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Just How Expensive is Azure

February 9, 2015

Wondering how expensive it would be to implement Microsoft’s cloud storage solution Azure in your business? The company offers a free download that can help (but only if you’re in the U.S.): the Microsoft Azure (IaaS) Cost Estimator Tool. Here’s the description:

The Azure (IaaS) Cost Estimator has been designed keeping in mind the need to provide the IT manager of next generation organizations the ability to quickly assess running cost of the existing on-premises workload on Azure.

About the tool

1. The tool provides real world machine hardware usage

2. It recommends appropriate Azure instance to match the scanned workload

3. It also generates 31-day cost estimates of running such an Azure instance


1. The tool supports

*Microsoft technologies (Hyper-V, SCVMM)

*VMware technologies (vCenter, ESXi)

*Physical environments (Windows, Linux)

2. Support to A series and D-series Virtual Machines

3. Support to all regions apart from US

4. Price conversion in 24 currencies with the latest prices.

5. It is able to export to Excel/.csv that can be used for discussions with Systems Integration partner or a Microsoft representative

6. No data is sent to Microsoft at any time. All report and profile information resides on the machine where the tool is installed

Value Proposition

1. Can be Installed and a profile scan completed within 15 minutes (can be deployed on a Windows client)

2. Enables a comparison with on-premises running costs (e.g. hardware, power, cooling, building, security, and systems management among others)

Then again, if you just want to know whether Azure will be expensive (but don’t need to know by how much) we can save you some time: the answer is yes, when compared to open-source Elasticsearch.

Cynthia Murrell, February 09, 2015

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

A Microsoft Azure How to PHP Search

February 2, 2015

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing platform and infrastructure that has a variety of functions. If you want to hook up Microsoft Azure Search to your PHP Web site and are at a loss about what to do, then you need to check out this MSDN blog by Nick J Trogh. Simply titled Nick’s Blog, Trogh writes about “all things technical about the Microsoft platform.” He recently posted a guide about how to integrate Azure Search service into a PHP Web site and take advantage of advanced search techniques.

Trogh does not complicate the installation process and includes screenshots for easy reference. He ends with two last pieces of advice:

“In this article we’ve gone through adding search as a service using Azure Search to your PHP website.  In a matter of minutes you can get started and provide your users with a complex search functionality. And as your site gets more traffic, you can easily scale out your search service. Make sure to get started with the Azure Search service and also try out the other application, data and infrastructure services in the Microsoft Azure platform. You can get started for free on Azure or activate your MSDN Azure benefits.”

Azure is turning out to be a decent cloud service and much more favored than Windows 8. It is rare to see that Microsoft fans are justified in their praise for Windows.

Whitney Grace, February 02, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

HP Does not See Amazon as a Threat

January 27, 2015

Amazon has gone way beyond selling books at near wholesale prices. The world’s largest retailer practically sells everything, including IT applications and cloud storage. Companies that deal strictly in the IT industry are wary of Amazon’s moves, but HP has something else to say according to ReadWrite: “HP Cloud Chief: We’re Not ‘Intimidated’ By Amazon’s Cloud.”

Cloud storage is still an untapped IT market, but Amazon Web Services is predicted to be the industry leader from market shares and “relentless economies of scale.” Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk says:

“The economies of scale that larger players can bring to bear on the markets they target are, quite frankly, daunting. Their variable costs decrease due to their ability to purchase in larger quantities; their fixed costs are amortized over a higher volume customer base; their relative efficiency can increase as scale drives automation and improved processes; their ability to attract and retain talent increases in proportion to the difficulty of the technical challenges imposed; and so on.”

Along with Amazon, Microsoft and Google will also benefit, but HP and IBM are supposed to benefit as well. HP and IBM are smaller companies and they only way they can compete is to offer something that makes them unique compared to the bigger companies.

HP believes it will see success by closely following Amazon and offering services that are compatible with it. HP does not want to be a rival; instead it wants to stand on its own, while working in tandem with the big giant. It sounds like it wants to remain as neutral as Switzerland.

HP’s cloud plan sounds reasonable, but you have to remember that HP also said they were going to make Autonomy a million dollar business.

Whitney Grace, January 27, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

SalesForce Connects SharePoint Files to the Cloud

January 1, 2015

Research has showed that most employees have to access data files from at least four different locations during the course of a workday. So SalesForce has completed work on a solution to connect all SharePoint files to their Cloud. This adds to the existing function of SalesForce Files, which allows users to index files. Read the full details in the Computer World article, “Salesforce Connects SharePoint Files to its Cloud with New Tool.”

The article begins:

Salesforce, the not-so-little cloud CRM company that could, is furthering its play to bring everybody everywhere into the fold with the launch of Salesforce Files Connect, a new tool that brings files from on-premises Microsoft SharePoint into a company’s cloud workflow.”

Stephen E. Arnold of has made a career out of following and reporting on all things search. His interest in SharePoint is longstanding, and he has devoted a separate SharePoint feed to the topic. Keep an eye on Arnold’s work to find more helpful third party solutions as well as helpful tips and tricks for navigating the SharePoint environment.

Emily Rae Aldridge, January 01, 2015

A Possibility of Profit from Autonomy Deal

December 15, 2014

While this is the season of miracles and magic, usually those are reserved for Hallmark movies and people in need, but one could argue that HP was in desperate need after the Autonomy fiasco. Maybe their Christmas wish will come true if the Information Week article “HP Cloud Adds Big Data Options” makes correct prediction.

HP will release its Haven big data analytics platform through the HP Helion cloud as Haven OnDemand. The writer believes this is HP’s next logical step given Autonomy Idol was released in January as SaaS. The popular Vertica DBMS will also be launches as a cloud service.

“Cloud-based database services have proven to be popular, with Amazon’s fast-growing Redshift service being an obvious point of comparison. Both HP Vertica and Redshift are distributed, columnar databases that are ideally suited to high-scale data-mart and data-warehouse use cases.”

HP wants to make a mark in the big data market and help their clients harness the valuable insights hiding in structured and unstructured data. While HP is on its way to becoming a key component in big data software, but it still needs improvement to compete. It doesn’t offer Hadoop OnDemand and it also lacks ETL, analytics software, and BI solutions that run alongside HP Haven OnDemand.

The company is finally moving forward and developing products that will start making up for the money lost in the Autonomy deal. How long will it take, however, to get every penny back?

Whitney Grace, December 15, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Amazon Web Services Lags Behind Google and Microsoft

December 5, 2014

Amazon Web Services is recognized as one of the leading hosts for cloud services, but compared to its competition it is not making as much profit. Enterprise Tech Systems Edition offers “A Rare Glimpse Into The Massive Scale Of AWS.” The article points out that other hosts such as Google, Microsoft, and IBM have bragged about their services and innovations, but Amazon is keeping things quiet.

Senior vice president of the Amazon cloud Andy Jassy believes that the public cloud will grow in demand and companies will stop hosting their own data. His belief is that the public cloud will outpace the locally hosted datacenters and.

Amazon already has more than enough data farms:

“…Each AWS region has at least two availability zones and at least one datacenter if not more, and then added that a typical datacenter has at least 50,000 servers and sometimes more than 80,000 servers. He added that the scale of economy for a datacenter ran out at about that upper level and that after a certain point, the incremental cost of that datacenter went up, not down, as more iron was added to it, and more importantly, at a certain number the “blast radius” of a datacenter failure was too great to allow that many workloads to be taken down by a catastrophic failure.”

It took Amazon a while to achieve this number, but the company has been working on it for years. The greater problem now is advertising and improving its search. Ever try to NOT out unpublished books from a Kindle search? Ever try to upload native content to Amazon enterprise search? It gets better and then it gets worse.

Whitney Grace, December 05, 2014
Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Choosing Office 365 or Azure

November 25, 2014

There is not just a single cloud, or Cloud with a capital C. Rather, there are multiple cloud-based services for SharePoint deployments. CMS Wire helps break down some of the choices that users face when determining which cloud to choose. They even have a handy survey at the end to make selection even simpler. Read more in their article, “SharePoint in the Clouds: Choosing Between Office 365 or Azure.”

The author begins:

“There are dozens of cloud hosting options for SharePoint, beyond Office 365. Amazon, Rackspace and Fpweb offer compelling alternatives to Microsoft’s public cloud for SharePoint online with a mix of capabilities. These capabilities fall on the spectrum between two options: 1) IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) — cloud hosted VMs on which YOU install Windows, SQL, SharePoint … 2) SaaS (Software as a service) — fully managed solution delivering SharePoint services with full subscribed provider managed availability, backup, performance, installation, etc.”

There are definitely pros and cons on both sides. If you need any help sorting through the various angles, turn to Stephen E. Arnold of He has spent his career following enterprise search, and has collected quite an impressive collection of tips, tricks, and news articles on his SharePoint feed.

Emily Rae Aldridge, November 25, 2014

Deciding Between SharePoint Online or On Premises Versions

November 17, 2014

Though the relevancy of on-premises installations of SharePoint is dwindling, it might still be the right choice for some organizations. shares key differences between the two versions in, “SharePoint Online Vs. On-Premises Is Already an Outmoded Question” (registration required.) The write-up cautions that Microsoft is bound to take SharePoint entirely into the cloud, perhaps as early as 2016, but lays out the facts so readers can judge whether a local installation would best suit them in the meantime.

On the subject of Search functionality, the write-up reports:

“Both SharePoint on-premises and Online have search capabilities. The big difference is what their search indexes can include. Typically, when the phrase enterprise search is used, it means that the search engine in question can index multiple, disparate content sources.

“In the case of SharePoint on-premises, this is true. SharePoint has long been capable of indexing SharePoint content, as well as content stored on file shares, Exchange, websites and Lotus Notes databases, among various content sources. Starting in 2007, Microsoft added the capability of indexing structured data from databases and other applications through the then-called Business Data Catalog. That feature has since matured and is now called Business Connectivity Services (BCS), and it allows virtually the same capabilities.

“The same isn’t true of SharePoint Online. The search engine can index all content stored in SharePoint and sources connected through BCS, but not index file shares, other websites or Lotus Notes databases. While the capability is largely constrained based on where SharePoint Online is hosted, the more fundamental difference is the controls available to administrators; the ability to define other content sources, like on-premises implementations, simply doesn’t exist.”

That’s disappointing. The article also contrasts the products in the areas of business data, custom development, and the relationship to its cloud service Azure. It goes on to describe a pattern of Microsoft “deconstructing” its on-premises products into individual services available through Azure, a trend that effectively turns search functionality into a stand-alone product that can be integrated into other applications. Eventually, the piece suggests, Microsoft may completely deconstruct SharePoint into a selection of Azure services. Perhaps. But will companies ever get their access to additional content sources back?

Cynthia Murrell, November 17, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

RapidMiner Cloud Includes Wisdom of the Crowds Operator Recommendations

November 13, 2014

The article on Inside BigData titled RapidMiner Moves Predictive Analytics, Data Mining and Machine Learning into the Cloud promotes RapidMiner Cloud, the recently announced tool for business analysts. The technology allows for users to leverage over 300 cloud platforms such as Amazon, Twitter and Dropbox at an affordable price ($39/month.) The article quotes RapidMiner CEO Ingo Mierswa, who emphasized the “single click” necessary for users to gain important predictive analytics. The article says,

“RapidMiner understands the unique needs of today’s mobile workforce. RapidMiner Cloud includes connectors to cloud-based data sources that can be used on-premises and in the cloud with seamless transitioning between the two. This allows users to literally process Big Data at anytime and in any place, either working in the cloud or picking up where they left off when back in the office. This feature is especially important for mobile staff and consultants in the field.”

RapidMiner Cloud also contains the recently launched Wisdom of the Crowds Operator Recommendations, which culls insights into the analytics process from the millions of models created by members of the RapidMiner community. The article also suggests that RapidMiner is uniquely capable of integration with open-source solutions, rather than competing, the platform is more invested in source-code availability.

Chelsea Kerwin, November 13, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

The Amazon Cloud: From Objects to an “Incredible Figure”

November 7, 2014

I suppose rural Kentucky is no bellwether for the economic micro climates in which Amazon, Google, eBay, Facebook, and a handful of other companies operate. The big news in Kentucky is General Electric’s rumored sale of the sprawling Appliance Park. The “park” is a misnomer or one of those business euphemisms for acres of concrete and low cost industrial structures popular in the Rust Belt for many years.

I read “Amazon’s Cloud Is One of the Fastest-Growing Software Businesses in History.” I though about euphemisms because when my team and I wrote an analysis of the issues Amazon faced by using certain parts of infrastructure as a way to reduce the costs of online infrastructure, Amazon did not provide verifiable financial data. I had to look at fuzzies like “objects.”

The $5 billion figure in the Businessweek story arrested my attention. The transition from objects to dollars was quick. Even the MBA must read (which is on the shopping block) had the temerity to write:

If true, it’s an incredible figure.

Here’s another statement based on data from an allegedly objective source, Pacific Crest Securities:

The growth of Amazon’s cloud business is unprecedented, at least when compared to other business software ventures. It’s grown faster after hitting the $1 billion revenue mark than Microsoft, Oracle, and

That is indeed impressive. Businessweek notes:

You would need to turn to Google (GOOG)—which had the advantage of the vast consumer market—to find a business that grew faster.

The point not mentioned in the Businessweek analysis is that the fact that Amazon is not Google may be powering Amazon’s openness about the stunning and incredible size of its cloud business. For now, Google, not Amazon, holds the number one spot on many Internet Top 10 listicles.

Based on the research we have conducted about Amazon, I am hopeful that Amazon will provide similarly concrete information about:

  • Ownership stakes in companies using Amazon cloud services and how discounts and invoicing and payments work
  • Cost detail about the online infrastructure; telco, hardware, software, and human engineers (FTE and rentals)
  • How Amazon’s core services operate on the online infrastructure at times of peak demand; that is, does “peak” mean something different among class/type of cloud customer and Amazon’s core services

At the root of my question is how a push for infrastructure optimization has morphed into the “incredible figure”? More to the point, is the $5 billion real or collection of financial procedures to keep Amazon’s costs from poking through Amazon’s revenue line?

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2014

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