Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 2/23/2009+

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 2/24/2009 9:00 AM PST: SDS to receive more SQL Server features
• Updated 2/25/2009 5:00 PM PST: Additions

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

•• Jaikumar Vijayan reports that World Privacy Forum claims that cloud-based services may pose risks to data privacy in this 2/25/2008 ComputerWorld post. Jaikumar writes:

The report runs counter to comments made last week at an IDC cloud computing forum, where speakers described concerns about data security in cloud environments as overblown and "emotional." But the World Privacy Forum contends that while cloud-based application services offer benefits to companies, they also raise several issues that could pose significant risks to data privacy and confidentiality.

•• Andrew Brodie demonstrates programming Azure Queue Services with Iron Python in his Get in the Queue, your locks don't work here post of 2/26/2008. His earlier Azure Table Storage in IronPython post of 2/20/2009 did the same for Table Services. Import AntiGravity and I'll see you on Cloud Azure of 2/21/2009 demos creating tables with Iron Python.

Brian H. Prince’s Azure Tables are for Squares in the Cloud post of 2/20/2009 provides an overview of Azure’s Table data storage (without comparing it to SDS.)

SQL Data Services (SDS)

• Gavin Clarke reports 'Full' SQL Server planned for Microsoft's Azure cloud in a 2/23/2009 midnight (GMT) post to The Register. Clarke writes:

The company told The Reg it's working to add as many features as possible from SQL Server to its fledgling Azure Services Platform cloud as quickly as possible, following feedback.

General manager developer and platform evangelism Mark Hindsbro said Microsoft hoped to complete this work with the first release of Azure, currently available as a Community Technology Preview (CTP). But he added that some features might be rolled into subsequent updates to Azure. Microsoft has not yet given a date for the first version of Azure, which was released as a CTP last October.

"We are still getting feedback from ISVs for specific development scenarios they want. Based on feedback we will prioritize features and get that out first," he said.

"The aim is to get that in the same ship cycle of the overall Azure platform but it might be that some of it lags a little big and comes short there after."

For more background and commentary on the subject, see my A Mid-Course Correction for SQL Data Services post of 2/24/2009.

.NET Services: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

No significant new posts as of 2/23/2009 2:30 PM PST 

Live Windows Azure Apps, Tools and Test Harnesses

Robin Wauters describes Microsoft Research’s Social Desktop, which “leverages the Windows OS and Windows Azure” to integrate the Web with users desktops, in a Microsoft Research: A Look At The Intriguing Social Desktop Prototype post of 1/23/2009 to TechCrunch. Robin writes:

Unfortunately, a Microsoft spokesperson told NetworkWorld that Social Desktop at this point is merely a research prototype which will not be a feature in Windows 7, nor will it be available for public use.

Steve Marx’s live Simple Word Search Puzzle Generator Azure project generates puzzles from words you supply in a multi-line text box.

Commenced 2/23/2009; ends 2000 hours later? Are Azure evangelists exempt from quotas?

Azure Infrastructure

•• Orleans Software Platform appears to be the codename for the Azure Fabric Controller and related Azure software, according to Dan Reed, head of Microsoft Research’s new Cloud Computing Futures (CCF) group. For more information, see my Microsoft Research Announces Cloud Computing Futures Group, Orleans Software for Azure at TechFest 2009 of 2/25/2009.

•• My Ballmer Says Azure Will Release at PDC 2009 post of 2/25/2009 quotes Elizabeth Montalbano’s Ballmer: Azure ready for release by end of year InfoWorld post of 1/24/2009.

•• Mary Jo Foley delivers her promised interview with Dave Cutler in “Red Dog: Five questions with Microsoft mystery man Dave Cutler” of 2/25/2009. Cutler answers his own sixth question:

One of the things you did not ask is why aren’t we saying more about Azure and in the process filling the marketplace with sterling promises for the future. The answer to this is simply that the RD group is very conservative and we are not anywhere close to being done. We believe that cloud computing will be very important to Microsoft’s future and we certainly don’t want to do anything that would compromise the future of the product. We are hypersensitive about losing people’s data. We are hypersensitive about the OS or hypervisor crashing and having properties experience service outages. So we are taking each step slowly and attempting to have features 100% operational and solidly debugged before talking about them. The opposite is what Microsoft has been criticized for in the past and the RD dogs hopefully have learned a new trick.

I don’t believe the skunk works approach will work for Azure, as I note in my Dave Cutler Rationalizes Azure “Skunk Works” post of 2/25/2009.

• Mary Jo Foley continues her series on the Azure Services Platform with part II How the Red Dog dream team built a cloud OS from scratch of 2/24/2009, which describes how Corporate Vice President Amitabh Srivastava built the Azure team. According to Mary Jo:

“We said, let’s not try to copy Google or Amazon,” Srivastava recalled. “We said we’d run things very differently.” …

The team decided to build a layer — with pieces akin to what is inside a modern-day operating system — to manage the thousands of Windows Server machines. A “fabric controller” would manage the cloud; a storage subsystem would act like a traditional “file system” for all of the servers; a virtualization layer, derived from Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor, would be at the lowest level between the servers and the rest of the datacenter “operating system.”

Mary Jo’s topic for tomorrow will be “What’s Dave Cutler been up to? … “A Q&A with the father of Windows NT on his role in the Red Dog team.”)

Elise Ackerman’s Ballmer's big bet article of 2/23/2009 in the San Jose Mercury News analyzes Steve Ballmer’s enthusiasm for cloud computing with Azure:

But Ballmer, whose never-say-quit style has been compared to Gen. George S. Patton's, has a plan, and many say it is an audacious one. He has doubled down on the Internet, investing billions in data centers and in a new operating system called Azure that will enable Microsoft to move all its existing software to the Internet and sell it through subscriptions or pay for it with advertising. [Emphasis added.]

I’m not so sure about that last sentence, Elise.

Joe McKendrick writes in his Commentator ‘depressed’ that cloud sounds just like SOA ZDNet post of 2/23/2009:

Stacey Higginbotham, a commentator for GigaOm, recently remarked that a recent HP tutorial on cloud computing was “depressingly similar to the idea of service oriented architecture,” noting that “HP offered clouds as merely a means to deliver IT as a service inside the enterprise.”

Joe argues “that SOA is the private cloud, and the public cloud is one massive SOA. Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me.” He concludes:

Plus, there are still reasons for enterprises to be nervous about cloud computing. There are issues with a lack of portability and vendor lock-in — “yet another reason that enterprises may want to keep their data out of the clouds for a bit longer.”

Joe also quotes Phil Horvitz, CTO of Apptis in his SOA will accelerate cloud computing — here’s why post of 2/23/2009:

“SOA is not required to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, but well-designed architectures will require less work for them to be cloudified.  From this perspective I see SOA as an enabling technology that will accelerate migration to the cloud. Going forward, I think the dream for enterprise architects is to be able to design systems using loosely coupled SOA services on one or more clouds and to pull them into a single, unified, homogeneous application without regard or concern for whose cloud they run on.”

Dominic Green blogs on 2/23/2009 that this animated Cloud Computing Explained… video “… gives a nice simplified explanation of cloud computing in ‘plain English’. Covering the basics of scalability, XaaS, and Utility computing.”

I agree wholeheartedly with his characterization.

Lori MacVittie takes on the growing interest in cloud computing standards for interoperability in her Approaching cloud standards with end-user focus only is full of fail post of 2/23/2009 to the F5 blogs. Lori leads off with:

If you’re looking at standardization and interoperability efforts only as they relate to providers or end-users then you’re not thinking long term nor are you really considering the potential of cloud computing and virtualization to revolutionize data center architectures. In a nutshell, if you equate “cloud” with “providers like Amazon and Google” then you don’t really get the big picture

Gary E. Smith posted this press release, Citrix Extends 20-Year Partnership with Microsoft into Server Virtualization with “Project Encore”, which announced Citrix Essentials™  for Microsoft® Hyper-V™, on 2/23/2009. Starting at $1,500 per physical server, Citrix Essentials for Hyper-V provides:

  • Advanced Storage Integration using Citrix® StorageLink™ technology makes it easy for Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center customers to fully leverage all the native power of their existing array-based storage systems.
  • Dynamic Provisioning Services lets customers centrally manage a common set of master images, which can be streamed on-demand into Hyper-V virtual machines or physical servers.
  • Hypervisor Interoperability makes it easy for customers to manage virtual machines across heterogeneous Hyper-V and XenServer™ environments.
  • Automated Lab Management enables Hyper-V customers to develop, test, and deliver applications faster by automating and simplifying the entire virtual machine lifecycle, including movement across virtualization platforms.

How this will affect Azure, and especially cloning Azure to create private clouds, isn’t clear yet.

James Niccolai gives his take on the Citrix announcement in his Microsoft, Citrix join forces against VMware post of 2/23/2009 for IT World. Keith Ward does the same for Redmond Developer News with his Citrix, Microsoft Take Aim at Enterprises with Essentials post of the same date.

This story was overshadowed by news that Citrix is launching a free version of XenServer as announced in Larry Dingan’s It’s official: Citrix aims to blow up enterprise virtualization pricing and Citrix to offer free XenServer; Takes shot at VMware posts of 2/23/2009.

Scott Lowe’s It’s Official: XenServer Available for Free post of the same date offers additional technical details. Forrester Research analyst James Staten offers his opinions in Red Hat and Citrix ratchet up open source virtualization relevancy.

Mary Jo Foley’s Red Dog: Can you teach old Windows hounds new tricks? (Part 1: It’s not just about Windows any more of 2/23/2009) answers these questions posed by Mary Jo:

What led Microsoft — which has spent a good part of the past decade-plus protecting the Windows franchise at the expense of the Web — to finally create an infrastructure that would support not just Windows developers, but also Web programmers?

And how did a company known for its slipping dates more than making its shipping dates manage to build a cloud-computing platform that developers could begin test-driving in less than two years?

She promises, “Over the course of this week, I’m going to be publishing a post a day about Red Dog.”

Cloud Computing Events

Whose Cloud Is It Anyway? is TechCrunch’s roundtable on cloud computing scheduled for Friday, February 27, 2:30 - 6:30 pm at Microsoft’s Mountain View Conference Center, 1065 La Avenida St, Building 1, Galileo Auditorium, Mountain View, CA 94043. The schedule:

  • 2:30 - 3:15 Product Pitches: Three product pitches from early-stage enterprise focused start-ups. Feedback from panel of experts.
  • 3:30 - 5:00 Roundtable Discussion: The cloud is many things to many people. It is a a data center in the sky, a platform for a new bread of enterprise apps, a way to bring Web-scale computing to businesses small and large.
  • 5:00 - 6:30 MeetUp Reception and Demo Tables

The all-star roundtable (expanded to include Amazon’s chief technology officer Werner Vogels, Ning CEO Gina Bianchini, Facebook VP of Engineering Mike Schroepfer, and Jon Engates, CTO of Rackspace according to Erick Schoenfeld’s Amazon, Ning, Facebook, And Rackspace Join Our Cloud Roundtable post of 2/19/2008):

Roundtable Moderators:

  • Erick Schonfeld, co-editor TechCrunch
  • Steve Gillmor, editor TechCrunchIT

Get tickets here via Eventbrite: $75 each based on availability.

Dmitri Sotnikov will present an Active Directory, User Identity and Azure/BPOS for IT Professionals session at The Experts Conference (TEC) for Directory & Identity to be held at the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Casino in Henderson, NV on March 22 – 25, 2009. Here’s his abstract:

In this session we will dive into identity management, federation and sign-on process for Windows Azure and Microsoft’s BPOS products such as Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. How do you set up federation between your existing Active Directory and these “cloud” applications? Which options do you have? How does authentication actually happen? How much of the infrastructure and management effort can be shared across these applications and how much is application-specific?

BPOS = Business Productivity Online Suite and Henderson is a suburb of Las Vegas.

Danny Kim’s Implementing an Identity-Based Solution using Microsoft's Cloud Based Infrastructure is also on the TEC-D&I agenda:

Microsoft’s new Cloud based infrastructure provides the building blocks for hosting scalable and highly available services for Corporations, ISVs and developers to leverage all of the hardware and software of a global datacenter. This session will cover the main components of building an application for the Cloud along with additional complementary building block services Microsoft will have released such as Identity and Access services, services (Internet Service Bus), Workflow Services, Database Services, etc. To tie the pieces together, the session will cover the mechanics of building a live service running on Microsoft's Cloud infrastructure.

TEC-D&I is the new name of the former Directory Experts Conference.

Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

Aaron Ricadela’s VMware Raises the Cloud-Computing Ante article for Business Week’s Technology section carries a “VMware joins Microsoft, Google, and Amazon in the race to help build the world's next generation of software” deck. Aaron writes:

On Feb. 24, VMware (VMW) released key pieces of an ambitious new product that's designed to help companies more efficiently juggle complex computing tasks. Dubbed the Virtual Data Center Operating System (VDC-OS), the software creates a bank of computers, storage devices, and networking equipment that a company can tap at will, as computing needs arise—say, during a December spike in Web traffic for an online retailer.

The software, due later this year, reflects VMware's push into so-called cloud computing, which lets a business rely on an outside provider for storage, data processing, and other computing tasks. The idea is that a company can reduce expenses and save time by turning costly computing over to a better-equipped provider. By making the leap, VMware becomes the latest tech company, along with Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOG), and (AMZN), that wants to supply the tools for building the world's next generation of software.

The UC Berkeley Above the Clouds team’s "IBM Software Available Pay-As-You-Go on EC2” post of 2/23/2009 casts a vote for the pay-as-you-go software licensing for IBM’s DB2 database on Amazon EC2. They write:

At Berkeley we believe that at least in the short term, one of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is ease of experimentation. Before today, one could use a cloud service like EC2 to test out multiple operating systems, machine images with pre-configured open-source software stacks, and large-scale experiments (will my software scale to 100 nodes?). The availability of software like DB2, WebSphere sMash, etc from IBM means even more prototyping and experimentation is possible without negotiating long-term contracts or having to go through a complicated setup process. This potential for prototyping and experimentation helps both software users and commercial software vendors.

The same can be said for Microsoft’s SQL Server that’s available per-hour on EC2. Hopefully, Amazon Web Services will move from Windows Server 2003 R2 and SQL Server 2005 to the current versions.

John Foley describes How To Get Started With Storage-As-A-Service in this 2/23/2009 post that uses Nirvanix as an example:

Pay-as-you-go online storage services are a flexible way to deal with exploding data volume. For 25 cents per month, you can rent a gigabyte of storage from Nirvanix. But is that any way to buy enterprise storage?

Foley seems to think so:

As companies get more serious about storage as a service, Nirvanix ratchets up the level of engagement. When I talked to [Nirvanix VP of sales Joe] Lyons the other day, he was getting ready to go into a three-hour meeting with a customer that was in the market for 200-plus TBs of storage. Those in-person meetings cover use cases, data migration strategies, cost, technical nitty-gritty, service levels, and so on.

Terremark Worldwide’s Government Selects Terremark's Enterprise Cloud(tm) to Power press release of 2/23/2009 describes how:

The GSA will leverage the Enterprise Cloud's reliability and agility to dynamically provision highly available cloud computing resources to handle any spikes in online traffic. The on-demand nature of The Enterprise Cloud allowed Terremark to provide the GSA complete access to secure cloud-based computing resources within minutes instead of weeks. Terremark's solution will also supply GSA with industry-leading physical and logical security and robust connectivity to some of the world's leading carrier networks.

Krishnan Subramanian delivers his favorable analysis of the Terremark press release in his USA.Gov Moving To Clouds post of 2/23/2009.

Krishnan describes how enterprises can minimize the risks of a Platform as a Service (PaaS) vendor going out of business, using Cogshead’s demise as an example in PaaS, Trusting Beyond Its Initial Hype of 2/23/2009.