Monday, February 16, 2009

Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 2/9/2009+

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 2/15/2009 9:00 AM PST: Minor edits and additions
• Updated 2/16/2009 9:00 AM PST: Added James Urquhart’s critique of the “Berkeley Cloud Report” and David Linthicum’s podcast on same

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

Neil Kidd shows you Easy messages in Windows Azure on 2/14/2009 with a class that wraps and adds extra functionality to the queue in the StorageLib sample in the Windows Azure SDK and offers these added features:

    • Strongly typed access to the queue.
    • Warning when you forget to remove a message from the queue.
    • Automatic serialization/deserialisation of the message content.
    • Hooks to provide poison message detection and handling

Jim Nakashima explains Deploying a Service Package from Cloud Storage with “a new version of the Azure Services Development Portal” on 2/13/2009. The ability to upload the package and configuration files to an Azure Storage Services blob and deploy it from there can save you much time with large projects.

Alin Irimie’s strangely titled Debugging Tips For Windows Azure Applications post of 2/11/2009 offers a screencast by Bill Lodin that shows you “how to use queues to facilitate communication between Web and Worker roles in Windows Azure.”

Dominic Green shows you how to pass more DateTime objects in messages to Worker Roles in his Passing Objects via the Azure Message Queue post of 2/7/2009.

Umair Khan Jadoon’s How to create and deploy a simple “Hello World” application on Windows Azure post of 2/9/2009 is a fully illustrated tutorial for getting started with an Azure Web Cloud Service in VS 2008.

SQL Data Services (SDS)

See the Azure Issue Tracker post in the Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses section. 

The Azure .NET Services/SDS team has suspended processing new accounts until they add more capacity, according to their Temporarily Suspending New .NET Services and SQL [Data] Services Account Provisioning post of 2/13/2009.

.NET Services: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

See the Azure Issue Tracker post in the Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses section. 

The Azure .NET Services/SDS Team has suspended processing new accounts until they add more capacity, according to their Temporarily Suspending New .NET Services and SQL [Data] Services Account Provisioning post of 2/13/2009.

Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses

Steve Marx says the Wait Times for Windows Azure Tokens are now about 10 to 14 days.

However, the Azure .NET Services/SDS Team has suspended processing new accounts until they add more capacity, according to their Temporarily Suspending New .NET Services and SQL [Data] Services Account Provisioning post of 2/13/2009.

Bill Lodin’s Windows Azure Log Viewer is a new WPF app for reading Azure log files. It’s similar to David Aiken’s Windows Azure Online Log Reader but has a nicer UI.

Azure Evangelists has posted on CodePlex their Azure Issue Tracker application that they say:

Demonstrates a real-world SaaS architecture and scenario using the Azure Services Platform to perform federation and multi-tenancy. Technologies used include the Access Control service (part of .NET Services) as well as SQL Data Services (part of SQL Services).

The app has the following pre-requisites:

If you install the source code, be sure to read the instructions on CodePlex and in the ReadMe.txt file for setup and deployment instructions. You’ll also need to redeem an SDS token for data storage.

The Azure Team released eight six new Windows Azure "How Do I" and two Live Framework videos on 2/11/2009:

  1. How Do I: Deploy a Windows Azure Application? (00:07:24)
  2. How Do I: Get Started Developing on Windows Azure? (00:05:29)
  3. How Do I; Store Blobs in Windows Azure Storage? (00:20:24)
  4. How Do I: Leverage Queues in Windows Azure? (00:12:00)
  5. Debugging Tips for Windows Azure Applications (00:07:24)
  6. How Do I: Store Data in Windows Azure Tables? (00:15:37)
  7. How Do I: Get Started with .NET Services? (00:11:01)
  8. How Do I: Harness the Microsoft .NET Service Bus? (00:13:28)

Live Services

  1. How Do I: Get Started with the Live Framework? (00:15:46)
  2. How Do I: Use the Microsoft Live Framework Resource Browser? (00:15:37)

Keep an eye out here for new additions.

Azure Infrastructure

• Sam Gentile’s Late Night Notes on Windows Azure post of 2/14/2009 contains “my notes on learning Azure and trying to keep things straight.” Sam adds his stamp of approval:

More to come....I'm really digging this stuff! [Emphasis added.]

• Sam continued adding more Azure notes in his More Notes on Windows Azure - Part 2 post of 2/15/2009 describes the differences between Web Roles and Worker Roles and how they communicate with each other and the network.

The Azure Team posted the transcript, Webcast and PowerPoint slides for Doug Hauger’s recent presentation to the Thomas Weisel Partners 2009 Technology & Telecom conference in its A Discussion of Windows Azure Strategy post of 2/13/2009.

Here’s your chance to find out first hand what Doug, who’s Microsoft’s General Manager for Business Strategy, has to say about the business case for and issues with Windows Azure.

Dave Graham’s Private Clouds & Storage: Considerations post of 2/13/2009 continues his concept of a common cloud file system or cFS initiative and points out that:

[Y]ou can have a portable file environment that is completely insulated from others within a global NOC.  This concept of a “private cloud file system” can obviously be coupled to an insulated processing/grid service as well (i.e., what a basic definition of a “private cloud” could be construed to be).

Dave’s earlier Cloud Optimized Storage Solutions: Part 3b - Service Level Agreements post of 2/12/2009 discusses Data Storage, Data Access, Expendable Data (for storage reclamation), and Critical Data SLAs.

And his Shared Filesystems in the Cloud post of 2/11/2009 observes:

[The C]oncept … that most hypervisors (notably VMware and [soon] Hyper-V) have a clustered file system that is used to extend the capabilities of a group of hypervisors into such things as dynamic resource sharing, failover/failback, HA, etc. The natural extension of this, when looked at from a longitudinal viewpoint, is extending the same basic model into the cloud. [Emphasis added.]

Mike Amundsen concludes in his MSFT-Amazon-GAE: and the future is? post of 2/13/2009 that “right now there are three serious players in the [cloud computing] mix. and, IMO, only one actually 'gets it.'” He then goes on to compare:

    • Amazon = big iron in the cloud
    • Microsoft Azure = enterprise software in the cloud
    • Google App Engine = the cloud

Michael Armbrust, Armando Fox, Rean Griffith, Anthony D. Joseph, Randy H. Katz, Andrew Konwinski, Gunho Lee, David A. Patterson, Ariel Rabkin, Ion Stoica and Matei Zaharia joined forces to write Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing, Technical Report No. UCB/EECS-2009-28 from UC Berkeley’s EECS Department. Here’s the abstract:

Provided certain obstacles are overcome, we believe Cloud Computing has the potential to transform a large part of the IT industry, making software even more attractive as a service and shaping the way IT hardware is designed and purchased. Developers with innovative ideas for new interactive Internet services no longer require the large capital outlays in hardware to deploy their service or the human expense to operate it. They need not be concerned about over-provisioning for a service whose popularity does not meet their predictions, thus wasting costly resources, or under-provisioning for one that becomes wildly popular, thus missing potential customers and revenue.

Moreover, companies with large batch-oriented tasks can get their results as quickly as their programs can scale, since using 1000 servers for one hour costs no more than using one server for 1000 hours. This elasticity of resources, without paying a premium for large scale, is unprecedented in the history of IT. The economies of scale of very large-scale datacenters combined with ``pay-as-you-go'' resource usage has heralded the rise of Cloud Computing.

It is now attractive to deploy an innovative new Internet service on a third party's Internet Datacenter rather than your own infrastructure, and to gracefully scale its resources as it grows or declines in popularity and revenue. Expanding and shrinking daily in response to normal diurnal patterns could lower costs even further. Cloud Computing transfers the risks of over-provisioning or under-provisioning to the Cloud Computing provider, who mitigates that risk by statistical multiplexing over a much larger set of users and who offers relatively low prices due better utilization and from the economy of purchasing at a larger scale.

We define terms, present an economic model that quantifies the key buy vs. pay-as-you-go decision, offer a spectrum to classify Cloud Computing providers, and give our view of the top 10 obstacles and opportunities to the growth of Cloud Computing.

This detailed and scholarly analysis, which primarily covers Amazon Web Services, Windows Azure and Google App Engine is a welcome change from the cloud computing hypemeisters who contribute much of this blog’s content.

You can watch a You Tube video of professors Armando Fox, Anthony Joseph, Randy Katz and David Patterson discussing some of the ideas in the paper here.

Krishna Sankar isn’t as taken with the report as I am. His A Berkeley View Of Cloud Computing : An Analysis - the good, the bad and the ugly would give the report an A+ as an undergraduate effort but he grades the report from “eminent academics” as a C- effort.

• Reuven Cohen’s Comprehension of Cloud Subjectivity post of 2/15/2009 is a critique by a cloud computing “thought leader.”

•• James Urquhart’s Berkeley cloud report gets mixed reviews post of 2/15/2009 calls the group’s Cloud Computing definition “controversial” and agrees with Krishna Sankar, whom he calls “a very smart DE at Cisco.” He also cites Reuven Cohen’s post.

•• David Linthicum’s Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing podcast of 2/15/2009 “reviews, and comments on, the recent cloud computing report from Berkeley.” Dave points out that the paper presents an excellent business case for cloud computing.

Howard Van Rooijen complains on 2/10/2009 about Windows Azure’s Hazy Terminology in his attempt to unravel:

[T]he overlap of functionality between Windows Azure Storage and SQL Data Services (SDS) – why are Microsoft offering two different data base solutions in the cloud, that have so many overlapping features? Which one should I use? What are the benefits of the two different systems? I know I was asking these questions – especially as I was quite familiar with SDS – thanks to our very own Jamie Thomson.

Cloud Computing Events

•• IDC Cloud Computing Forum, 2/18/2009 8:30 AM, Stanford Court Renaissance Hotel, 905 California Street, Nob Hill, San Francisco. Details at

Jeremy Geelan lists 2nd International Cloud Computing Conference & Expo: Themes & Topics in his 2/14/2009 post that provides a “round-up of the Cloud Computing themes & topics being discussed March 30-April 1, 2009, in New York City.”

Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

Markus Klems fluid Operations offer SAP deployment in the Cloud post of 2/12/2009 recommends that you keep fluid Operations on your radar because “they use VMware ESX and NetApp to deploy SAP applications in an enterprise cloud environment,” which lets you “provision new systems on demand as your business grows.”

Intuit expands its Intuit Workplace Web-based add-ins for QuickBooks and QuickBase that it claims offer:

    • One single log-in for all apps
    • Use as many or as few apps as you need for your business
    • Access your data anytime, anywhere

and its Intuit Partner Platform, which the company describes as “the platform-as-a-service from IDN.”

IBM captured most of the attention early in the week with new cloud services announcements in conjunction with the IBM Pulse conference.

Krishnan Subramanian analyzes IBM’s new Amazon Web Services AMIs in his IBM Amazon Team Up To Offer IBM Middleware on EC2 post of 2/10/2009. Krishnan reports:

After announcing some cloud related intiatives yesterday, IBM has teamed up with Amazon Web Services to offer IBM middleware products on EC2 running Suse Linux. This includes IBM DB2, IBM Lotus® content management, and IBM WebSphere® portal. This is significant for Amazon as it helps them to position themselves as a serious enterprise player. The AMIs are available in IBM's Cloud Computing Space.

John Foley describes Amazon Web Services As The Center Of The Software Industry in his laudatory 2/12/2009 post.

PR2WEB’s IBM Blue Cloud Initiative Advances Enterprise Cloud Computing press release of 2/10/2009 describes a major promotion by IBM of it’s Blue Cloud initiative, which highlights new cloud customers: Elizabeth Arden, Nexxera, The United States Golf Association, and Indigo Bio Systems. The release also notes:

IBM is today revealing that it will launch a Tivoli Storage as a Service offering through its Business Continuity & Resiliency Services cloud. Beginning later in 2009, clients will be able to consume Tivoli data protection technologies via a cloud and pay for only what they use.

Reuven Cohen’s IBM and Juniper Team Up for Cloud Migration of 2/10/2009 describes the newly formed IBM Enterprise Initiative Group, “which will focus on accelerating adoption of the cloud related technology” and .will be headed by Erich Clementi as general manager [who] will report directly to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano.” According to Reuven:

In a news conference IBM and Juniper Networks jointly demonstrated what they describe as a means of seamlessly migrating workloads over private and public clouds enabling enterprises' existing data centers to seamlessly interact with the public Internet.

[T]hey outlined a plan to use a hardware based virtual private lan which allows any-to-any (multipoint) connectivity in conjunction to a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) system. In case you're unfamiliar with MPLS, it is a protocol agnostic, data-carrying mechanism.

James Urquhart takes IBM to task for the lack of “sizzle” of IBM’s Cloud strategy for Tivoli in his IBM cloud announcement disappoints...again of 2/9/2009:

I looked forward with great anticipation to Gordon Haff's post on Monday covering the Tivoli announcements at IBM's Pulse conference.

Specifically, I was especially interested in what Tivoli was going to offer to support dynamic infrastructure, in part because IBM's cloud DNA holds so much promise, and I have yet to see any magic from them.

I could still be surprised in the coming year, I guess, but right now IBM has failed to capture my imagination when it comes to actual cloud computing products and services. All of which saddens me, because I was truly hoping for more.

•• David Linthicum’s Cloud Computing at IBM Pulse and Avoiding Cloud Mistakes post of 2/12/2009 “talks about his visit to IBM's Pulse conference and how to avoid making SOA mistakes in the emerging cloud computing space.”

John Foley casts a jaundiced eye on IBM’s new offerings in his IBM Drifts Slowly Toward Mainstream Cloud Computing post of 2/10/2009. Foley observes:

Building on its 15-month old Blue Cloud initiative, IBM today introduces additions to its cloud computing portfolio and named new customers and partners. Big Blue's cloud strategy remains focused on the enterprise; customers can't pay by the minute with credit cards, as they can with Amazon Web Services and other general purpose cloud offerings.

Krishnan Subramanian weighs in on IBM’s announcements with IBM Wants Us To Believe That They Are Serious About Cloud Computing of 2/20/2009. Krishnan summarizes:

Today, IBM made a series of announcements, under their blue cloud banner, to make us believe that they are serious about Cloud Computing. It includes

  • A backup and recovery service for desktops and laptops in IBM’s Cloud (using Tivoli)
  • A Secure platform to test Cloud Applications before putting into production systems (Skytap, beware)
  • A partnership with Juniper networks to install public-private hybrid clouds. Depending on the resource needs, enterprises can extend their private clouds to public clouds with a click of a button
  • A new IBM dashboard to manage cloud computing environment
  • Appointment of enterprise cloud computing czar

Paul Miller offers a detailed post-mortem of the Powered buy Cloud conference held in London last week in his Looking back at Powered by Cloud conference post of 2/9/2009. An “unprecentented” snowfall wreaked havoc on the first day’s morning sessions.

Joe Gregorio offers A roadmap update! for the Google App Engine in this post of 2/6/2009. New features in the pipeline are:

    • Support for running scheduled tasks
    • Task queues for performing background processing
    • Ability to receive and process incoming email
    • Support for sending and receiving XMPP (Jabber) messages