Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 1/26/2009+

Windows Azure, Azure Data Services, SQL Data Services and related cloud computing topics now appear in this weekly series.

Note: This post is updated daily or more frequently, depending on the availability of new articles.

• Updated 1/28/2009 10:00 AM PST: Many additions

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

Dave Graham continues his Cloud Optimized Storage Solutions series with Cloud Computing Expo: Cloud Optimized Storage Solutions (Neural Networks and Heuristics) of 1/28/2009. Dave writes:

The previous three Cloud Optimized Storage Solution (COSS) articles in this series discussed the content being stored, the method of storage, as well as principles derived from data tiering.  Today, I want to jump ahead a bit and discuss how neural networks and heuristics can impact the processing of object and file data for the cloud.

David LemphersWindows Azure - Accessing the Request.Url Property! post of 1/27/2009 describes …

[A] known issue regarding port translation/mapping in Windows Azure, and … an interesting side effect of this issue when accessing the Request.Url property within a Windows Azure web role. … [A]nytime you access the HttpContext.Request.Url property (or any derivation of that), you will be unknowingly getting some extra info you may not want.

The solution is simple, anytime you call something that returns a Request.Url object, make sure you ensure any calls you make on that Url object do not explicitly return the port (this gets tricky when doing local testing where you need the port, so you'll need to manage that). Construct your new URL with only host or path details, otherwise you'll make mischief for yourself!

SQL Data Services (SDS)

No significant SDS posts discovered as of 1/28/2009 at 12:00 PM

.NET Services: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

The .NET Services team’s .NET Services – Announcements feed sends you links to posts about .NET Services outages, planned downtime, and account provisioning problems and their resolution.

There’s a surprisingly large number of posts.

Sam Gentile’s Blog Post 4 – Publish-Subscribe Messaging and Neuron Topic Networks, the fourth in his Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) Drive SOA Adoption series, describes the Neuron ESB’s internal publish-subscribe messaging model.

As noted in previous posts, Neuron and .NET Services' ESBs aren’t identical but they’re used for the same purposes.

Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses

• Jim Nakashima explains Adding Files to your Windows Azure Service Package for use by the Development or Cloud Fabric in this 1/28/2009 post. The Development Fabric uses a *.csx file while the Cloud Fabric requires a *.cspkg file for deployment. *.cspkg files are zipped and encrypted. The current version of the feature doesn’t handle linked files.

Jon Udell’s Alternative logging for Azure services post of 1/28/2009 describes how he replaced Windows Azure’s RoleManager.WriteToLog() function with “thin C# wrappers around the HTTP/REST interface” to write logs to Amazon SimpleDB, SQL Data Services, and Azure Table Storage. Jon’s strategy is to:

  1. Make a thin wrapper around the REST interface to the query service
  2. Use the available query syntax to produce raw results
  3. Capture the results in generic data structures
  4. Refine the raw results using a dynamic language

He says that “You can use this strategy with any of the emerging breed of cloud databases.”

Benjamin Day will present a Windows Azure: Is the Relational Database Dead? session at 1105 Media’s Visual Studio Live! San Francisco 2009 conference that will be held at the Hyatt Regency Embarcadero hotel from 2/24/2009 to 2/26/2009. Registration at VSLive! 2009 includes a free pass to the MSDN Developer Conference held at the same venue on 2/23/2009. MSDN DevCon offers four Azure sessions:

Follow the MSDN Developers Conference on Twitter @MSDNDevCon

Lamont Harrington presents MSDN Webcast: Discover the Windows Azure Services Platform (Level 200) on 1/28/2009 at 7:00 to 8:00 AM PST. (The link is to the on-demand version;free registration required.) Here’s the Overview:

At the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference in October, Microsoft unveiled its cloud computing platform, Windows Azure. Windows Azure represents Microsoft's firm commitment to making cloud computing a compelling and cost- effective means for addressing the many challenges IT departments within the public sector face in trying to deliver business value. Come join us for this webcast as we explore the cloud computing offerings in the Windows Azure Services Platform. We provide an overview of the components and services that make up the platform and the development environment for developing and deploying cloud-based applications.

Dare Obasanjo’s Office Live Workspaces, Live Mesh and Windows Live Coming Together post of 1/27/2009 quotes the Office Live team blog’s Looking ahead and bringing you even more post and the MSDN forum post entitled Working Together: Live Mesh and Windows Live by the Live Mesh team. The gospel (party line) according to Dare:

To simplify and improve the customer experience around our Live services, we’ve made the decision to converge Windows Live and Office Live into an integrated set of services at one single destination. We think that just makes a ton of sense and goes a long way toward giving you a simpler, richer, better service that allows you to do more with one account.

Did Steve Ballmer’s cost-reduction program cause these services to coalesce or was it kismet?

Mindscape offers its SimpleDB Management Tools (SMTs) add-in for Visual Studio 2008 [Standard or higher] for the bargain price of US$ 29.00. You can download a free trial version (with a limit of returning 20 results when writing queries) by clicking here. Mindscape, which also is the publisher of the LightSpeed object/relational mapping tool, says the following their SMTs:

Working with domains, attributes and your data in Amazon SimpleDB has never been easier for Visual Studio users. SimpleDB Management Tools makes it easy to connect to SimpleDB instances from the Visual Studio Server Explorer. Query data, add edit and delete domains and attributes. Everything you need to work faster with SimpleDB.

and here’s the SMTs’ UI:

Alin Irimie describes “Cloud Status, the first iPhone application from Babilim Light Industries, allows you to monitor the status of Google App Engine, Amazon Web Services and Twitter in real time” in his Weekly Cloud Application: Cloud Status post of 1/26/2009.

Cloud Status, an example of Monitoring as a Service (MaaS), doesn’t include Windows Azure currently but it’s likely to do so in future versions.

James Johnson’s Code Camp 2009 Presentation - Anonymous Types post of 1/24/2009 provides a link to the sample code for his Anonymous Types and SQL Data Services presentations to the Southern California CodeCamp 2009. His SQL Data Services Adventure – Day 2 and SQL Data Services Adventure – Day 3 posts describe his adventures with SDS during preparation for his sessions.

Mark Everett Hall’s Cloud programming will rule app dev's future post for ComputerWorld of 1/26/2009 asserts that developers should concentrate on cloud apps because the cloud is “the best place to be working now because it's growing and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future.”

Hall reports:

[A]fter more than 20 years building security and management software for DOS and Windows machines, Danny Kim, the chief technology officer at FullArmor Corp. in Boston, has begun moving his company's focus to Windows Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing initiative.

He says, "Azure is like when Microsoft took DOS to Windows. It changes the game."

Davis, Kim and many others I've spoken to see that money is to made in the cloud. In part, because IT is having so much trouble coming up with funding for large capital-intensive projects. Why bother when Google, Microsoft,, and others have already made the investment for you? [Emphasis unchanged.]

Azure Infrastructure

James Urquhart’s The need for a standard cloud taxonomy post of 1/27/2009 recites the quest for a uniform taxonomy for cloud computing at the Cloud Interoperability meeting prior to Cloud Connect in Mountain View, Calif., last week. James writes:

While the whiteboard may suggest that there was a large amount of agreement on the core concepts and that taxonomy was but a minor player, the reality is exactly the opposite. We couldn't agree on much of anything, except that there is a need for taxonomy and that trust (namely security) was one of the most pressing issues.

Funny enough, this is almost exactly the same conclusion reached in my recent discussions with some Cisco Systems partners, and (apparently) by Reuven Cohen, founder of Enomaly and the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF). Reuven conversed with Cannonical Services Director Simon Wardley--one of the Cloud Interop participants--and reached the joint conclusion that we need a stable, accepted taxonomy for cloud computing to "grease the skids," so to speak, for vendor interoperability discussions.

What’s your take on the likelihood of destruction of today’s Tower of Babel in the cloud computing sector?

Cristopher Hoff’s Cloud Computing Taxonomy & Ontology :: Please Review post of 1/28/2009 includes a first draft of this diagram of Chris’s response to John Willis' "Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing" of the same date:

Lamia Youseff of UC Santa Barbara, and Maria Butrico and Dilma Da Silva of the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center wrote an undated “Toward a Unified Ontology of Cloud Computing” whitepaper which includes the following illustration:

Fig. 1. Our Proposed Cloud Computing Ontology: depicted as five layers, with three constituents to the cloud infrastructure layer. The layered figure represents the inter-dependency and composability between the different layers in the cloud.

The paper, which appears to have been written before Microsoft released the Windows Azure CTP, includes an extensive set of references to related cloud computing topics.

Adam O'Donnell asks Will EDoS be the next DDoS? in this 1/25/2009 post to ZDNet’s ZeroDay security blog. According to Adam:

Christofer Hoff, the Chief Security Architect at Unisys, has recently been discussing the concept of an Economic Denial of Sustainability on his blog. Put simply, it is an attack against the billing model that underlies the cost of providing a service with the goal of bankrupting the service itself. Before we go into why EDoS is a threat, and one that is separate from DDoS, we have to understand how companies turn dollars into bytes, which they hopefully turn back into dollars. …

EDoS, like DDoS, is not an insurmountable problem. The billing models that underlie cloud services may not be mature enough to properly account for an EDoS like attack. I am sure they will all be straightened out in time, but there will probably be a business or two that fails in the meantime because their unwarranted usage spike causes them to go deeply into the red.

Dare Obasanjo’s Asking "should we trust the cloud" is like asking "should we trust horseless carriages" post of 1/27/2009 takes Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb to taks for her blog post entitled In Cloud We Trust?, which contends (in part):

Surprisingly, even on a site that tends to attract a lot of technology's earliest adopters, the responses were mixed. When asked the question: "Do you trust the cloud?," the majority of responses either came back as a flat-out "no" or as a longer explanation as to why their response was a "maybe" or a "sometimes." In other words, some people trust the cloud here, but not there, or for this, but not that.

Dare responds (in part):

The question this article asks is pointless on several levels.  First of all, it doesn't really matter if people trust the cloud or not. What matters is whether they use it or not. The average person doesn't trust computers, automobile mechanics or lawyers yet they use them anyway. Given the massive adoption of the Web from search engines and e-commerce sites to Web-based email and social networking services, it is clear that the average computer person trusts the cloud enough to part with their personal information and their money.

Krishnan Subramanian’s SaaS Risk Reduction – Planning for Maintenance and Outages post of 1/27/2009 is the fifth post in his SaaS Risk Reduction Series.

Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

Amazon CloudFront announces new pricing, effective 2/1/2009, for delivery of more than 250 TB per month from US, European, Hong Kong, and Japan Edge locations in an update of 1/28/2009 to Amazon CloudFront.

Ashlee Vance’s “Cisco Plans Big Push Into Server Market” story of 1/19/2009 for the New York Times has drawn widespread responses from tech bloggers according to Technorati’s Reactions to story from The New York Times. Most bloggers are surprised that Cisco would risk the lower gross margins associated with server hardware compared with that for the company’s traditional networking product line.

Bob Warfield’s Are We Surprised Cisco Will Build Cloud Computing Servers to Compete With HP, Dell, et al? post of 1/20/2009 is typical of most responses to Ashlee’s article:

The emphasis will be on reliability and cost efficiency.  I’ve likened the advantages of such highly standard machines to the business advantage Southwest Airlines gets by standardizing all of their aircraft as 737’s.  Companies like Google have already seen the light and taken these steps.

Mind you, these boxes are not strictly for the Cloud, but the vision of highly standardized corporate datacenters where the important thing about the machines is virtualization and efficiency more than absolute maximum throughput is pretty much what the Cloud wants anyway.

It’s going to be interesting to watch, but this isn’t the first or the last time that the Cloud will change the dynamics of the marketplace.

Cloud Computing Journal issues an IBM Advances Research through Cloud Computing press release in the guise of a blog post on 1/28/2009. The release describes how:

The Qatar Cloud Computing Initiative, driven by three universities, will open its cloud infrastructure to local businesses and industries to test applications and complete various projects, including seismic modeling and the exploration for oil and gas.

The remaining 80% of the post is an SEO list of companies who’ve contributed stories to Cloud Computing Journal.

Krishnan Subramanian’s Google Gears – Lifeline of SaaS post of 1/27/2009 observes:

Apart from the technological capability, the very fact that Google released it as open source made it easy for other companies, including those who compete with Google directly, to adapt it in their environment to offer offline capability in their SaaS applications. This is an important example of open source playing an important role in SaaS.

It will be interesting to see how Windows Azure developers make use of Google Gears.

• Cloud Computing Journal offers a downloadable UniCloud Case Study: Data Processing in Amazon EC2 Cloud Service (free registration required) subtitled “How Pathwork Diagnostics leveraged UniCloud for processing needs.” Pathworks Diagnostics describes its services:

Pathwork® Diagnostics develops and delivers innovative molecular diagnostics for oncology. The Pathwork® Tissue of Origin Test delivers unique clinical information not available through other methods—using a tumor’s genomic information to accurately and objectively identify the tissue of origin of challenging tumors, including poorly differentiated, undifferentiated, and metastatic tumors.

The Building HPC Clusters in the Cloud case study describes how

Pathwork investigated several cloud providers before choosing Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) for pay-per-use computing. Pathwork then selected Univa UD’s UniCloud
product to build high-performance computing (HPC) clusters in the EC2 cloud, in order to perform their compute-intensive research. Pathwork downloaded and installed UniCloud,
referencing a published ‘How-To’ white paper for guidance. Integrating their own applications into the UniCloud cluster was easy, and with the help of Univa UD’s support team,
Pathwork was up and running with access to a fully functioning HPC cluster in a cloud environment. [Link added.]

• Gary E. Smith announces in his Cordys Award-Winning Process Factory(TM) Now Available as Community Platform Free of Charge post of 1/27/2009 that Cordys has launched an Open Community version of its award-winning Cordys Process Factory On-Demand platform for developing and executing process enabled mashup applications (MashApps).

Alin Irimie’s Amazon vs. On Premises Price Calculator post of 1/28/2009 includes a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet that offers comparative monthly cost data for running a 24-instance server cluster with SQL Server on premises versus on Amazon Web Services EC2, S3, and SQS.

Importing the spreadsheet into Excel 2007 didn’t reveal formulas for the arbitrary constant values. Considerably more explanation is required for rounded on-premises costs, such as Rent/Power = $1,000/month and IT Support = $4,000/month.

Jim Liddle’s The Economics of Cloud post of 1/23/2009 uses James Hamilton’s detailed Cost of Power in Large-Scale Data Centers post of 11/28/2008 to compare costs of 50,000 nodes on premises or an extra-large EC2 instance on AWS. You can read more about this comparison in my Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 1/19/2009 post.

Until Microsoft releases an Azure Platform Services price list (expected in 2009H2), on-premises-to-Azure comparisons are moot.

Phil Wainwright analyzes Oracle’s newly reduced monthly per-seat charge for its SaaS CRM OnDemand application in his Oracle puts a price on single-tenancy post to the ZDNet Software as a Service blog of 1/27/2009. The former multi-tenancy price was US$ 70 per seat-month with a US$ 55 per seat-month surcharge for a single-tenancy subscription. The new single-tenancy surcharge is US$ 20 per seat-month with a minimum of 350 seats, which corresponds to US$ 7,000 per server-month.

BrightTALK’s BrightTALK Hosts Cloud Computing Summit post of 1/26/2009 announces an online conference about cloud computing to be held Thursday, 1/29/2009 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. PST. Here’s the abstract:

At this online summit, leading technology experts from around the globe will present webcasts sharing best practices, tips, techniques, and strategies for conducting business in the cloud. Audience members will be able to interact with speakers live by submitting questions and responding to presenter-created votes. The webcasts will also be immediately recorded and viewable on-demand on

And the list of presenters:

  • David Dworkida, software executive for cloud computing at IBM
  • Dwayne Meloncon, vice president of TripWire -- "Practical Steps to Mitigate Security Risks in Virtualization and the Cloud"
  • Eva Chen, CEO of Trend Micro -- "Security in the Cloud"
  • Mike DiPetrillo, principal systems engineer at VMware -- "The Future of Virtualization: Visions of Clouds"
  • Pat Patterson, Federation Architect at Sun Microsystems -- "OpenSSO in the Clouds"
  • Sajai Krishnan, CEO of ParaScale -- "Cloud Storage - The Anatomy of a Cloud: Public and Private"
  • Sam Charrington, vice president of Appistry -- "The Cloud Platform Landscape"
  • Scott Blomquist, CTO at Vidoop -- "The Importance of Authentication in the Cloud"
  • Tarry Singh, founder and CEO of Avastu; technology evangelist -- "Cloud Computing: The New New Deal"
  • Vik Chaudhary, vice president of product management at Keynote

Notice that no one from Microsoft’s Azure group is participating.

Update 2/28/2009: Miko H. Matsumura (@mikojava) said in an @Reply to my Twitter request for the date on which the video archives will be available: “I need to get the video imported and edited, maybe next week?”

You can access the conference (when Miko gets the video organized) at