Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Windows Azure and SQL Azure Billing System Snafu on 1/4/2010: Epic FAIL!

The Azure Services team specified Monday, 1/4/2010, as the date for creating new commercial accounts for Windows Azure storage, compute, and AppFabric services, as well as SQL Azure databases, with various introductory offers.

Update 1/5/2010 9:00 AM PST: Introductory MSDN Premium Offer is now available from the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal (MOCP) via the MSDN Subscriptions My Account Page.

The process is tricky, so I’ve written an illustrated tutorial blog post: How to Create and Activate an Introductory MSDN Premium Windows Azure and SQL Azure Account Upgrade of 1/5/2010.

See other updates and new comments below.

(This blog title wording was changed from “Kaput” to “Snafu” because it is now possible, but not easy, to obtain the MSDN benefit account.)

1. At about 8:00 AM I attempted to find instructions for creating accounts with the Introductory MSDN Premium Offer on the Windows Azure and SQL Azure team blogs. Neither blog contained posts about the 1/4/2010 account signup process at the time.

2. Next, I logged into the Windows Azure Developer Portal, clicked my PDC08 CTP Project link, and clicked the Account tab, which contained only Tokens, API Certificates, Affinity groups and Support Information topics. The page said nothing about upgrading my PDC08 CTP project or creating a paid Windows Azure Account.

3. I clicked the SQL Azure link, opened my SDS-Only CTP Project account, and searched for any evidence of commercial account availability. No joy.

4. I then noticed a small “Billing” link in the upper right corner of the Portal page:

Clicking the link led me to the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal. I signed in with my Windows Live ID, searched MOCP Online Help with the term “Azure” and selected the “Get Started with the Windows Azure Platform” topic. I followed the instructions, but was unable to find the reported Windows Azure Platform item under the Services Filter heading. Only Business Productivity Online and Microsoft Office Live Meeting services were available for selection. Dead end.

5. I sent MOCP Customer Support a message asking about the discrepancy between their online help and reality. I received three identical Thank You emails without an answer to my question.

6. I searched Twitter with #Azure and #SQLAzure hashtags and found one other user who reported a similar problem.

7. My Twitter searches revealed that David Robinson had announced Major Momentum for SQL Azure – Upgrade your account today in a 1/4/2010 9:36 AM post to the SQL Azure team blog, which contained the following paragraphs:

Upgrade today: Starting today you can upgrade your Community Technology Preview (CTP) accounts to paid commercial subscriptions. If you upgrade your CTP accounts during the month of January, 2010, all Windows Azure platform usage incurred during this month will be at no charge. You will also have full visibility during this month to your Windows Azure platform usage. Billing and SLAs for all commercial accounts will begin on February 1st, 2010. The Windows Azure platform blog covers all of the updates.

To upgrade your CTP accounts: Please visit our offer page and select the offer of your choice.  When you purchase the selected offer, you will need to sign in with the same Windows Live ID as that associated with your CTP accounts. If you wish to purchase a new commercial subscription but NOT upgrade your existing CTP accounts, please utilize a different Windows Live ID other than the one used with your CTP accounts when ordering or remove all applications and data associated with your CTP accounts prior to sign up.

8. There is no way to select the “offer of your choice” from the offer page. All you can do is read about the offers. Links to MSDN and Partners pages list various discounted offers but don’t exhibit the capability to create new or update existing accounts. More dead ends.

All I can say about the promised Windows Azure and SQL Azure account upgrade process so far is: EPIC FAIL!

Perhaps a member of the Azure team can explain whatever Byzantine process for establishing a commercial account and upgrading existing projects.

In the meantime, Windows Azure users are reporting that their storage accounts are missing from the the Developer Portal. Per Steve Marx in the Windows Azure Forum at about 11:00 AM:

Users are currently unable to view existing storage accounts in the Windows Azure portal or to create new storage accounts.  Existing storage accounts are still online and functioning properly; they’re just not visible in the portal.

We’re actively investigating this issue and will post updates as we know more.

I’ll update this post as more events transpire.

Update 1/4/2010, 4:00 PM: Received three messages (original and two duplicates) from MOCPSupport’s Janet Lopez saying she confirmed my results and “forward[ed] this matter to [her] Management Team for assistance.” She promised to get back to me when she receives “an update.”

Update 1/45/2010, 5:00 PM: Another Twitter user reports “Azure commercial account sign up nowhere to be seen and no word on team blogs, despite blogs saying one can signup” in this tweet.

Update 1/5/2010, 9:00 AM: Receive three of the following messages from Janet Lopez at 1/4/2010 6:05 PM:

Thank you for patiently waiting for a resolution on this Service Request.

I apologize that it took a bit longer than anticipated to add the options within our Customer Portal. However, they are available now and the "Windows Azure" option is now under the "Service Filter"option. Please verify that you were able to subscribe to our Windows Azure subscription.

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