Making sense of Microsoft's Azure

What app developers and enterprises need to know before signing up for Microsoft's cloud platform

This is no small issue, and my prediction is that most apps will need some major surgery before they can be cloudworthy. One wag already has placed his bets:Stephen Arnold writes in his blog, Beyond Search, "I remain baffled about SharePoint search running from Azure. In my experience, performance is a challenge when SharePoint runs locally, has resources, and has been tuned to the content. A generic SharePoint running from the cloud seems like an invitation to speeds similar to my Hayes 9600 baud dial-up modem." For those of you who are too young to remember, that means very slow.

While you are boning up on .Net, you might also want to get more familiar with Windows Server and SQL Server 2008, because many of the same technologies will be used for Azure. One thing that won't be in Azure is Hyper-V; apparently, we have another hypervisor to run the Azure VMs. Too bad -- I was just getting comfortable with Hyper-V myself. Nobody said this was gonna be easy.

The datacenter land grab: Enough for a secure frontier?

Speaking of servers, Microsoft is in the midst of a major land grab of its own, building out datacenters in multiple cities and beefing up the ones it already has. More good news is that Microsoft plans on using Azure to run its own hosted applications and is in the middle of moving them over to the platform (so far, only Live Mesh is there today). Right now, all Azure apps will run in its Washington datacenter, 150 miles east of Redmond, but you can bet this will change as more people use the service. At least Microsoft tells you this; Amazon treats as a state secret how many and where its S3 and EC2 datacenters are.

Of course, the big attraction for cloud computing is scalability, and Ozzie, in the same Cnet interview, has this to say about it: "Every company right now runs their own Web site, and they're always afraid of what might happen if it becomes too popular. This gives kind of an overdraft protection for the people who run their Web sites." I like that. But given the number of outages experienced by Amazon and Google over the past year, what happens when we have bank failures in Dodge?

Second, where do you want to homestead your apps? Just because you want to make use of the Microsoft services doesn't mean your apps have to reside on its servers. If you are happy with all the Google Goods, stay with that. If you like someone else's scripting language or toolset, do likewise.

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David Strom

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