Thursday, March 19, 2009

Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 3/16/2009+

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 3/20/2009 and 3/21/2009: Additions
•• Updated 3/19/2009 10:00 AM PDT: Addition of more MIX 09-based content
• Updated 3/18/2009 11:00 AM PDT: Additions: Windows Azure Tools and SDK March CTP update, ADO.NET Data Services 1.5 March CTP update, Sun Open Cloud announcement, MIX 09 content

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

Eugenio Pace’s Windows Azure 101 – Primitives and Application Patterns – Playing Mendeleyev post of 3/18/2009 analyzes how three “code host blocks” (ASP.NET, WCF, and Worker) and three “persistent blocks” (Blob, Table and Queue) combine to create Azure applications.

•• Peter Qian explains how Astoria v1.5 CTP1’s Getting Row Count in ADO.Net Data Services works in this detailed post of 3/18/2009. There’s no information yet from the Azure team about Azure tables support for the $count or $inlinecount query options.

ADO.NET Data Services v1.5 CTP1 download arrived as expected on 3/17/2009. New features are:

  • Row count
  • Feed customization (aka "web-friendly feeds")
  • Data binding for WPF and Silverlight 2
  • Enhanced blob support
  • Server-driven paging
  • A new "Data Service Provider" interface for custom providers
  • Various bug fixes to V1.0 features

Don’t install this CTP in parallel with the "Astoria Offline", Alpha Preview released on 3/5/2009.

Phani Raju’s Introducing Web Friendly Feeds aka Friendly Feeds post of 3/18/2009 explains “feed customization.”

The Astoria team’s ADO.NET Data Services v1.5 CTP1 -- Now Available for Download notes a special forum for CTP issues: ADO.NET Data Services (Pre-Release) which had one announcement and one comment as of this update.

Andy Conrad writes in Astoria v1.5 CTP now available on 3/17/2009 …

This is definitely a green release - with features like server driven paging and streaming blob support which will save you millions of server cycles.  We are planning on having several post on the team blogs explaining these and the rest of the v1.5 features soon.  Also probably some more of our design videos if I can get a spare moment...

For additional details, see Pablo Castro’s Adding support for JSONP and URL-controlled format to ADO.NET Data Services post of 2/25/2009.

David Reynolds posted the latest version of the executable and source code for his Azure Storage Utility for Azure Blobs to CodePlex on 3/16/2009. Here’s a screen capture of its UI showing blobs from the OakLeaf Azure Blob Test Harness demo’s OakLeaf2store container:

Click image for a full-size capture.

SQL Data Services (SDS)

Patric McElroy’s Update from MIX ‘09 post of 3/19/2009 covers the first two days of MIX09. Patric is the General Program Manager for SDS.

Dana Blankenhorn asks Will HIPAA changes torpedo health IT stimulus? in this 3/19/2009 post to the ZDNet Healthcare blog. Dana writes:

The industry [requires paid registration] charged with scaring physicians about HIPAA requirements (and avoiding automation like a plague) has gone into overdrive over changes to the law created by the Obama stimulus.

The stimulus, by the way, is now called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The part dealing with health IT is called Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH — get it?).

In brief, the new act extends the definition of “covered entities” to include all those a physician’s practice does business with — lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc.

So if you’re handing your lawyer patient records (as in a malpractice suit) that exchange of data is now covered under HIPAA. They can’t spread it around as part of your defense.

HITECH also tells all “covered entities” they have to notify authorities if data is lost. Previously only Arkansas and California had this requirement — apparently everywhere else doctors were dropping laptops with patient data into trash cans and keeping it a secret.

MIX 09 sessions start Wednesday with a promise to “knock your socks off” with details of the new relational features of the revamped SQL Server Data Services (SDS) and, hopefully, the story behind last weekend’s Azure hiatus. Coverage of Azure-related sessions will start Wednesday evening. (Copied from “Cloud Computing Events.”)

Anjlab’s SQL Server Express Edition Profiler is an open source profiler for SQL Server Express 2005 and, as of v.0.1.579.63, 2008. According to the firm’s Alex Zakharov:

SQL Server Express Edition Profiler provides most of functionality standard profiler does, such as choosing events to profile, setting filters, etc.

The executable and source code is available from Google Code.

.NET Services: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

No posts of significance as of 3/17/2009 1:00 PM PDT

Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses

Steve Marx provides a link to his Tweval (Twitter + Evaluation) application that he demonstrated in his session at MIX09 in his PHP + ASP.NET in Windows Azure post of 3/19/2009. (He received a 9.7 score for the presentation.) The video is here.

Aaron Skonnard’s Windows Azure Training Courses post of 3/19/2009 announces several new instructor-led training courses focused on Windows Azure:

Aaron says, “All of these courses will also become part of our Pluralsight On-Demand! library by mid-year.”

• Jim Nakashima announces Now available: March CTP of the Windows Azure Tools and SDK on 3/18/2009. New features in the Azure SDK:

    • Support for developing Managed Full Trust applications. It also provides support for Native Code via PInvokes and spawning native processes.
    • Support for developing FastCGI applications, including support for rewrite rules via URL Rewrite Module.
    • Improved support for the integration of development storage with Visual Studio, including enhanced performance and support for SQL Server (only local instance).

New features in the Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 2008:

    • Combined installer includes the Windows Azure SDK
    • Addressed top customer bugs.
    • Native Code Debugging.
    • Update Notification of future releases.
    • FastCGI template

• Jim Nakashima explains the process for Enabling Full Trust to Call Native Code on Windows Azure with PInvoke and how to troubleshoot issues with x64 operation in production services.

Eugenio Pace gets serious with Azure IssueTracker Enterprise - Simple Demos, which offers the following Webcast demos:

    • Provisioning IssueTracker Enterprise
    • Tenant (Contoso_Enterprise) uses IssueTracker Enterprise from a Smart Client (Active Profile)
    • Tenant Manages IssueTracker Enterprise from PowerShell scripts
    • Tenant changes STS configuration issuing different Claims

David Reynolds posted the latest version of the executable and source code for his Azure Storage Utility for Azure Blobs to CodePlex on 3/16/2009. (Copied from the “Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services” section)

Azure Infrastructure

••• Saul Hansell’s Steve Ballmer Maps Microsoft’s Cloud-y Future NY Times article of 3/20/2009 recounts the origin of the following diagram by SteveB: 

As I learned about the Azure system, Microsoft’s new cloud operating system, I started to wonder if it is overly complex. I asked if Microsoft was risking taking on too much, as it did with Longhorn, the operating system rewrite that led to the ill-fated Windows Vista.

“It’s not anything like Longhorn,” Mr. Ballmer said. “And it’s not really that complicated.”

He jumped up, grabbed a marker and drew a big black rectangle divided into smaller rectangles on the white board.

“This is what we look like in the data center,” he said.

Steve B: Please say it isn’t so.

•• Mohit Srivastava describes how to use PHP with Azure in his Using 3rd Party Programming Languages via FastCGI post of 3/18/2009. Mohit notes that there’s a FastCGI Web Role template in the new Azure Tools for VS CTP and IIS’s URL Rewrite Module has been enabled.

•• Ryan Dunn shows you how to Quickly put PHP on Windows Azure without Visual Studio in this detailed post of 3/19/2009.

•• Sriram Krishnan’s Geo Location Enables Developers To Choose Data Centers and Group Applications & Storage post of 3/18/2009 explains new geo-related features coming in April:

  • First, we are now present in two geographic locations rather than one. Previously, we had a presence only in north western United States and we now have a presence in the south. Going forward, we plan on expanding our presence to more locations, especially outside the U.S
  • Users will have the ability to pick where they want to host their sevices and/or their data between these two geo locations (and more in the future). For example, when you create a storage account, you can choose where to host it based on your business needs and the storage systems will do some magic behind the covers to route requests to your data. The same holds true for creating a hosted service account and running code. Both geo-locations support all features of Windows Azure. If you don’t have specific requirements on where you want your code/data, you can choose ‘US- Any’ and we’ll pick a location for you.
  • User can create ‘affinity groups’ to put their storage account and/or hosted services in. This goes to what I said about putting code and data as close to each other as possible. Accounts inside an affinity group will be dealt with as one unit and placed together for connectivity. For example, if you create an affinity group placed in North Western United States and place multiple storage accounts and hosted services in there, we’ll allocate these together in that geographical region, so that all of the accounts will be close together from a network perspective

We plan on expanding our presence to more than just two geo-locations.

•• Mohit Srivastava provides additional details about Hosting Roles Under .NET Full Trust in these scenarios:

    • Invoking non-.NET Code: Many developers have existing investments in native code or may choose to use native code for some specialized tasks.  .NET full trust makes it possible to use native code via spawning processes or Platform Invoke (P/Invoke).
    • Using .NET Libraries that Require Full Trust: Certain .NET libraries, including libraries in the .NET Services SDK, require full trust and can now be used in Windows Azure.
    • Inter-process Communication via Named Pipes: If you application spawns processes, you can communicate among them via named pipes. [Emphasis Mohit’s.]

Eugenio Pace’s Windows Azure 101 – Primitives and Application Patterns – Playing Mendeleyev post of 3/18/2009 analyzes how three “code host blocks” (ASP.NET, WCF, and Worker) and three “persistent blocks” (Blob, Table and Queue) combine to create Azure applications. (Copied from “Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services.”)

• Steve Marx discusses Windows Azure Full Trust and FastCGI (PHP!) in his 3/18/2009 post, which include links to other Azure March 2009 CTP posts. Steve also writes:

In addition, we’re announcing that in the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out the first phase of our support for geo-location. [Emphasis added.]

Check out Steve’s mea culpa for lack of communications during the Azure outage in his What I Learned From the Windows Azure Malfunction post of 3/17/2009.

Dmitry Sotnikov’s Cittio’s Zeppelin analysis post of 3/17/2009 comments on The 451 Group’s “quick report by Jay Lyman on the Cittio’s new monitoring solution for cloud-based systems.”

Phil Glockner liveblogged the South by Southwest (SXSW) Cloud Computing: Defending the Undefinable panel of 3/19/2009 for ReadWriteWeb. Panelists are Kevin Gibbs (Tech Lead & Mgr Google App Engine, Google App Engine), Yousef Khalidi (Distinguished Engineer, Microsoft), Werner Vogels (CTO, On the subject of portability, Phil quotes Yousef:

Yousef said the question has many layers. Azure wants to run any stack that can be run anywhere else. Currently, .NET is supported, but they definitely want to support LAMP and other 'legacy' stacks for easy portability from other cloud services. He also mentioned that support for secure cloud data is important. Finally, he says that data portability (import/export) is very important and something they support. He said though, that developers have to have an eye toward writing 'portable code' to facilitate moving to another service if necessary.

Stacey Higginbotham the panel’s moderator, weighs in for GigaOm with SXSW Cloud Computing Panel: Clouds Still Need Work of 3/17/2009. Stacey’s lede:

Cloud computing and cloud services are real, but this is only the beginning. This was the message the guys who helped build Amazon Web Services, Google’s App Engine and Microsoft’s Azure clouds conveyed in Austin, Texas, this morning at South by Southwest’s only cloud computing panel. It was packed.

Martin Schneider’s SXSW Panel Shows Microsoft Gets Cloud Computing credits Yousef:

Khalidi’s strongest point comes when he notes that some large firms will want to take a hybrid approach to the cloud - hosting some data or apps internally but delivered via the web to users, with other, less critical apps and data hosted outside the firewall. This is the promise of the truly open cloud - a huge variety of flavors of application deployment and development - NOT a single, vertical stack of “take it or leave it” apps and platforms by a few providers.

The panel generated more than its share of Tweets, most of which centered on Azure’s weekend outage (see my Azure Services Outage 3/13/2009 – A Brief History of 3/15/2009.)

Reuven Cohen finds similarities between Cisco's Grand Vision for Unified Computing and his unified cloud interface project (UCI) in this 3/17/2009 post. His earlier Technological Universalism & The Unification of IT post analyzed Cisco's move into server hardware, which he says “makes a lot sense for the traditionally ‘networking’ focused company.”

Cisco’s grand plan, as presented in a 3/16/2009 Webcast hasn’t reached the cloud stage yet, as shown in this Cisco Webcast slide:

It won’t be long, however, until they enable their Unified Fabric for private and public cloud computing. Will partner Microsoft move to Cisco blade servers in their data centers. Read more by Cliif the Fed for Network World in Cisco as a VM provider of 3/17/2009.

Ben Kepes sees "some stirrings in terms of small business SaaS ecosystems” in The Small Business Web - The Rising Tide of Integration of 3/17/2009. “At the SXSW conference, attendees were advised of The Small Business Web, a cooperative currently made up of the following vendors:

Ben concludes: Integration is good, as is enabling efficiencies for small businesses – The Small Business Web is definitely one to watch.

James Urquhart, Sam Johnston and Rich Wellner contributed to the Cloud Computing: Bill of Rights wiki, which looks complete enough to have legs.

Andrew Scott’s Cloud computing for finance firms: Is it compliant? post of 3/17/2009 for ZDNet Asia starts with a reference to Azure and concludes:

Although care will be needed to ensure that the particular issues associated with the deployment of cloud computing are resolved, there is no reason to believe that regulations will pre-empt its use in the financial services sector.

Firms will need to select with caution the applications to be sourced through the cloud, conduct appropriate due diligence on the supplier's offering, and ensure the contract contains sufficient protection. However, as always, the devil lies in the detail.

Reuven Cohen asks Is Cloud Computing Becoming a National Security Risk? and “What would be the economic impact of Google mail going down?” in this 3/16/2009 post. Ruv cites recent posts on the topic and then concludes:

For me the bigger question is, assuming we are moving toward to a fully outsourced computing future, what happens when crucial pieces of communication infrastructures is brought down, either by accident or on purpose? Are we moving toward a future where Gmail is considered critical to the national security of the country? And if this is a reality we may be soon facing, how can governments work to protect these key pieces of cloud infrastructure? Or should they?

Tom Lounibos posits For SaaS Vendors Web Performance is Customer Service in this 3/16/2009 post that observes:

Latency may be one of the barometers to define what we should expect as good service from our web sites. A recent report states that Amazon estimates it loses up to 1% of its potential sales if their site experiences more then 100ms in latency. In another report Google states it loses up to 20% of its traffic to a page if that page takes more then a .5 seconds to load. Then there are actual web site crashes . . . companies like Skype which had a very public outage for 24 hours that caused CISCO stock to drop by 2 points. So latency matters, and now it’s being measured in lost sales.

Tom recommends using scalable, on-demand cloud testing solutions to measure the latency of your Azure services.

Steve Marx explains What Happens When You Deploy on Windows Azure? for those that missed his 2/20/2009 post, a simplified version of Erick Smith and Chuck Lenzmeier’s PDC session Under the Hood: Inside the Windows Azure Hosting Environment.

Cloud Computing Events

•• MIX 09 My Azure-Related Sessions at MIX 09 (Updated) post is being updated with links to Azure-related videos as they’re posted to

Cloud Computing Interoperability Workshop is an all-day workshop entitled "Strategies And Technologies for Cloud Computing Interoperability (SATCCI)" to be held in conjunction with the Object Management Group (OMG) March Technical Meeting.

The SATCCI Workshop will provide leaders in the Federal computing community with an overview of Cloud Interoperability/Portability issues and possible solutions. The Workshop will increase the attendees understanding of this area, will encourage ongoing participation from attendee organizations, and gather feedback on future requirements for open Cloud Computing deployments. This feedback can help guide future Cloud Computing standardization organization deliverables.

Representatives from groups working on Cloud interoperability and portability will be invited to present their approaches at interactive sessions. Invited presenters include the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum, the Open Cloud Consortium, the Open Grid Forum, the Open Group, the Distributed Management Task Force, the Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium, the Object Management Group, and vendors with active interoperability and portability efforts.

Where: Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA
When: March 23, 2009

Tim Grance (NIST Cloud Program Manager) and Peter Mell (NIST Senior Computer Scientist)
will present "Perspectives on Cloud Computing and Standards" at 8:00 to 8:30 AM. You can read a much broader-based presentation about Cloud Computing by Tim, Peter and other members of NIST’s Cloud Computing Research Team here.

Susie Adams, CTO of Microsoft’s Federal Sales organization will present "Interoperability: A Necessary Condition for Success in the Cloud" at 2:00 to 2:30 PM. It should be interesting to see what MSFT’s party line on Azure interoperability will be.

MIX 09 sessions start Wednesday with a promise to “knock your socks off” with details of the new relational features of the revamped SQL Server Data Services (SDS) and, hopefully, the story behind last weekend’s Azure hiatus. Coverage of Azure-related sessions will start Wednesday evening.

Where: The Venetian, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: March 18 to 20, 2009

O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 Expo’s Presentations: Web Operations track offers five sessions, the first four of which cover cloud computing specifically:

  1. Cloud Operations Is The New Killer Job
  2. Infrastructure in the Cloud Era
  3. Operational Efficiency Hacks
  4. Situation Normal, Everything Must Change.
  5. Watching Websites: A Report from the Frontlines of Web Monitoring

Where: Moscone West, San Francisco
When: March 31 to April 3, 2009

Windows Azure Update, What it is & What it isn’t including a Q&A session with three members of the Azure team from Microsoft, along with a session that introduces “UK AzureNET” which is the name of what we hope evolves into UK Azure User Group.

Where: Microsoft London (Cardinal Place), 100 Victoria St, Westminster, Greater London SW1E 5
When: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 from 6:15 PM - 8:30 PM (GMT)

Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

•• John Foley expresses his doubts about Open Cloud after a Sun-IBM merger in his The Problem With Sun's Cloud Strategy post of 3/19/2009:

Many people agree that Sun's cloud software would be a boost to IBM's own cloud initiatives, which seem to be not well understood and/or appreciated. "Perhaps the most important element of the deal lies in Sun's potential for cloud computing," writes BusinessWeek's Steve Hamm in an article headlined, "How Sun Would Help IBM Get Into The Cloud."

However, that assumes that IBM sees it the same way, that Big Blue would make Sun's Open Cloud Platform (comprising Java, MySQL, OpenSolaris, and Open Storage) and Sun Cloud services centerpieces in its own cloud computing strategy, and we have no way of knowing that. Early adopters of Sun's cloud technology and services would essentially be gambling that IBM would carry through on the work that Sun has begun, yet IBM hasn't uttered a word to that effect. (To be fair, IBM hasn't confirmed the acquisition talks, so there's not much it can say about Sun's cloud technology at this point.)

•• Reuven Cohen’s Sun Announces Open Cloud Platform & API post of 3/19/2009 analyzes Sun’s Open Cloud Platform’s architecture. Ruv is a member of the Sun Cloud Computing Strategic Advisory Council.

•• Larry Dignan reports for ZD Net with SAS preps cloud computing facility; Bets on on-demand BI of 3/19/2009:

SAS is planning to spend $70 million on a cloud computing facility at its Cary, N.C. headquarters as it expands its on-demand offerings. SAS seems to be making a big bet on business intelligence software in the cloud, a concept that isn’t expected to get a lot of traction.

His article includes a substantial amount of detail from a Forrester report on the SaaS market. This should be an interesting read for the SDS team, who are reported to be planning business intelligence as an new Azure service.

• Nicholas Kolakowski’s Sun Microsystems' Open Cloud Platform Is a Challenge to Microsoft, Google article of 3/18/2009 for Nick writes:

Sun Microsystems used the March 18 opening of the CommunityOne open developer conference to announce its upcoming Sun Open Cloud Platform, a set of core technologies, APIs and protocols that the company intends to proliferate throughout private and public clouds in the coming years.

In addition, Sun also announced the Sun Cloud, its first public cloud, intended for use by the enterprise, students, developers and others. It is already being used by Sun internally.

Armando Fox reports on Cloud computing in education at UC Berkeley:

This year we offered a more advanced version of the course that introduces students to the challenges of SaaS operations (scalability, availability, etc.) using cloud computing, with a generous donation of AWS credits from Amazon. I wrote a short article for Berkeley's IT newsletter on why we did this and what our experiences were. It turns out that besides being easy to administer, utility computing was a great fit for the bursty demand associated with a lab/project intensive course. Amazon will be expanding its support for cloud computing in education soon, and I'm sure we will be looking at moving other courses to cloud computing as well.

John Markoff observes that Computer Science Programs Make a Comeback in Enrollment (for the first time in six years) in his 3/17/2009 post for the NYTimes.

Jonathan Siegel’s AWS "sucks the air out of the room." Cuts EC2 costs by 50% post of 3/14/2009 answers the question:

Why is it we don't write our own operating systems, but we run our own datacenters

with a pair of detailed decision tables.