Friday, February 05, 2010

Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 2/3/2010+

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

• Updated 2/5/2010: Gary Orenstein: Why Azure Could Help Drive Cloud Revenue in 2010; Dave Kearns: User provisioning: right access to the right people; Bill Lodin: Why Windows Azure?; Brian Ye: SQL Azure Woes; Visual Studio Team: Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio 1.1 (February 2010) Are Available for Download; Windows Azure Team: Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Joannès Vermorel, CEO of Lokad; Jon Oltsik: What type of organizations are increasing their use of cloud computing?; Eric Nelson: Microsoft will be running a ‘Windows Azure’ Workshop at the Cloud Computing Congress – 16th March 2010; Cloud Security Alliance: 10 discussions | 4 news discussions | 4 news articles | 4 Jobs; Jay Heiser: Toxic Clouds: A virtual pig in a digital poke?; Me: January 2010 Uptime Reports for OakLeaf Azure Test Harness Running in the South Central US Data Center (Updated); Me: Updated URLs for Online References in “Cloud Computing with the Azure Services Platform,” Chapters 1 and 2.

• Updated 2/4/2010: Hovhaness Avoyan: Cloud SLAs to Mature; David Linthicum: Is 'cloud computing' hurting cloud computing?; Eric Nelson: Part 3: What are your plans for using the Windows Azure Platform?; Innovation Showcase: Controlling Your Testing Costs with Windows Azure; Microsoft Health User Group: Microsoft HUG Exchange 2010 - Atlanta; Dick Escue and Michael Lock: Cloud Computing Case Study in Healthcare; Jim O’Neill: Azure at Cloud Services Meetup; tbtechnet: Try Windows Azure in February and Win!; Carl Brooks; Microsoft to add Remote Desktop and VM support to Azure; Chris Hoff: Microsoft Azure Going “Down Stack,” Adding IaaS Capabilities. AWS/VMware WAR!.

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

To use the above links, first click the post’s title to display the single article you want to navigate.

Cloud Computing with the Windows Azure Platform published 9/21/2009. Order today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (in stock.)

Read the detailed TOC here (PDF) and download the sample code here.

Discuss the book on its WROX P2P Forum.

See a short-form TOC, get links to live Azure sample projects, and read a detailed TOC of electronic-only chapters 12 and 13 here.

Wrox’s Web site manager posted on 9/29/2009 a lengthy excerpt from Chapter 4, “Scaling Azure Table and Blob Storage” here.

You can now download and save the following two online-only chapters in Microsoft Office Word 2003 *.doc format by FTP:

  • Chapter 12: “Managing SQL Azure Accounts, Databases, and DataHubs*”
  • Chapter 13: “Exploiting SQL Azure Database's Relational Features”

HTTP downloads of the two chapters are available from the book's Code Download page; these chapters will be updated for the November CTP in January 2010. 
* Content for managing DataHubs will be added as Microsoft releases more details on data synchronization services for SQL Azure and Windows Azure.

Off-Topic: OakLeaf Blog Joins Technorati’s “Top 100 InfoTech” List on 10/24/2009.

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

The Azure Support Team’s Azure Table Exception: One of the request inputs is not valid post of 2/3/2010 explains the source of a common exception: an unsupported data type, such as Decimal:

When trying to insert data into an Azure Table, and calling SaveChanges() you may get an exception like:


One reason that you can get this error is if you are trying to insert an unsupported type into a table.  Decimal types, for example, are unsupported at this time.

Tom continues with a list of supported data types: byte[], bool, DateTime, double, Guid, Int32 (int), Int64 (long), and String.

Brad Calder and Andrew Edwards co-authored a 13-page Windows Azure Drive technical white paper in early February 2010. If you plan to work with the Windows Azure Drive (formerly XDrive) beta, be sure to download this Word document. Here’s an abbreviated Table of Contents:

    1. 1 Introduction. 1
    2. 2 Windows Azure Drive Overview. 2
    3. 3 Windows Azure Page Blob as a Drive. 3
    4. 4 Selecting the Guest OS. 3
    5. 5 Windows Azure Drive Local On-Disk Cache. 4
    6. 5.1 Windows Azure VM Size. 4
    7. 5.2 Role Local Resource. 4
    8. 5.3 Cache Directory. 4
    9. 5.4 Per Drive Cache. 5
    10. 6 Using the Windows Azure Drive in an Azure Application. 5
    11. 6.1 Credentials to Access the Page Blob as a Drive. 7
    12. 6.1.1 Account and Key. 7
    13. 6.1.2 Shared Access Signatures. 8
    14. 6.2 Creating and Mounting a Drive Example. 8
    15. 7 How the Windows Azure Drive Works. 9
    16. 8 Usage Patterns and Best Practices. 9
    17. 8.1 Application Drive Allocation, Failover, and Upgrade. 9
    18. 8.1.1 Drive Allocation. 10
    19. 8.1.2 Failover. 10
    20. 8.1.3 Upgrade. 11
    21. 8.2 Snapshotting a Drive and Using Snapshots. 11
    22. 8.3 NTFS Semantics and ChkDsk. 12
    23. 8.4 Using Windows Azure Drive within a Geo-Location. 12
    24. 8.5 Known Issues. 12
    25. 8.6 Troubleshooting. 13
    26. 9 Summary. 13

Dilip Krishnan asks Is OData The Ubiquitous Language For Application Collaboration? in this 2/2/2010 post to the InfoQ News blog:

The Open Data Protocol (OData) specification opens up possibilities to a lot of interesting collaborative scenarios. Some of which are highlighted by Douglas Purdy, Pablo Castro and Jon Udell. “The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a web protocol for querying and updating data. OData applies web technologies such as HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores. …”

In an article, Jon Udell explores the various collaborative use-cases for the Open Data Protocol (OData) specification. He refers to an article in which Pablo Castro explains how aspects of the OData spec can be incrementally implemented...

“OData is designed to be modular and grow as you need more features. We don't want to dictate exactly everything a service needs to do. Instead we want to make sure that if you choose to do something, you do it in a well-known way so everybody else can rely on that.” …

Douglas Purdy mentions one such implementation; and links to the folks at IBM who implemented the specification relying solely on the protocol documentation without ever having to collaborate with people at Microsoft! Also linked in a different post is a screen cast by Pablo that demonstrates the advantages of having a ubiquitous protocol serve as the glue that a wide variety of products in the Microsoft catalog have or will implement; that makes the exchange of data between them much simpler.

Jon Udel also beautifully demonstrates the power of such a protocol. In particular, the example he uses is one in which he filters of a list of bank locations in a certain area code and demonstrates how the OData feed can be consumed in Excel 2010’s PowerPivot to provide data analysis. …

OData (formerly ADO.NET Data Services and Project “Astoria”) and the AtomPub format are the foundation for RESTful Windows Azure data service protocols. 

The WCF Data Services Team explains Server Paging in Data Services in this 2/2/2010 tutorial:

The Data Services team recently released an update to.NET 3.5 SP1 that adds a number of features to data services – we are calling this update Data Services V2. One of the major features included in this update is the ability to enable server paging on a Data Service. In this post, I’ll introduce you to the concept of page limits, I will teach you how to set limits on a service, and finally I will teach you how to work with the partial pages in the data services client.

If you already know what server paging is and just want to enable it, you can skip to part 2. If you don’t care about setting limits on the server and just want to know how to create clients that can work with a service that has paging limits, you can skip to Part 3.

  • Part 1: What are Page Limits? …
  • Part 2: Enabling Paging Limits on a Service …
  • Part 3: Working with Paging Limits on the Client …

Hovhannes Avoyan’s Most Not Interested in Cloud Data Storage quotes a Forrester Research survey:

Another dose of reality for the Cloud Computing industry!

A new survey by Forrester says that just 3% of companies use cloud storage. Worse, the vast majority of firms don’t plan to put data in the cloud. This is the latest shot of poor showings for the cloud, and I have a theory about it. But first, read on:

Forrester interviewed more than 1,200 IT decision makers at enterprises and small and mid-size businesses in North America and Europe. The research company asked IT decision makers if they had plans to adopt cloud storage services such as those offered by Amazon S3, EMC Atmos, Nirvanix, The Planet, or AT&T.

  • 43% said they’re not interested in cloud storage;
  • An equal proportion were interested but have no plans to adopt;
  • 3% plan to implement a cloud storage platform in the next year;
  • 5% plan on it a year from now or later;
  • And, while 3% have already switched to cloud storage, only 1% are expanding an existing implementation.

To me, this reflects issues and concerns that just won’t go away on the part of IT folks and end users, chief among them the need for assurances of guaranteed service levels and security.  Forrester agrees, according to a story about the survey in SF Gate. …

Pat O’Keefe explains Batch deleting entities in Windows Azure Table Services in this 1/31/2010 tutorial:

If you come from the relational database world, where deleting rows that match a condition is simple and well understood, doing the same thing in a key-value store (of which Azure Tables services is but one example) may seem somewhat counter-intuitive. The key thing to understand is that relational is all about sets and key-value stores are all about the entities.

In the case of Azure Table Services the REST API is a dead giveaway - each entity is directly URL-addressable, so to delete an entity, use the DELETE method on the URL of the entity.

This of course means that if you want to delete multiple entities, you have to iterate all the entities you want to delete and call the DELETE method on each one.

Pat continues with a simple example of code to execute the context.SaveChanges(SaveChangesOptions.Batch) method.

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SQL Azure Database (SADB, formerly SDS and SSDS)

•• Brian Ye recounts avoidable SQL Azure Woes in this 2/4/2010 post:

OK, so I was trying to port my existing database schema into SQL Azure, so far I’m encountering some unexpected problems.  Below are some of the steps I took and what I encountered …

To paraphrase Brian’s problems and their solutions:

  1. Using SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) 2008 R2 would have solved his logon and Object Browser problems (see SSMS 2008 R2 11/2009 CTP Has Scripting Problems with SQL Azure Selected as the Target Data Base Engine Type).
  2. Using the SQL Server Migration Wizard (MW) v.3.1.4 would have solved his problems with using SSMS scripts to generate an SQL Azure schema (see Using the SQL Azure Migration Wizard v3.1.3/3.1.4 with the AdventureWorksLT2008R2 Sample Database).
  3. SQL Server MW v.3.1.4 is aware of unsupported T-SQL DDL commands and either fixes them or warns you that you must perform the fixes or provide a workaround.

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AppFabric: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

•• Dave Kearns asserts “Provisioning's efficacy is not limited to employees; it can be used to manage access to business systems for contractors, partners and customers” in his User provisioning: right access to the right people post of 2/2/2010 to the NetworkWorld Security blog:

Last issue we touched on a new definition for identity. Today I'd like to present the definitive view of the first, both historically as well as in the context of adding identity and access management (IAM) to your organization. User provisioning has been called the "killer app" for identity management. It started us down the road to IdM over a dozen years ago. In fact, we almost take it for granted today. But what does it involve, what does it imply, and why does it matter?

Ian Glazer and Kevin Kampman of the Burton Group (now part of Gartner) issued a paper just before Christmas called "Roles and User Provisioning", which unfortunately is behind a paywall. But if you're a Burton (or, presumably a Gartner) client you should have access to it. I don't want to get into roles just now (we'll eventually get back to that subject, though, as we continue to review the fundamentals). But Glazer and Kampman present provisioning in a succinct, yet complete, definition that goes like this:

"Ensuring that the right people get access to the right business resources at the right time, provisioning is the enterprise plumbing that promotes productivity and reduces enterprise risk.” …

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Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses

•• Bill Lodin answers Why Windows Azure? on 2/5/2010 with six 15-minute whiteboard video episodes on

•• The Visual Studio Team announced on 2/1/2010 that the Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio 1.1 (February 2010) Are Available for Download:

The Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio 1.1 (February 2010) page of 2/1/2010 describes the new tools:

VisualStudio2010Logo148pxWindows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio extend Visual Studio 2008 and the upcoming Visual Studio 2010 RC to enable the creation, configuration, building, debugging, running and packaging of scalable web applications and services on Windows Azure. Installation includes the Windows Azure SDK. (Update: For VS 2010 Beta 2 please use the November 2009 release.)

•• The Windows Azure Team posted Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Joannès Vermorel, CEO of Lokad on 2/4/2010:

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to CEO Joannès Vermorel about using the Windows Azure technology platform to deliver powerful forecasting models to Lokad customers. Here's what he had to say:

MSDN: What services does Lokad provide?

Vermorel: Lokad delivers forecasts as a service. Companies send us data, and we return forecasts-in less than one hour, no matter the amount of data. Sales forecasts are especially useful in retail and manufacturing industries to optimize inventory.

MSDN: What was the biggest challenge your company faced prior to implementing Windows Azure?

Vermorel: We developed a set of powerful statistical models that deliver highly accurate forecasts. However, those complex models require 10 times more processing power, and we couldn't keep up with our one-hour delivery goal for the forecasts. We considered adding more physical servers to handle the additional CPU requirements, but the cost was exorbitant and the process was time consuming.

MSDN: Describe the solution you built with Windows Azure to help run your powerful forecast models cost effectively?

Vermorel: Because our developers are familiar with the Microsoft .NET Framework, we were able to move our forecasting service to the Windows Azure platform and take advantage of near limitless processing power. We can deliver 100 times the forecasts with Windows Azure than we could previously-up to 100 million forecasts an hour. …

The team continues with its Q&A format.

• Jon Oltsik claims “ESG 2010 IT Spending Data Results May Surprise You” as he answers What type of organizations are increasing their use of cloud computing? in this 2/1/2010 post to NetworkWorld:

As an analyst, everyone and his brother has sent me their research claiming that large and small organizations are embracing and investing in cloud computing.

Nope. According to ESG's 2010 IT Spending Data, only 12% of SME (i.e. less than 1,000 employees) and enterprise (i.e. more than 1,000 employees) organizations claim that "increased spending on cloud computing" is one of their top ten initiatives for 2010. Obviously, most firms have other priorities.

Okay, 12% isn't a large population but common wisdom (and industry hype) would suggest that these cloud computing pioneers must be on the cutting edge of IT.

Wrong again. Actually, those investing in cloud computing fit a completely different model. It turns out that cloud adoption has a lot to do with:

  1. IT effectiveness. Of those firms that rate their IT organization as "highly effective," 18% will increase their investment in cloud computing. Alternatively, 29% of companies that said that their IT organization "needs improvement" are investing in cloud services.
  2. Cost cutting. Twenty-eight percent of organizations in "major cost cutting mode," and 21% of organizations in "moderate cost cutting mode" are investing in cloud computing. On the other hand, just 12% of firms claiming to be in "cost containment mode" are investing in the cloud.

Forget about burstable processing or massive Hadoop-based apps -- most companies look at cloud computing (and its many definitions) to cut costs or handoff difficult IT tasks to an expert. As such, cloud computing is a perfect fit for industries like State/Local government, manufacturing, and transportation that are cutting IT spending.

• My January 2010 Uptime Reports for OakLeaf Azure Test Harness Running in the South Central US Data Center (updated 2/3/2010) shows substantially different January downtimes in Pingdom (110 minutes) and (9 minutes) reports for my live Windows Azure Table Test Harness project. I have no explanation for the difference.

• My Updated URLs for Online References in “Cloud Computing with the Azure Services Platform,” Chapters 1 and 2 post of 2/4/2010 corrects many of the 32 URLs for online references in my cloud computing book’s first two chapters.

• Eric Nelson continues the series about his UK questionnaire with Part 3: What are your plans for using the Windows Azure Platform? of 2/4/2010:

On January 7th 2010 I kicked off a survey on Cloud Computing and the Windows Azure Platform (Now closed). I promised to share the results which I will do over four posts. This is the third of those four.

Eric reports results for the following questions:

  • Which of these Windows Azure Platform technologies have you already evaluated or plan to evaluate in the next 3 months?
  • Which of these Windows Azure Platform technologies are you already using or plan to use in the next 12 months?

• Innovation Showcase explains Controlling Your Testing Costs with Windows Azure by promptly dropping Windows Azure instances:

Especially in a test environment it is important to make sure that your developers do not leave instances of their application deployed to Windows Azure un-necessarily after a testing session. 

The PowerShell command script in this blog post can be used to quickly un-deploy all the Windows Azure billable resources after a test is run.  Note that it will un-deploy all resources so it should only be used in a pure testing environment.   It will iterate through all the services in your subscription ID, stop any deployed service, and then remove it.

See Ryan Dunn’s post below for additional details. 

• tbtechnet suggests Try Windows Azure in February and Win! in this 2/4/2010 post to the Windows Azure Platform, Web Hosting and Web Services blog:

I came across a new Code Project Windows Azure campaign* today. Code Project ran an Azure campaign back in December ‘09 and there were some nice giveaways then.

Well, Code Project have upped the ante – the giveaways now include a multi-touch laptop.

Check it out here

If you want to get your feet wet checking out Windows Azure and possibly get free stuff this Code Project campaign looks like a no-brainer effort to me.

* Please note: This challenge is from The Code Project and is not a Microsoft offering and is being independently brought to you by a third party company (who is not affiliated with  Microsoft).

Ryan Dunn answers the How Do I Stop the Billing Meter in Windows Azure? question with UI screenshots and a PowerShell script with Azure Cmdlets in this 2/3/2010 post:

This might come as a surprise to some folks, but in Windows Azure you are billed when you deploy, not when you run.  That means we don't care about CPU hours - we care about deployed hours.  Your meter starts the second you deploy, irrespective of the state of the application.  This means that even if you 'Suspend' your service so it is not reachable (and consumes no CPU), the meter is still running.

Visually, here is the meter still running:


Here is when the meter is stopped:


… For those folks that wish an automated solution, it turns out that this is amazingly simple when using the Service Management API and the Azure cmdlets. …

Ryan continues with the PowerShell script.

Michael Coté recounts his Agile Infrastructure – a presentation with a cloud-computing theme in this 2/3/2010 post:

Last night I spoke at the Austin Agile monthly meeting on the topic, broadly put, of how cloud computing starts to effect and benefit Agile software development. While I don’t have a recording (I biffed recording my rehearsal of the presentation, tragically, which I’d usually post here), the slides are above.

Aside from quickly going over cloud computing as it’s understood now, the main points I tried to make were:

  • The cloud discussion so far has been mostly an operations story. While public web companies have spoken to development concerns a bit, the discussion of what cloud computing means for iteration-to-iteration development hasn’t really started as hot and heavy as the talk sys admins get into.
  • You Agile developer types should get more friendly with operations types.
  • Make sure your code works in the “sloppy” nature of cloud computing.
  • Figure out if a PaaS, as weird as it may seem (not “owning” the entire stack), is a better way to deliver to your customers.
  • Look towards user analytics to track what users are actually doing in your application, and feed that back into product management decisions. More far-looking, see if you can do something with the aggregate of that user tracking. Fellow RedMonk Stephen O’Grady generally calls this “telemetry” and writes frequently about it, as in this piece from late 2008. …

Bruce Kyle reports Nike Application Shows Off Windows Azure Features in this 2/2/2010 post:

Check out It’s a five gigapixel “social mosaic” of photos of Air Jordan shoes submitted by fans.

Windows Azure currently supports the following two types of roles:

  • Web role: A web role is a role that is customized for web application programming as supported by IIS 7 and ASP.NET.
  • Worker role: A worker role is a role that is useful for generalized development, and may perform background processing for a web role.

Fans submit photos of their shoes online. Then every ten minutes Azure worker roles create a profile of new photos. The code inside the worker role looks at the colors in the user-submitted picture to decide where is the “right place” in the mosaic for the photo.

Azure Web roles work on the front end in collaboration with Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The Windows Azure Team adds another Azure case study interview to the blog in the Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Conor O'Riordan, CEO at TradeFacilitate post of 2/2/2010:

As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Conor O'Riordan, CEO at TradeFacilitate, about using the Windows Azure technology platform to build the company's premier Web site and the benefits that Windows Azure provides. Here's what he had to say:

MSDN: What services does TradeFacilitate provide?

O'Riordan: TradeFacilitate delivers an online service that enables importers and exporters of excisable [taxable] alcohol products in the European Union (EU) to exchange customs data in a paper-free format.

MSDN: What was the biggest challenge your company faced prior to implementing Windows Azure?

O'Riordan: The EU required us to prove that we could scale up quickly and securely in order to meet upcoming regulatory requirements for paper-free trade data. Because our base of users has to work with government agencies spread across 27 EU member states, we needed a solution that was trustworthy and reliable.

MSDN: Describe the solution you built with Windows Azure to address the need for cost-effective scalability?

O'Riordan: We built a cloud-based version of our primary application that enables EU exporters and their U.S. importers to submit the required data in advance of loading to meet customs requirements. We collate the required trade data from the EU seller and the U.S. buyer and present it to the U.S. importer-facilitating a smooth, cross-border, paper-free trade transaction. We're also using Microsoft SQL Azure for relational storage, in addition to Windows Azure Tables for membership and session state data and Blob Storage for unstructured binary data. …

Read the full story at:

Read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit:

Simon DaviesSample Solution For Running Ruby on Rails On Windows Azure of 2/1/2010 reports:

A few weeks ago I posted about having Ruby on Rails running on Windows Azure.

At the end of that post I promised that the next post I did would be to explain how to get it up and running. I still have not got around to writing that post 

I have had quite a lot of people contact me and ask me for the solution so in order to try and help out anyone who wants to do this I have created a very simple sample solution with some brief instructions and posted it at

I still intend to post a step by step walkthrough of the solution in the near future but in the meantime maybe this will be of some use.

Scott Golightly’s recent 00:22:45 How Do I: Run Java Applications in Windows Azure? video segment carries this abstract:

Windows Azure in an open platform. This means you can run applications written in .NET, PHP, or Java. In this video Scott Golightly will show how to create and run an application written in Java in Windows Azure. We will create a simple Java application that runs under Apache Tomcat and then show how that can be packaged up and deployed to the Windows Azure development fabric.

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Windows Azure Infrastructure

•• Gary Orenstein of GigaOm explains Why Azure Could Help Drive Cloud Revenue in 2010 in this 2/5/2010 article for the NY Times’ “Technology Section”:

Azure, the cloud computing platform that Microsoft rolled out this week, could drive significant cloud revenues in 2010, as the company is more uniquely positioned to serve the needs of enterprise customers than any other large-scale cloud provider to date.

Microsoft has been selling software to enterprises since its inception; it’s in Redmond’s DNA to offer solutions to many of the deepest installed bases in the world. And its well-established focus on the developer community means it knows how to make application development surrounding software platforms work well. Add to that the fact that the company has deep pockets, which means it could afford to give Azure offerings away until it gains momentum.

To get a better sense of Azure adoption and use, I spoke with Grant Leathers, director of enterprise infrastructure, and Andy Lapin, director of enterprise architecture, at Kelley Blue Book, which operates the popular car site As both longstanding Microsoft customers and Azure alpha customers, they have been following Azure developments since the beginning and have a clear, compelling and — I believe — soon-to-be common use case.

The web site serves some 14 million monthly users and requires two data centers. Its preferred method of operation involves running a primary “hot” site, then backing it up with a secondary “warm” site which can be used in disaster recovery scenarios. However, since there is relatively good uptime at the primary site, the secondary site implies dozens of systems that are sitting idle most of the time. So the opportunity to move this entire secondary infrastructure into a cloud service that could spin up or down as needed could eliminate the need for a second physical facility. …

• Christopher Hoff (@Beaker) writes about Microsoft Azure Going “Down Stack,” Adding IaaS Capabilities. AWS/VMware WAR! in this 2/4/2010 post:

It’s very interesting to see that now that infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) players like Amazon Web Services are clawing their way “up the stack” and adding more platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capabilities, that Microsoft is going “down stack” and providing IaaS capabilities by way of adding RDP and VM capabilities to Azure.

Chris quotes Carl Brooks (@eekygeeky)’s Microsoft to add Remote Desktop and VM support to Azure article of 2/3/2010 (see below) and continues:

This sets the path to allow those enterprise customers running HyperV internally to take those VMs and run them on (or in conjunction with) Azure.

Besides the obvious competition with AWS in the public cloud space, there’s also a private cloud element. As it stands now, one of the primary differentiators for VMware from the private-to-public cloud migration/portability/interoperability perspective is the concept that if you run vSphere in your enterprise, you can take the same VMs without modification and move them to a service provider who runs vCloud (based on vSphere.)

This is a very interesting and smart move by Microsoft.

I agree.

Carl Brooks (@eekygeeky) reports Microsoft to add Remote Desktop and VM support to Azure article of 2/3/2010 for

Microsoft has announced plans to add support for Remote Desktops and virtual machines (VMs) to Windows Azure, and the company also says that prices for Azure, now a baseline $0.12 per hour, will be subject to change every so often.

Prashant Ketkar, marketing director for Azure, said that the service would be adding Remote Desktop capabilities as soon as possible, as well as the ability to load and run virtual machine images directly on the platform. Ketkar did not give a date for the new features, but said they were the two most requested items.

"They're very high on our priority list -- they're one of the first things we are going to get done," he said.

Ketkar said that after a year of testing and feedback, including the odd commercial application -- Domino's Pizza runs a Java-based online ordering system on Azure -- more direct control over the infrastructure was the takeaway. That means Microsoft's Platform as a Service (PaaS) is looking much more like Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). …

• Hovhaness Avoyan asserts “Oblicore specializes in taking technical information about what’s going on in your IT environment” in his Cloud SLAs to Mature post of 2/4/2010:

Let’s face it, up until now it seems that cloud providers haven’t been doing such a sterling job guaranteeing the fine print in service level agreements (SLAs) with their customers – given all the recent outages and downtime.

But that could all change with CA’s recent acquisition of Oblicore, the service level management innovator. Oblicore specializes in taking technical information about what’s going on in your IT environment and correlating it with the business-level information held in your SLAs. That business-level information is a way for companies to get an accurate view of what cloud and other service providers are truly delivering. Oblicore’s software is integrated with various third party tools that provide detailed input needed for comparison.

Not only will cloud providers’ ability to deliver the goods on SLAs further promote and solidify development of the cloud, but, according to Data Center Dialog, it will also allow IT executives to play a more strategic role in growing their businesses. At the Gartner Data Center Conference keynote address last December in Las Vegas, VPs Ronni Colville and Donna Scott offered this bit of advice: “Until you become a driver in the alignment with the business, you are not going to be critical to the business – nor to the CEO,” according to the blog. Said Scott: “You have to know what you have and what’s effective” in order to “figure out whether they are the appropriate investments.” …

• David Linthicum asks Is 'cloud computing' hurting cloud computing? and answers “The concept of cloud computing is more than just 'over the Internet,' so using that phrase isn't right, either”:'s Lee Gomes had a very interesting post entitled "Abolish 'cloud computing'!" that raises some interesting questions around the "cloud computing" buzzword: "Doesn't the expression 'in the cloud' sound so much prettier, so much more ethereal than 'over the Internet,' even though they are essentially the same thing? Yes it does, which is precisely why we should stop the cloud-talk right away. "

Gomes makes some good points. Those who've read my cloud computing book know that I'm not enamored with the "cloud computing" buzzword, but it clearly caught on as the way to describe the space -- that is, after the not so successful buzzwords that preceded it, such as Web-oriented architecture (WOA), anything "on demand," anything "as a service," and a blast from the past: application service providers (ASPs). So you go with what seems to stick -- in this case, "cloud computing." …

I came to the same conclusion as David in my item about Gomes’ article in Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 2/1/2010+ (near the end of the “Windows Azure Infrastructure” section).

Stacey Higginbotham asks Can Microsoft’s Azure Find True Blue Developers? in this 2/3/2010 post to the GigaOm blog:

Microsoft on Tuesday said that its Azure cloud computing platform was open for business after more than a year of development. While Redmond may be late to the cloud bonanza, it now has a platform that could become a major force in cloud computing — if it can get developers to trust it. Derrick Harris takes an in-depth look at Azure over at GigaOM Pro (subscription required) to see what exactly Microsoft is offering and how it compares with other clouds.

Derrick is pretty optimistic about Microsoft’s chances to build a developer community for Azure. He said that since Azure offers a platform as a service, a fabric to join public and private clouds, and a robust SQL database, it will meet the needs of many potential customers. From his report:

“What sets Windows Azure apart from the competition is that it tries to be everything to everyone, and often times it succeeds. For example, the sheer variety of languages and frameworks it supports is rare among PaaS offerings, most of which target one language or stack (e.g., Ruby on Rails or LAMP) and build the best possible service around it. This means that Azure might be attractive to developers who really like to experiment or businesses that run various types of applications, but that Azure won’t likely be the best at serving any particular language (except for .NET, of course). It remains to be seen whether PaaS customers will buy into Microsoft’s reputation and relative openness with Azure, or whether they will take their business to the best clouds for their particular jobs.” …

Stacey provides a Competitive Matrix, which compares a few properties of Windows Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Joyent, Google, and GoGrid cloud offerings.

Kyle Gabhart tries Dispelling Common Cloud Myths in this 2/2/2010 post:

Over the past 6 months I have been working with a lot of clients that are either exploring the potential of Cloud Computing, or actively engaging in Cloud initiatives.  As I have worked with these organizations and had countless whiteboard discussions with curious individuals, I have noticed some very common misconceptions regarding Cloud Computing.

  • Myth #1 – Cloud Computing is really just virtualization with a web-based interface put in front. …
  • Myth #2 – Cloud Computing is just a new term for Grid Computing. …
  • Myth #3 – Cloud Computing is just the next generation of Application Service Providers (ASPs) in the form of Software As a Service (SAAS) like, Web-based Email, Twitter, and others. …
  • Myth #4 – Cloud Computing is basically Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) sitting on top of Virtualization. …
  • Myth #5 – Cloud Computing represents a huge security risk, exposing critical enterprise resources and valuable intellectual property in the public domain. …

Kyle explains the reality of each myth.

Randy Bias claims “Hybrid” Clouds are Half-Baked in this 2/2/2010 post:

It’s difficult to throw a stone these days without hitting a so-called ‘hybrid cloud.’ The problem is that the term hybrid, used in this context, appears to mean: “Put any two kinds of clouds together.” In fact, that’s how NIST defines it in their cloud definition document [1]. The problem with this approach is that hybrid, as used commonly, means more than just ‘put two things together’. It means put two things together to make a new thing. …

Hybrid cars have a single kind of new engine & power train that use gas or electricity. It’s neither a gas engine, nor an electric engine; it’s a new kind of engine: a hybrid engine. A hybrid flower is a cross-breed of two flowers, containing the genetic descendent of both parents. It’s neither of its parents, but a new kind of flower that is a combination of both.

As used today in cloud computing, hybrid is abused to mean CONNECTING, not COMBINING two kinds of clouds:

  • Private + public clouds
  • Internal + external clouds
  • Physical servers + virtual servers …

When NIST, VMware, and others apply the term ‘hybrid’ they are referring to connecting two kinds of clouds. Once connected however, the result is still two clouds, albeit connected; not a new cloud that is a union of the parts of the two.

Dana Gardner asserts “The Open Group's Cloud Work Group advances understanding of cloud-use benefits for enterprises” in this Work Group Advances Cloud's Business Relevance post of 2/2/2010:

In many ways, cloud computing marks an inflection point for many different elements of IT, and forms a convergence of other infrastructure categories that weren’t necessarily working in concert in the past. That makes cloud interesting, relevant, and potentially dramatic in its impact. What has been less clear is how businesses stand to benefit. What are the likely paybacks and how enterprises can prepare for the best outcomes?

We're here with an executive from The Open Group, as well as the new co-chairmen of the Cloud Work Group, to look at the business implications of cloud computing and how to get a better handle on the whole subject.

Please join David Lounsbury, Vice President for Collaboration Services at The Open Group; Karl Kay, IT Architecture Executive with Bank of America, and co-chairman of the Cloud Work Group, and Robert Orshaw, IBM Cloud Computing Executive, and co-chair of the Cloud Work Group. The discussion is moderated by BriefingsDirect's Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. …

Dana continues with more excerpts from the discussion.

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Cloud Security and Governance

The Cloud Security Alliance’s LinkedIn Group is becoming more active with 10 discussions, 4 news discussions, 4 news articles and 4 Jobs currently. The group publishes a useful newslettter with links to most popular discussion topics.

• Jay Heiser’s Toxic Clouds: A virtual pig in a digital poke? post of 2/1/2010 creates an analogy between cloud computing and the toxic financial derivatives:

Computer Meltdown?When the global financial services firms melted down in late 2007, much of the blame was attributed to an over-reliance on a highly-leveraged financial abstraction called a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO). As described in a recent blog entry by Gartner analyst Andrew White, Cheap money, sloshing around the place, feeding an insatiable growth in demand for property, by people that had little or no ability to support the creative mortgages on offer, managed by creative new financial instruments that spread risk around the globe. Those ‘creative new’ things melted, leaving behind puddles of toxic loans.

I don’t actually expect cloud computing to experience the spectacular meltdown that the financial service markets did, but I can’t help noticing multiple similarities between that situation and the reliance of today’s enterprise on ambiguous ‘black boxes’. …

Would you buy a new car without actually driving  it, or would you just trust that it will be exactly like the ‘brochure’ on the web site? Would you buy a house without a positive report from a home inspector? Some people do buy pigs in pokes, and sometimes the pig turns out OK, but if my business depended on having a meaty and healthy pig, I’d want to inspect him thoroughly before accepting delivery.  Commercial cloud computing offerings remain undocumented black boxes.  Most of them are actually nested black boxes, and some are a pyramid of black boxes from multiple providers.

Jay includes an interesting list of “multiple similarities.” I recommend his earlier posts about information security and privacy. (He’s a Research VP at Gartner.)

Lori MacVittie claims “The difference between these two performance metrics is significant so be sure you know which one you’re measuring, and which one you wanted to be measuring” in her WILS: SSL TPS versus HTTP TPS over SSL post of 2/3/2010 (SSL = Secure Sockets Layer; TPS = Transactions per Second):


It may be the case that you’ve decided that SSL is, in fact, a good idea for securing data in transit. Excellent. Now you’re trying to figure out how to implement support and you’re testing solutions or perhaps trying to peruse reports someone else generated from testing. Excellent. I’m a huge testing fan and it really is one of the best ways to size a solution specifically for your environment.

Some of the terminology used to describe specific performance metrics in application delivery, however, can be misleading. The difference between SSL TPS (Transactions per second) and HTTP TPS over SSL, for example, are significant and therefore should not be used interchangeably when comparing performance and capacity of any solution – that goes for software, hardware, or some yet-to-be-defined combination thereof. …

This article is germane because SSL is mandatory for SQL Azure connections and optional for Windows Azure data services’ transport.

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Cloud Computing Events

Eric Nelson will present a Windows Azure Workshop, according to the Cloud Computing and Enterprise 2.0 Blog’s Microsoft will be running a ‘Windows Azure’ Workshop at the Cloud Computing Congress – 16th March 2010 press release of 2/5/2010:

Microsoft Corporation, the world’s leading manufacturer of software for business and personal computing, announced today that they will be hosting a workshop presentation on their cloud platform offering ‘Windows Azure’ at the Cloud Computing Congress, taking place on the 16th March at Olympia, London.

Eric Nelson, Microsoft’s Developer Evangelist will be giving an introduction to one of the leading cloud platforms that is at the cutting edge of the Cloud Computing Age. Attendees will learn what Windows Azure is capable of doing and why, how and when you should adopt the Azure platform that went into production on the 4th January 2010.

The workshop session is a must attend for resellers, developers, the IT community and independent software vendors (ISVs) who can explore the potential to increase revenues and decrease its costs. …

The Microsoft Health User Group will hold a Microsoft HUG Exchange 2010 – Atlanta in conjunction with the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2010 conference:

Don't miss this opportunity to participate in eye-opening education tracks that focus on new trends… learn from real-word examples and discuss how the use of specific technologies can improve healthcare delivery in your organization… hear what Microsoft is up to in healthcare IT and much more. The Microsoft HUG Exchange 2010—Atlanta will be held Feb. 28. This one-day event will feature best-practice sharing and knowledge exchange in a highly collaborative setting. See user-driven presentations with new ideas and proven tactics that translate into working solutions.

Register today for this exclusive session featuring industry leaders, Microsoft experts and your fellow Microsoft Health Users Group members in a day of learning, idea exchange and networking. The complete agenda is now available online on the Microsoft HUG Web site. Advance your career and your organization by learning from experts who are advancing the industry. Register today!

• Dick Escue and Michael Lock will present a Cloud Computing Case Study in Healthcare Industry Solutions Session at 9:45 to 10:45 AM on 3/2/2010 to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2010 conference in Atlanta, GA, USA:

Learn about Google’s cloud-computing initiative and hear a compelling case study from RehabCare Group demonstrating the power of today’s consumer-based internet s services for enhancing patient point-of-care information access and decision-making.

  • Familiarize the audience with Google’s cloud computing applications and Google Health initiative
  • Demonstrate how to implement these applications in practice with an actual customer case study
  • Address HIPPA compliance concerns associated with today’s consumer-based internet services

Dick Escue is Chief Information Officer, RehabCare Group, Inc. and Michael Lock is Vice President, Enterprise Sales, Google, Inc.

• Jim O’Neill reports on 2/4/2010 that he’ll present in Boston at the Azure at Cloud Services Meetup on 6/10/2010:

Boston Cloud Services Meetup Next Wednesday, June 10th, I’ll be presenting at the Boston Cloud Services Meetup on the Windows Azure Platform.  This group was organized less than a year ago, but already boasts about 300 members and regularly draws 30 – 40 at each meeting.  Given the emerging nature of cloud technology, it’s a great forum to learn and discuss all aspects of cloud computing within a passionate and interactive group. 

Many of the presentations thus far have focused on Software-as-a-Service and governance/security issues, so I’m looking forward to chatting more about Platform-as-a-Service and what the Windows Azure Platform brings to the table.

The second presentation of the evening will be by Gil Rapaport, Co-founder and President of Viewfinity, which provides a SaaS solution for managing the support and control of desktops, laptops and Windows servers, regardless of worker location.

The meetings are hosted at Aprigo, 460 Totten Pond Road, Suite 660, Waltham, MA, by the Meetup founder Tsahy Shapsa, and begin at 6:30 p.m.

Please RSVP at the Boston Cloud Services Meetup site, so they have an accurate count for pizza and drinks.

Michael Coté will be “speaking along the lines of [his Agile Infrastructure – a presentation] topic at the Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise conference this April:

The Pragmatic Cloud: In the IT industry 2009 was apex of cloud promises and hype. The early, now cliché successes captured everyone’s attention and many vendors turned on a dime to deliver something – anything – with the word cloud in it. At the same time, the aging hype-silos of development like Agile development, rails, open source, and Java were cut back on their meal-rations unless they could connect with “cloud.”

We’re hardly “done” with the cloud, but there are now endless deployment options, taxonomies, technologies, and distractions that are more smoke filled rat-holes than clouds.

This talk deals with the state of things now and how you can take start pragmatically getting along with things in the current, cloud-injected development-scape.

I’m curious to hear more about what developers – “Agile” or not – are finding in their cloud adventures. Leave a comment, or otherwise contact me if you’re up for chatting.

For more information see the Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses section.

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Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

Reuven Cohen provides a partner’s view of Intel’s Cloud Builder Program in his Enomaly and Intel Participate in New Cloud Builder Program post of 2/2/2010:

… The purpose of the Intel® Cloud Builder Program enables easier deployment of cloud solutions. The program provides a starting point to setup, deploy and manage a cloud infrastructure.  The primary goal is to simplify the effort to deploy cloud-based solutions for service providers, hosters and enterprise customers looking to use cloud architectures. The program provides tools and best practices for cloud service providers to create a cloud environment based on a defined software and hardware stack.

Our participation in the Intel Cloud Builder Program aligns closely with our other efforts to enable Service Providers to deliver enterprise-class cloud computing services to their customers. Our work with the Intel Cloud Builder Program will help to accelerate our efforts to deliver a massively-scalable, highly-available, high-security cloud platform to our customers. …

Bob Evans interviewed Marc Benioff in San Francisco for his downloadable Global CIO: The World According To Marc Benioff article for InformationWeek: Analytics:

Behind his competitive zeal and his company's explosive growth trajectory and his high-stakes strategy to position as an unmistakably full-fledged and mainstream enterprise software provider, Marc Benioff has a surprisingly gentle and sympathetic view of customerside companies that are still resisting the cloud.

"People are riding the curve at their own pace, and that’s just the way it is," Benioff said during an interview in his San Francisco office. "That's reality, and it's not necessarily a shortcoming that everybody's not seeing it the same way or jumping on board aggressively. Everybody gets there eventually."

But for traditional enterprise software companies and other IT vendors, Benioff's observations are far from gentle--and we'll get to those in a moment. What struck me most about Benioff's comments relative to the enterprise players was that he based his analyses not on some arcane technical issues or price battles or slogans, but rather on the ability to deliver innovation and change. And how the delivery of those essential qualities can't be achieved with outdated approaches, no matter how much spin or glitzy makeup is applied. …

Table of Contents:

    Benioff On Beating Microsoft And SAP In The Cloud
    IT Scams And Cloud Power

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