First look at Windows Azure
Microsoft’s vision of a Windows-only cloud is ambitious, but too many features are currently still in beta
IaaS is a smart choice for ConnectEDU
It’s important to understand what’s not production quality today, since we didn’t test these features. These are beta or CTP:
• Virtual Machine Roles – uploadable VM payloads based on virtual hard disks (VHD); Hyper-V features are beta and CTP for eventual use in both IaaS and PaaS models
• Azure Connect – Provides secure IP-level connectivity between Windows Azure and your enterprise — no current VPNs for public/private cloud constructs in production
• Azure Traffic Manager – Load balancing traffic management to multiple host environments with three qualities: performance, failover, or round-robin balancing; this is an IaaS feature not currently seen often in PaaS models
• SQL Azure Reporting -which is both CTP and invitation-only
• Connectivity to Microsoft’s SaaS BPOS services
• Federated identity options; Active Directory doesn’t work today
• Public/Private interaction via the Windows Azure Appliance Platform works only for a few private customers, and is likely CTP
• Mirroring or cluster creation is unavailable
• Microsoft Systems Center modules don’t really work because Active Directory federation isn’t possible (among other reasons)
• Our current product licenses aren’t transferrable; SQL Server, Windows 2008R2, and .Net licenses aren’t usable on Azure — but might be after VHDs work. After all, on a VHD you can load what you want
• Developers and business partners can’t use Microsoft Service Provider Licensing Agreements to cover Windows Azure use currently
• Local storage persistence is CTP; only BLOB storage is guaranteed to be persistent after an instance reboot. Drive C is as good as the instance not rebooting unless you unload it from a BLOB first, after the local NTFS drive is initialized after a reboot.
We tested Windows Azure by obtaining an Azure account. Once the account was in service, we chose an instance size, a role, then started to work testing the instance with Microsoft Visual Studio.
Eclipse, and a stunning number of third-party tools — largely using REST communications — are used to talk to .Net functionality inside of an instance. The Windows Azure Server instance storage drives are NTFS volumes, and made using page BLOBs as an NTFS-formatted Virtual Hard Drive.
SQL Azure databases can be connected and used by an Azure 2008 R2 instance, and SQL Azure instances are able to be communicated with via client-side APIs from an external source.
Azure instances are controlled through AppFabric, which is an Azure-resident cloud middleware API and messaging infrastructure — a service bus in Microsoft parlance. It’s used for access control, instance setup, and chooses how, given the choices we made, an instance would be hosted. Eventually, AppFabric can be used to provide proposed access identity control between distributed and connected apps or potentially (beta alert) internal appliance-like applications. Storage/metadata caching services are also available from AppFabric, but these were not tested.
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