Microsoft Azure: The Reoccurring Blues

March 30, 2020

On a call this weekend, a person mentioned this explanation: “Microsoft Details Impact of Coronavirus on Cloud Services Usage.” The main idea is that “A 775 percent increase in overall cloud services usage in those regions that have enforced social distancing or shelter in place orders.”

Short version: Microsoft’s cloud services do not scale seamlessly.

That “gee, Microsoft is good to me” explanation is interesting, just muffled by snuggling.

This morning (March 30, 2020), the DarkCyber news feed presented this interesting write up: “Microsoft Teams Not Working Again – Here’s What You Need to Know.” This write up reports:

Research from online outage watchdog Downdetector saw a huge spike in complaints concerning Microsoft Teams at 9am BST as much of the UK and Western European workforces came online.

Let’s assume that the snuggle report and the down again report are accurate. DarkCyber concludes:

  • Not even Microsoft’s influence can snuff out grousing about its online collaboration Teams service. (Skype? Ho, ho, ho)
  • Microsoft hopes to build the cloud centric services for the US Department of Defense. Sounds good, but will the outage and scaling blues color the deal. (An armed conflict? Sorry may not make the DoD comfortable.)
  • The yipyap about automatic scaling, failover, and redundancy is definitely marketing baloney. (Down means fail, doesn’t it?)

Net net: Microsoft’s cloud like the Amazon and Google clouds are billing machines. The complexity almost guarantees problems. Google’s follow through on stuff that does not work; Amazon’s magical invoices with mysterious line items; and now Microsoft’s magic.

Silver or azure bullets? Ho, ho, ho.

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2020

Amazon AWS Challenge to Microsoft JEDI Win Reported

March 27, 2020

If you follow the grudge match between Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, you may be interested in “AWS Charges Pentagon Wants to Give Microsoft a Do-Over on Contested JEDI Bid.” The article states:

In a court filing made public today, Amazon Web Services Inc. is charging that the Pentagon is unfairly favoring rival Microsoft Corp. as part of its reevaluation of the JEDI contract.

The today is March 24, 2020.

The article quotes the document as saying:

“Offerors would be able to change only the services they proposed for Price Scenario 6, and would not be allowed to adjust the unit prices and discounts for those services.

Discriminatory? Maybe.

The article also quotes the document as saying:

“DoD provides no meaningful commitment to evaluate the other serious errors identified by AWS’s protest,” the company wrote. “Even if taken at face value, DoD’s proposed corrective action fails to address in any meaningful way how it would resolve the technical issues AWS has raised, or which specific technical challenges it intends to address.”

Stay tuned.

Stephen E Arnold, March 26, 2020

Microsoft Azure: A Capacity Problem?

March 27, 2020

In a conversation earlier this week, an expert in Microsoft Azure pointed out that Azure, despite its technical challenges, was pretty good at billing.

There are other challenges at Microsoft too. How about those Windows 10 updates, bugs, and delays?

The Register reports that there is another Microsoft hitch in the gitalong. “Azure Appears to Be Full” states:

Customers of Microsoft’s Azure cloud are reporting capacity issues such as the inability to create resources and associated reliability issues.

And what about Microsoft Teams, which is another attempt by Microsoft to pile more utensils in its digital kitchen sink. The article includes this paragraph:

Is it possible that resource capacity allocated to Teams is affecting customers of other kinds of resource? We have asked Microsoft for any information it can share and will report back.

Is Microsoft up to the task of becoming the go to vendor for the US government? Sure, good enough technology may be what the procurement system is designed to deliver.

But the company’s billing system seems to be working just fine.

PS: The Register is offering free job ads. For information, send email to

Stephen E Arnold, March 28, 2020

Cloud Search Magic

March 26, 2020

Storing files on the cloud is a marvelous way to back up files and also free up valuable memory on devices. There is one big problem if you offload files on the cloud: finding them. There are various platforms to store files in the cloud, but Popular Science explains in the article “Find Any File In The Cloud” if you are unfamiliar with the platform it will be harder to find files.

The article explores popular cloud hosting platforms and walks readers through how to locate and search for files. The platforms examined are Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, and OneDrive. Each specific platform has its intricacies, but are important to master:

“But if you haven’t taken the time to explore a platform in depth, or if you use several and often get confused, you might find it harder to track down particular files compared to having them on a local hard drive. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. All the big cloud storage providers have useful tools for searching through your files and folders, whether you’re using a web browser, a desktop computer, or your phone.”

Be aware that these platforms can change based on the device accessing them. Many devices have mobile and desktop interfaces, so things are changed around if you move from one machine to another. None of these platforms are superior to the other, but users will prefer one to the other based on the type of machine they are using.

Another thing to consider when selecting a platform to use are the security parameters each one uses. The platform could be easy to use, but it also might be easy to hack.

Whitney Grace, March 26, 2020

Microsoft Teams: Demand-Centric Scaling a Problem?

March 16, 2020

Quick item. DarkCyber noted two separate write ups which seem to suggest that Microsoft Azure has some fascinating characteristics. “Microsoft Teams Goes Down Just as Europe Logs On to Work Remotely” says “Two hours of issues as many work from home during the cornonavirus pandemic.” VentureBeat says “Microsoft Teams Struggles As Coronavirus Pushes Millions to Work from Home.” DarkCyber looks forward to verification that an outage took place. Also, what happens if the proposed Microsoft JEDI solution demonstrates the same behavior in an even more critical situation?

Stephen E Arnold, March 16, 2020

A Guide to Finding Cloudy Files

March 11, 2020

Justa brief honk to describe this handy reference we have found. Popular Science tells us how to “Find Any File in the Cloud.” Writer David Nield describes platform-specific search functionality at Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. He observes:

“Keeping your files in an online cloud locker means you can free up some space on your computer and get at your files from anywhere, using any device. But if you haven’t taken the time to explore a platform in depth, or if you use several and often get confused, you might find it harder to track down particular files compared to having them on a local hard drive. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. All the big cloud storage providers have useful tools for searching through your files and folders, whether you’re using a web browser, a desktop computer, or your phone.”

For each option, Nield details us where to find a basic search box as well as all filtering options. He also notes each platform’s limitations, if any. Naturally, the descriptions are illustrated with screenshots. See the writeup if you use, or are considering using, any of these cloud storage options.

Cynthia Murrell, March 11, 2020

Factoids about the Cloud Battles

March 10, 2020

DarkCyber noted “Stress Test the Cloud: Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Azure, GCP.” The write up presents “factoids” and observations based on these factoids in a helpful way. Here are the points which captured DarkCyber’s attention:

The cloud will be the way of the future in computing. The meltdown of Robinhood’s trading platform was pegged on stress. When a cloud system is stressed, it may and will fail.

Amazon Web Services
  • “Amazon’s e-commerce business is the market leader in the U.S., Europe, and close to number 1 in India”
  • “AWS is very much battle-tested and constantly “stressed out” by its parent company’s core e-commerce operation. It has moved all of its businesses onto AWS, and off of other systems like Oracle, after a multi-year effort.”
  • Amazon’s businesses are generally not prone to unexpected spikes in traffic, which happens more to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Weibo.”

Amazon’s system may not be optimal for surprise spikes.

Alibaba Cloud
  • “Alibaba’s core e-commerce business has many similarities to Amazon’s…”
  • “This accomplishment is well-deserved; Alibaba has basically created and survived the mother of all stress tests.” The reference is to the large volume of sales on Singles Day.
  • “Alibaba Cloud’s technical and operational expertise can certainly be applied in regions outside of China, but only until there’s customer demand and the data centers to serve it.”

Alibaba dumped American vendors as part of its journey.

Google Cloud
  • “Google has arguably the only, truly global infrastructure, because its services and users are global.”
  • “Google‘s services cannot anticipate traffic spikes, unlike a planned shopping holiday, and must be ready wherever, whenever it happens.”
  • “Google’s products do not naturally lead to processing many complex transactions, like online shopping orders, offline delivery, or payments.”

Google can accommodate stress, but it’s not so good in Amazon-style transaction complexity.

Microsoft Azure
  • “None of these [Microsoft] businesses have to be “always on”, in the same way that an e-commerce marketplace or a search engine needs to be on.”
  • “Azure is still doing amazingly well from a revenue and market share standpoint. This success has more to do with Microsoft’s years of experience in selling products into large enterprises and aggressively moving users of its non-cloud license-based products onto the same products that are now on-cloud and subscription-based. Microsoft is very good at being “enterprise ready”, but not that good at being “Internet ready”.”
  • “It [Microsoft]  has by far the most number of Single-AZ Regions, which has led to outages and issues that could’ve been avoided with a multi-AZ design. Multi-AZ Region is the default in AWS, GCP, and most of Alibaba Cloud.”

Microsoft is good at sales, not so good at the cloud.

Net Net

Alibaba is darned good. At any time the company can push into other markets and create some pain for the American companies it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2020

Financial Companies: Cloud Innovators?

February 28, 2020

An online information service called Channel Life published results of a survey related to financial services (mostly in Australia) and the hybrid cloud. The phrase “hybrid cloud” means combining AWS or Azure like services with an organization’s own private cloud. The buzzword is a typical meta notion; that is, as features fragment, another method comes along to roll up these diverse approaches into a single umbrella service. Word and Excel became Microsoft Office which morphed into a subscription umbrella service. Now the same approach is finding favor in financial services.

The write up “Financial Organizations Leading the Way for Hybrid Cloud, Nutanix Finds” presents the results of a research “study.” Here are a handful of factoids DarkCyber finds interesting:

60% of respondents state security is the single biggest influence on future cloud strategies. If accurate, regulations drive adoption of technology, not a customer centric focus.

39% of financial services companies reporting public cloud services were completely meeting their expectations. If verifiable, commercial cloud services may be failing to meet some customers’ needs, a situation not evident from the marketing collateral from major cloud vendors.

18% of financial companies have deployed hybrid cloud, while 51% plan to shift investment to hybrid cloud in just three to five years. If verifiable, there’s money to be made in meta software.

DarkCyber spotted minimal information about the sample selection process, sample size, and statistical procedures used. Nevertheless, one message is that bright sprouts may be able to make money providing an integration layer for multiple cloud systems. Is the era of the branded cloud ending? No, but the cloud business may be ripe for evolution…. if the data in the report are generally correct.

Stephen E Arnold, February 28, 2020

Amazon Costs: Kubernetes to the Rescue

February 27, 2020

How much does an AWS customer pay for a specific service? DarkCyber knows that the taxi meter approach makes sense for the company that owns the medallions, the taxis, and possibly a few important people.

The taxi meter method in the cloud is a bit of a mystery — until the invoice arrives. “The Story Behind My Talk” explains a process which, according to Tuananh, can “reduce EC2 billing up to 80%.”

How does this money slip from the massive tractors of the Bezos bulldozer?

The article explains:

I started with a managed GKE at first using their free $300 credit, to learn the basic of Kubernetes; but then later on use kops to setup a production cluster with AWS.

Some of the changes I did for the production cluster is:

  • Setup instance termination daemon to notify all the containers + graceful shutdown for all the apps.
  • Setup multiple instance groups of various size and availability zone, mixing spot instances with reserved instances. This is to prevent price spike of certain spot instance group; and minimize the chances of all spot instances going down at the same time.
  • Calculate and provision a slightly bigger fleet then what we actually need so that when there were instances shut off, there won’t be service downgrading. Because spot instances are so cheap, we can do this without worry much about the cost.
  • Watch to see if there were scheduling failure to scale the reserved groups.

The payoff according to the article:

“The overall cost saving for EC2 was around 60-70% because we need to mix reserved instances in and provision a little higher than what we actually need. We were very happy with the result.”

Will AWS reconsider how it deals with EC2 billing? Does a bulldozer need diesel fuel?

Stephen E Arnold, February 27, 2020

Does Amazon Have Dark User Interface Patterns?

February 25, 2020

The question “Does Amazon make use of interfaces intentionally designed to generate revenue?” is an interesting one. Amazon does have a boatload of features, functions, and services. There are — what? — more than a half dozen different databases, including the quantum thing.

The article “My First AWS Free Tier Hosting Bill Was $900.” The idea is that “free” did not mean exactly free. This is akin to the word “unlimited” when it appears in mobile data plans. Is Amazon following a path blazed by telecommunications giants, truly models of consumer centric behavior in DarkCyber’s narrow view of the economic world.

The write up states:

A major part of AWS marketing is pay-per-use for their services:

“You only pay for the services you consume, and once you stop using them, there are no additional costs or termination fees.” – AWS Pricing

They also market “free tier” products, less powerful instances that are free for the first year of use.

The article reports that a slow roll out allowed the system to “sit around for a month.”

That decision cost about $1,000.

The article points out that assuming that an “idle server” would not cost anything. Also, the Amazon jargon did not make sense, so the developer ignored the Amazon speak.

The write up goes through the Amazon lingo to alert other individuals of Amazon’s approach to “free.”

Several observations:

  • Amazon is confusing. DarkCyber thinks this is party due to the vaunted two pizza team approach to programming and part due to clever marketers who really want to match up to the founder’s principles.
  • Amazon pitches itself hard as the logical, best, and superior choice for cloud anything. Individuals who buy this pig in a poke are going to pay.
  • Amazon, if one makes a good case to the customer service unit staffed with people who sort of speak like those in rural Kentucky, will modify the charge.

Are these some lessons one can learn from this write up? Maybe, for example:

  1. Learn to speak Amazon
  2. Think before clicking
  3. Amazon became really big for a reason: Avoid becoming a third party merchant whose hot product became part of Amazon Basics.

Your mileage may vary from the drive through the Tunnel of Love that the author of the article took.

Stephen E Arnold, February 25, 2020

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