Category Archives: Trip Report

Clash of the Clouds Followup

Last night, Mark Eisenberg and I represented the Windows Azure Cloud Platform in a Clash of the Clouds panel discussion/debate opposite Erik Sebesta  and Ed Brennan who represented the Open Source cloud alternatives. Erik & Ed declared OpenStack to be the strongest of the open source options today, so it became about Azure vs. OpenStack.

While I will not attempt to reproduce the discussion (sorry!, though there are a few photos), I do want to follow up on a few questions that I offered to provide references on. If you have further questions, please feel free to put a comment on this post. Also, at the end of this post, you will find a link to the short “Azure in 3 minutes or less” deck we used to introduce the Windows Azure Cloud Platform at the very beginning (per the ground rules of the panel – we limited the intro to 3 minutes).

  • In response to the question about scalability of Windows Azure Blobs, here is the write-up I referenced on Windows Azure Storage Scalability Targets. Here is an additional (more comparative) discussion (follow links) you may find helpful: Azure Cloud Storage Improvements Hit the Target.
  • In response to the question about pricing, check out the Windows Azure pricing calculator. Note that for the Microsoft Server products (e.g. Windows Server, or SQL Server on Windows Azure SQL Database (offered as a service) or on a Virtual Machine (that you manage)), the cost of the license is baked into the hourly rental cost.
  • In response to the question about the ability to support different types of apps (whether new ones from startups, existing ones from big company, etc.), see the spectrum of offerings described here: In a nutshell, Web Sites is for hosting (with a free Tier) for basic, low-scale sites, but these can scale very nicely too), Cloud Services is for building Cloud-Native applications using PaaS (which my book focuses on), Virtual Machines (parallel to what OpenStack offers in terms of managed VMs) is more useful for applications you want to run in the cloud with minimal change, and Virtual Networking allows many options for connecting your data center with a secure private network on Windows Azure among other options.
  • In response to the question about openness, any programming language or platform can access the Windows Azure services through REST APIs, but here is the list of those with first-class SDKs:
  • For any further follow-up questions feel free leave a COMMENT below and I will update this post.

Windows Azure is not the only full-service, rock-solid cloud platform out there, but I hope you got an appreciation for how it might help you and why you might wish to choose it for your applications and services. If you are interested in learning more about Windows Azure, you may wish to check out the Boston Azure User Group, which has been meeting regularly at NERD since October 2009. Our next meeting is in just a few days: Tuesday May 9.

The SLIDE DECK we used for the 3 minute intro is here:



Quick Hadoop Overview at Feb 7 Boston Azure Meeting

Tonight’s (07-Feb-2012) Boston Azure cloud user group meeting (that we ran jointly with Microsoft DevBoston) went very well.

In the featured talk, Michael Stiefel gave an insightful, thought-provoking talk on Architecting for Failure: Why Cloud Architecture is Different. Michael will post has posted his slides. The slides are listed under Cloud Computing Presentations called Architecting For Failure, Cloud Architecture is Different! (note this is not same as Michael’s blog).

As a warmup, I gave a short talk describing the challenges in making sense of Big Data, what (in the computer science sense) Map and Reduce are, and how the Hadoop infrastructure makes building MapReduce processes so easy. Ended with a bit of a peak at the CTP of “Hadoop as a Service” – the Microsoft Windows Azure service that is in CTP – at The talk focused on Hadoop – and a simple Hadoop example at that – only mentioning that was a broader Hadoop ecosystem: the official Apache Hadoop project, some subprojects (HIVE, Pig (which has a Pig Latin language, not to be confused with this one), Mahout, ZooKeeper, HBASE, and others), some other related efforts (, and some commercial companies dedicated to Hadoop (Cloudera, Hortonworks, and others – they are roughly the Hadoop equivalents of Red Hat in the Linux world; Microsoft is working with Hortonworks on their Hadoop on Azure and Hadoop on Windows Server effort).

My Hadoop slides are attached here: Hadoop-BostonAzure-07-Feb-2012.

I also discussed some upcoming Azurey events of interest to the Boston Azure community. That deck is here: Upcoming Events of Interest to Boston Azure Community.

O’Reilly Radar has a concise roundup of some of these technologies here (which I noticed on a tweet here). And this excerpt from the official Apache Hadoop project lists some related technologies:

The project includes these subprojects:

Other Hadoop-related projects at Apache include:

  • Avro™: A data serialization system.
  • Cassandra™: A scalable multi-master database with no single points of failure.
  • Chukwa™: A data collection system for managing large distributed systems.
  • HBase™: A scalable, distributed database that supports structured data storage for large tables.
  • Hive™: A data warehouse infrastructure that provides data summarization and ad hoc querying.
  • Mahout™: A Scalable machine learning and data mining library.
  • Pig™: A high-level data-flow language and execution framework for parallel computation.
  • ZooKeeper™: A high-performance coordination service for distributed applications.

Windows Azure DevCamp in Farmington, CT

Earlier this month I hung out with Jim O’Neil at the Farmington, CT offering of the Windows Azure DevCamp series. The format of the camp was a quick-ramp introduction to the Windows Azure Platform followed by some hands-on coding on the RockPaperAzure challenge.

Jim introduced cloud and presented specifics on Blob and Table storage services and SQL Azure. I had the opportunity to present one of the sections – mine was a combination of Windows Azure Compute services + the Windows Azure Queue service with some basics around using these services to assemble “cloud native” applications. The official slides for the Windows Azure DevCamp series appear to be here, though my slides were a little different and are also available (WindowsAzureDeveloperCamp-FarmingtonCT-07Dec2011-BillWilder). At the end, Jim also ran through the creation of a RockPaperAzure “bot” and it was (literally!) game on as attendees raced to create competitive entries.

I took a few photos at the event – some of Jim presenting, some showing participants at the end coming to claim their prizes from the RockPaperAzure challenge – and none from the middle!

October Boston Azure Cloud User Group Meeting

First, let’s note that the October Boston Azure meeting marked our two-year anniversary!

I believe we are the oldest Windows Azure user group in the world, still going strong. Our first meeting was held in October 2009, less than a year after Windows Azure was announced at PDC 2008, and a few months before it went RTW for real (which was, I believe, January 2010).

Now, back to our Oct meeting. Here are links to a few topics mentioned:

Also, here is the slide deck from the main presentation – given by yours truly (that’s me, Bill Wilder) – called Big Ideas in Software Architecture (Cloud and Otherwise):

At the meeting we also discussed some topics for future meetings. Here is that list (okay, I actually can’t find the list – may have forgotten to save it – sorry – so going from memory here) — note this list is in no particular order:

  1. Introduction to Cloud, Azure, and developing for Windows Azure
  2. More hands-on with the platform
  3. Using languages, libraries, and software other than .NET/Microsoft – e.g., Java, Python, Node.js, NoSQL (MongoDB), …
  4. Idempotency – look at a more challenging case than a simple thumbnailer
  5. Security in the Cloud
  6. Comparing Cloud platforms
  7. Azure AppFabric topics: Service Bus, Caching, Access Control Service (can Curt come back?), …
  8. More architecture patterns

WHAT ARE OTHER TOPICS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE? Please leave a comment, email me, or suggest via twitter (me: @codingoutloud or to the community: @bostonazure).

Cloud Architecture Patterns talk from New England Code Camp 16

I attended the 16th (!) edition of New England Code Camp on Saturday 29-Oct-2011. I presented a talk called Cloud Architecture Patterns for Mere Mortals in which I introduced some big architecture ideas – e.g., CQRS, NoSQL, Sharding, and Eventual Consistency – with specific examples of how to realize these patterns drawn from the Windows Azure Platform. My slide deck is here: new-england-code-camp-16-Cloud-Architecture-Patterns-for-Mere-Mortals-bill-wilder-29-oct-2011

I also attended some cool talks – Brock Allen spoke about WIF, David Padbury on node.js, and Dominic Denicola on various Async approaches like Promises. Good time as usual! No after-event celebrating – everyone is running for cover due to the Nor’easter!

If you are interested in learning more about the Windows Azure Platform, please come join us at a Boston Azure cloud user group meeting. Details at We meet every month to learn about Azure. Sometimes we learn through prepared talks, sometimes we hold training events, and sometimes coding/hackathons. We are the oldest such user group in the world, turning two years old this month. Hope to see you!

Our next meeting is Thursday November 17 (the Thursday before Thanksgiving), featuring a very Azurey talk by Chris Rolon of Neudesic.

Got Azure Question? I am also a Windows Azure MVP for Windows Azure and know a thing or two about the platform. I am happy to answer questions you may have. Feel free to contact me on twitter (@codingoutloud) or by email (which is my twitter handle at

Azure On!

OWASP Boston Security Conference

Boston Application Security Conference (BASC) hosted by the Boston chapter of OWASP (The Open Web Application Security Project).

For my part, I attended a number of interesting sessions (especially the frighteningly entertaining talk by Francis Brown on using Google and Bing to hack (or protect) web properties). Due to scheduling challenges, I missed Andrew Wilson‘s talk on Reversing Web Applications, which I wanted to check out.

For my part, I offered a Birds-of-a-Feather session on Securing Applications in the Cloud (with examples drawn from Windows Azure Platform). In this session, I reviewed both pros and cons of cloud deployments from a security point of view, and attempted to make the case that, ultimately, either your applications will simply be safer in the cloud, or at least if you want them to be sufficiently safe, it will be more cost-effective to let the specialists at Microsoft (or some other trusted cloud vendor) handle much of the dirty work.

This session was interesting for me to put together and then go through with an intimate crowd (due, at least in part I suppose, to (me) changing the scheduled time slot after the conference schedule went to the printer… D’oh! … that combined with the seeming invisibility of the BoF sessions generally). Anyhow, it was still fun to discuss, and here is the slide deck I used: OWASP Boston – BoF – Securely Running Applications in Cloud (examples drawn from Windows Azure Platform) – Bill Wilder – 08-Oct-2011.

Boston Azure Bootcamp was a Success!

On Friday September 30 and Saturday October 1 the Boston Azure cloud user group hosted the Boston Azure Bootcamp – with a few of our friends – and it was a big success.

Here are a few links that folks attending might have been told about, plus a couple of answers I offered to gather offline.

Where can I get the materials used in the Bootcamp?

  • The materials live here:
  • However, as I explained at the bootcamp, the actual materials used at our sessions were a mix of what is posted on the web and some slide decks that had been updated (mostly for the Azure SDK 1.5, but also other changes in some cases). So you can pull the materials as linked to above and you’ll be pretty close, but the updated ones are not yet publicly posted.

How can I see what’s in Windows Azure Storage?

How can I track changes/upgrades to Windows Azure Guest OS?

Does Azure use Hyper-threading?

Where can I learn more about the Windows Azure Platform?

Where can I read more?

Who should I thank for this event?

  • You can thank our TWO MAJOR SPONSORS: This event was provided free to you because our Gold Sponsor SNI TECHNOLOGY generously sponsored the food, and Microsoft NERD donated the space. Many thanks to these major sponsors!
  • SNI TECHNOLOGY logoWithout these sponsors this event would simply not have happened.
  • You can thank our swag sponsors: O’Reilly (books), Pluralsight (training), Cerebrata (licenses), Packt Publishing (books), and Microsoft (books and licenses).
  • And you can thank the Boston Azure Bootcamp team which included (in alphabetical order): Andy Novick (who led the SQL Azure segment), Arra Derderian (helped during labs), George Babey (“swag guy” – and helped during labs), Jim O’Neil (lab-time tech support, lecture-time answer-man), Joan Wortman (ran the registration), Maura Wilder (who led the Azure Table Storage segment – and helped during labs), Nazik Huq (“twitter guy” – plus made sure there was food – and helped during labs), and William Wilder (yes, that’s me; you can call me “Bill” but wanted to be listed last…). Also, many thanks to Martha O’Neil for baking us a cloudy cake. 🙂

We are planning another Boston Azure Bootcamp in 2012. Stay tuned!

Update 22-Oct-2011: Here is contact info for our Gold sponsors at SNI TECHNOLOGY: