Azure Availability Disclosed

Microsoft announced the very limited CTP of its cloud computing OS today.

While, as some say, pricing and licensing terms were not disclosed, availability has been disclosed.

According to the last answer on a FAQ page, the services will be commercially available in H2 2009… 😦

That’s lots of time of Amazon and GoGrid to take a chunk in the meantime.


Microsoft PDC 2008 Live Blog of Keynote 1 – Ray Ozzie

This is a blog of the event based on remote viewing of the live stream for a slightly less wrapped-up-in-it perspective… 

This is a paraphrasing/précis (in block quotes) of the keynote as it happens plus my own comments.  For the juicy stuff, search for “Announcement:”

08:35PT and a spinning logo… a late start is par for the course at Microsoft events.

08:37 off we go with Ray Ozzie, Chief Software Architect.

‘Going to talk end to end.’  Showing pie chart of range of vendor sizes.  Thanking for attendance… awkward clap lead.

3 things kept him placing bets on Microsoft when he was in the audience.

  1. Microsoft builds key apps to ensure platform has no gaps.
  2. Scope of reach – so high likelihood of platform achieving critical mass.
  3. Bill & Steve knew that for them to be successful, Ray’s smaller business had to be successful.

Talking about devices.  PDC will talk about revolution of deeply combining software with services.

Activation codes for new services will be given out.  Today is the backend focus – premises to data centers.

Talking about virtualisation. 

Most people manage the enterprise, but more so now, IT has to be externalised.

Websites now need to allow customers to communicate with each other.

Software developers and IT operations need to work together to serve many users.

I think this is leading to Microsoft virtual computing offering…

Talking about what things can go wrong and resources need to handle it – aka why you should use the Microsoft solution.

More about geographic issue too.

Is the cloud different from serving internal users.  Yes, serving the world of the web is different.  There are reasons to have access to a shared infrastructure from a company with all the right expertise., windowsupdate, msdn, office online,, windows live all handles by Microsoft – they all grew organically.

Could these be the key apps that they’ll move to the offering they are probably about to announce?

He’s going on about how Microsoft has all the right kind of expertise.

It wasn’t packaged so others can use it.

Now talking about tiers: desktop/mobile; enterprise; web tier.  3rd tier is size of the web.

Some Microsoft people started on a mission to make a cloud platform for everyone.  A few months later, Amazon EC2 was launched.  Praise to them.

Announcement: Windows Azure and Azure Services.  Emphasis on the ‘Az’

Offering at the web tier. ‘Windows in the cloud’.  Foundation for a high scale service:  Computation; storage (blog, tables & streams); automated management system.

Visual Studio, .NET can be used.  You’d expect a world of tools from Microsoft and Vendors.

Let’s hear the features and pricing…!

Azure needs to be different.  Needs to be rooted in scale-out, not scale-up.  Need new types of model-based deployment, etc.

It’s a service running on a vast number of machines, first in the US, then worldwide.

CTP today.  Current features only a fraction.

They are far behind Amazon and GoGrid.

Microsoft services will move to Azure.

Azure has these pillars:

  • Live Services
  • .NET Services
  • SQL Services
  • SharePoint Services
  • Dynamics CRM

SQL Services now encompasses SQL Service Data Services and reporting, etc.

Switch to Amitabh Srivastava.

Windows Azure = Project RedDog

Kernels don’t demo well.  It’s scalable.

Azure manages global data-centre infrastructure.

Handles application or OS upgrade to avoid performance loss.

Fabric controller at heart.  Manages lifecycle for deploy, upgrade, configuration.  Tell is what end state you want with model and code.

Model includes (as XML file)

  • Roles & Groups
  • Channels & Endpoints
  • Interface
  • Configuration Settings

For high availability:

All components built to be highly available.  Single or even double failure will not bring it down.


  • Service mgmt,
  • Virtualized compute
  • Blobs
  • Tables
  • Queries
  • Locks

Can develop and test on your desktop.

Can use these skills: .NET, ASP.NET, VS 2008, VB, C#, C++, Windows Server.

Here comes the “Hello, World!” demo with Steve Marx – they both like red shoes…

4 new cloud templates in Visual Studio.

Cloud project gives two projects – one with and another with cloud model/config.

A standard label in the project to say “Hello, PDC!”.  F5 for standard test.

Publish on the cloud project, takes you to the Azure Services Developer Portal.  Create a hosted service. is the default domain.

Production and Staging areas.

Upload bin folder and the metadata.

Deployment starts…

When ready, can try from web interface.

Demo with Jonathan Greensted, Sentient

Bluehoo – mobile app to make social connections.  Uses bluetooth.

Silverlight application with characters to show people.  Grey are discoverable without the software.  Pink/Blue for female/male friends with Bluehoo and profile.

Uses REST interface to service in the cloud.

Awkward clapping about dancing.

Everything in C#.  No new tools.  Standard scripted benefits waffle.

Bluehoo admin interface showing capacity for compute (web), queues, computer (web), storage.

Can go to Azure portal and change things.

Currently editing of XML, but will be UI soon.

More scripted marketing pre-canned benefits waffle. beta.

Back to more about Azure with Amitabh Srivastava.

Open with:

  • Command-line interface
  • REST protocols
  • XML file formats
  • Managed and native code support

.NET apps first and native code later.

Designed from the ground up.

All looking good so far but still waiting for pricing, availability (which doesn’t sound like any time soon for a real release).

Over to Bob Muglia, SVP for server and tools business.

Talk about 5 generations of computing: Monolithic; Client-Server; Web; SOA; Service.

Trip down memory lane about these.

Services Requirements (the same for cloud but more challenges for them):

  • Interoperability, business Processes
  • Identity & Security
  • Data Management & Compliance
  • Services Management

Azure apps can take advantage of huge power, but reducing up-front capital cost.  Move from thinking about management 24/7 to having it provided.

Looking at .NET Services pillar of Azure:

  • Service Bus (connect on-premise to cloud securely traversing firewalls)
  • Access Control (federated access for on premise and cloud)
  • Workflow services (scalable taking Windows Workflow into the cloud from on-premise)

Pool of resource available to Azure app developer.

Looking at Identity Services in .NET Services:

  • Users control their own identities
  • Single, federated identity platform
  • Open and interoperable.

Codename ‘Geneva’ helps federate Active Directory into the cloud.

Looking at SQL Services of Azure:

  • Database
  • Data Sync
  • Reporting
  • Data mining
  • ETL
  • Reference Data

Will grow to these from current SQL Service Data Services.

Demo with Shawn Davison of Red Praire (supply chain and store operations currently with SOA solutions)

Demo of one-button product recall

Showing Access Control Service in Azure portal.

Partners use own identities.

Looking at Workflow Service web.

Now showing Contoso (fictional company for demo) use of Red Praire system.  Playing product manager at Contoso.

On Contoso intranet, select product.  Enter that a critical problem found – click one button.

Over to Silverlight prototype on RedPraire showing interaction with Azure service initiated from on-premise workflow.

Azure workflow handles communication with partners.

Not a great example to demo or visualise, but it’s hard to demo this stuff effectively.

Talking about System Center products.  Operations Manager collects information for on-premise systems.

Project Atlanta built on Azure to allow companies to get their global Operations Manager status online using Service Bus.

Can compare System Center data across opt-in customers.

Showing VS.  Adds code snippet to bring in SQL Services data and puts the result into a chart.

Announcement: Chart control for Silverlight in PDC hand-out kits.

Showing early version of reporting services in Azure.

With the Reporting designer in VS.

Runs a preview of data with lots of rich chart types like Pie, Gauge, Bar graphs.

Goal to create symmetry between on-premise and the cloud.

Many skills can be leveraged from on-premise to the cloud.

Announcement: Next-generation Oslo modeling platform in PDC hand-out kits.

Oslo incorporates M language for making models and Domain-Specific languages.

Not a lot of focus on new developer tools on display, mostly services and infrastructure stuff.  Still no pricing or full availability information.

Over to Dave Thompson, VP Microsoft Online Services

Talk about extending Microsoft online services using Azure.

Explanation of why Microsoft online needed.

Online services are Subscription access to Microsoft servers.

Announcement: All enterprise server software will have option of online service in the future.  Watch out partners!

Examples of people that use the services.

Selling up Software + Services where services is Microsoft Online Services

Need a seamless experience with Federated Identity and Extensible.

Note that SharePoint and CRM Online Services currently are not as extensible as on-premise, e.g. can’t upload own managed code and plug-ins.

Explaining federated identity from on-premise to Active Directory to Microsoft Online Services.  The system they use is part of Azure.

Showing current extensibility of Online Services, saying that indeed custom code isn’t support currently, but will be.

Demo of ‘more complete solutions using Windows Azure and Online Services’.

Will show online federated idenity model and constructed line-of-business application using Online Services (not all currently available yet or in all territories including Canada!).

No announcements about broader availability of Online Services!

Roles for demo:

  • IT Administrator
  • Developer
  • Project Manager
  • Customer of company

Setting up Microsoft Services Connector.

As IT Administrator…

Just specify dns domain name, certificate and who on-premise can access Online services.

‘Even a VP can do it’.

No laugh

As Developer…

Goes to Dynamics CRM – showing that login transparent.  It is customised for Professional Services company with time sheets, etc.  Has custom entities.

Get WSDL for CRM including access to metadata.

As Project Manager…

Checking and approving time sheets.  Sets off workflow.

Easier to do reports.

Customised ribbon in Word – contruct a status report using web services.  Side panel to pick project and select items – inserts those details into Word.  Push a button and report is published to SharePoint.

No servers set up by fictional company or customers.

As Customer…

On SharePoint web portal, Silverlight gauge control, table of information and inclusion of new status report, both getting data from CRM Online.

Back to Ray

Covered the Azure Services Platform.

Note that Live Services was not covered from the 5 pillars.

There are Azure sessions.

PDC attendees have first access to Azure CTP at noon PT at  Provisioned over next 2 weeks.

Announcement: (there but sign up is currently not available as expected)

More broad access based on learning from that.

They will be conservative progress.  Preview is free but things may change.

Pricing and models will be competitive.

Today was about infrastructure.  Tomorrow will be about experiences, client OS, services to bridge web, pc and phone.  There will be surprises.

So that’s it at 10:15 PT.

One would think that the biggest wow announcement would be on day 1, so the fact that the infrastructure was  announced today (with no real availability) before Windows 7 (tomorrow) makes me wonder how well the announcements of Windows 7 will stand up tomorrow.  The build for attendees is supposed to be M3, Pre Beta, and what’s to be shown tomorrow is rumoured to be more feature-rich than the build being handed out.  It seems like getting a PDC build will not be much of a catch – the same could be said for Azure benefits for attendees if real availability is very much in the air (publically at least).  PDCs don’t happen every year, but I’d think that one may be appropriate next year if, as many are speculating, Windows 7 comes out in H2 2009 (for xmas 2009 PC inclusion), and Azure could also then be in full swing.

I think some good announcements were made today, but they are far from being commercially available or even comparable pricing-wise.  Ray talked about being conservative, but it also looks like the stuff is far from ready yet in any case.  Note, I’m using Windows Live Writer Beta to do this – also S+S where the Microsoft part is in Beta (although there was a non-beta prior release) and the Services part (provided by WordPress) has been out of Beta for some years now.

Talk about the Live Services pillar for Azure services and Wave 3 was notably absent.

Perhaps further keynotes on on-demand session videos will reveal more…

So until revealing session videos occur or tomorrow’s keynote, bye for now.

Silverlight 2 Visual Studio Tools Somewhat Limited

I’ve been following Silverlight since it was called WPF/E, before this blog started.

My main point is that unless you are happy to shell out for Expression Blend and learn a whole new tool, or you love experimenting with raw XML (albeit with some intellisense), you may become frustrated with the currently available Visual Studio offering for designing Silverlight 2 application. 

The Silverlight website page on getting started currently points to a download for Microsoft Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio 2008 SP1 (RC1) – yes, that’s a Release Candidate.  Update: The Tools are now RTW, but the design surface is read-only.

What you get is a split XAML/Design view.  You can edit the XAML or drag toolbox items onto the XAML, but you cannot manipulate the Design area, it is a preview area only and you have to frequently refresh it manually – i.e. it’s not a Design surface.  This is in contrast to the WPF application experience which is.

What is needed for a proper design surface, if you are willing to invest in learning a separate tool, is Microsoft Blend 2 plus SP1 which is US$499 (and included with an MSDN Premium subscription).  Many people from Microsoft (including the SVP for the developer division) have pointed out that you can download a 60-day trial for free.

Note also that Expression Studio 2 (which includes Blend) is now included in the software benefits for Certified and Gold Partners – see Brian Saab’s comment on Soma’s (MS DevDiv SVP) blog – which is great news/value for partners.

I’m quite happy playing with XML and learning Blend, and many other eager adopters may not have an issue either, but I believe these tool limitations could serve as quite a deterrent to some developers.

Perhaps the RTM version of the tools with have a proper design surface…?

Even if that is the case, Microsoft has spent a LOT of time talking about the fact that they now support Designers and Developers with a common project format and dedicated tools, however there isn’t a very solid and low-cost story for the huge number of small or single-man shops where most developers are also the designers.  I may write more about this situation in the future including the significant cost to get the whole experience…

Perhaps PDC will reveal something.

Update: at PDC 2008 they announced that Visual Studio 2010 will have the full design surface experience.  A long time to wait unless you are happy using the CTPs/Betas.  A toolkit of CTP/Beta-quality controls for Silverlight 2 was also released.

PDC 2008 Is Not Sold Out – Is There a Virtual Option?

PDC starts in less than 4 days (or 3 if you include the pre-conference events) and it has not officially sold out yet.  They have reached their 10,000 registration goal (that’s $20M+ in revenue!) and plan to take registration up until the first day if it doesn’t go over capacity.

Some people may be surprised that it isn’t sold out at this point.  I’m wondering if the secrecy factor and the burn-factor from Vista’s first exposure at a PDC (WinFS anyone?) had an effect.

10,000 is a great achievement and there are carrots in place to encourage people to go to the event, including overtures of attendee-only content on free hardware.  I for one don’t have time to divert my attention to a week someone else right now.

While the bread crumbs have been laid out in principal about what will be talked about, it’s not yet clear what virtual attendees (that’s you and I observing from a far) will get.

Mix 08 was a great experience at a distance and my experience was that it was possible to keep up, if not stay ahead of those people immersed in-person.  Mix sessions were available on-demand a pleasingly short, though not impressively quick amount of time.

The first Keynote (of 4; 2 more on Tuesday and 1 on Wednesday) is at 08:30PT/11:30ET on Monday, but there’s no mention of a Live webcast.  I hope this is made available, as to not have it seems like somewhat of a cliquey shun, and they do have $20M+ in revenue to help cover it, plus I’d happy to pay $200 for full live access to a live keynote, live track switching, on-demand events and on-the-day download availability.  If they put together a Silverlight site of mammoth (albeit with underwhelming branding) streaming site for NBC Olympics, PDC should be a breeze.

A quick google search doesn’t reveal anything for a PDC keynote webcast.

In the meantime, if you like being teased, check out the PDC08 tagged videos on Channel9.

UPDATE 2008/10/24:  According to a response from Microsoft’s PDC logistics provider, they will be streaming the keynote and sessions within one to two hours of their completion at the PDC website.  I guess they are holding out for as many last-minute registrations as possible before publishing the details of live/on-demand resources.

Windows 7 Developer Resources off to a Worrying Start

Microsoft has a Windows 7 developer blog with its first post today.

With your help, this blog should evolve to become some sort of Windows 7 developer content index.

Ugh.  I certainly hope not.  Blogs are the worst places to look for information if you don’t know its there, having to rely on search engines to find the information, unless you want to get your content spoon fed to you as random prizes over time in your cereal box.  Microsoft needs to develop a systematic way of getting blogged knowledge, samples and tutorials into a central location.  Oh wait, that’s called MSDN, where sadly, the reverse it true.  Developer center sites point out to the blogs.  While this has made some at Microsoft into celebrities, it doesn’t do much for efficiency.

The number of grammatical errors in this new post are somewhat worrying too.

Playstation Network vs. Xbox Live – Who Is The Clingy One?

I received an email today about updates to the Playstation Network Terms of Service and User Agreement.

The following appears to be a new clause under “The violations that are prohibited…” section:

“You may not provide anyone with your name or any other personally identifying information other than your own Online ID, or the name, password or personally identifying information of any other person or business through any means, including messaging, chat or any other form of PSN communication”

I’d like to point out that this is a horribly ambiguous sentence following “other than”, but appears to say that you cannot let people know who you really are or how they can contact you by any other means.  I can understand why one should be warned not to do this, but I don’t think it should be prohibited – plus they reserve the right to monitor communications.  If this were a pay-per-view community, I could understand it, but it’s not, and if people form virtual friendships, this would appear to prevent them from taking them into real life.

I did a quick check of the xbox live agreement and couldn’t find anything quite so… possessive.