP in the cloud

Additional Resources:

Coming up Melbourne Cloud Code Camp April 1st 2010.

Published by Nick Josevski

Software Engineer at Octopus Deploy

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