October 28, 2008
The most useful write up about Microsoft’s cloud computing play is Mary Jo Foley’s. You can find “Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Platform: A Guide for the Perplexed” here. Her approach is to describe the layers of Azure, highlighting important components like Red Dog, the base operating system. Please, read her write up. It’s an excellent summary. On the other hand, Azure might be a big demo. Click here for this view. The Microsoft Azure splash page is here.
The questions that I have about price, licensing, service level agreements, and deployment data remain unanswered. I watched a couple of videos today, but the Microsoft engineers were too cheerful for me. I tuned the programs out, but I do recall the word “great” being used several times. The layers are not surprising at all. The engineering details about resolving bottlenecks, eliminating manual tasks and moving them to smart software, and getting away from expensive, high performance data center gear are lacking. I remain baffled about SharePoint search running from Azure. In my experience, performance is a challenge when SharePoint runs locally, has resources, and has been tuned to the content. A generic SharePoint running from the cloud seems like an invitation to speeds similar to my Hayes 9600 baud dial up modem. I am taking a wait and see approach. Clouds are wonderful as long as the user has bandwidth, the cloud does not crash, and unexpected software problems don’t make an application sit and wait while the operating system tries to figure out what to do what an unexpected event occurs. Some of the engineering issues are described in the Monsoon paper by Albert Greenberg, et al, which is available from the ACM as 978-1-60558-181-1/08/08. Azure has some interesting engineering short cuts baked into it if this paper “towards a Next Generation Data Center Architecture: Scalability and Commoditization” is accurate.
Stephen Arnold, October 28, 2008