Twin Cities Cloud Computing – August Meeting Recap

I’ve been remiss in updating this blog for way too long. I’m coming of some rather nasty hours but finally I’m able to get my head back above water and turn my attention back to my cloud computing interests. So as I sit here on this fine Sunday evening with a belly full of freshly smoked turkey, I start playing catch-up with a post I intended to write nearly a month ago. Tonight I’m giving you my recap of the August Twin Cities Cloud Computing User group meeting.

The August meeting was rescheduled to accommodate a special guest speaker. David Chappell, of David Chappell and Associates. David is a native of Minnesota and was in town on vacation with his family. He graciously agreed to take time out of his schedule to come and speak with the 30 or so of us that were assembled. I never had the opportunity to see David present before. I had heard what an excellent speaker David was and he definitely did not disappoint.

David’s presentation was divided into two portions. The first and most lengthy was a detailing of what is the Windows Azure Platform. Its obvious that David has spent a significant amount of time with the Windows Azure product team. Not only does he have a great understanding of the products past and present, but it seemed like he knew more than he was letting on about its future. The most important take-away I had from this was understanding the target audience for each of the components of the Windows Azure Platform.

Windows Azure, the application hosting platform, was intended to allow someone to build the next Facebook or Twitter. That’s why its database is a horizontally scalable system that is not based on traditional RDBMS models. This is also why its includes features and a price-tag that is unlike contemporary co-location type hosting packages. Those packages are targeted at simpler hosting needs. On the flip side of this is SQL Azure, a vertically scaling database that provides full RDBMS support. This component is less interested in scalability as it is in providing a targeted cloud based database solution.

This understanding of the target audience became even more apparent when we got to the second part of the presentation. A comparison of various cloud computing product offerings. Prior to David’s presentation I was in the camp of not comparing these because they I viewed them as apples and oranges. David’s comparison made me realize that its important to understand the differences in these platforms. Much as us geeks tend to look at the technical features when comparing products, its important to understand the needs each of these offerings was intended to fulfill. Google Apps is targeted towards smaller businesses. AWS is looking more towards small and mid-sized businesses or LOB solutions. Windows Azure is looking for highly scalable solutions.

What’s interesting is that over time, each of these offerings will evolve. Windows Azure will add features and pricing options that will be more attractive to small businesses. Google Apps will release features targeted at enterprise clients.

It was a great session and one I wouldn’t mind seeing yet again. My only regret is that I was unable to join the group that met with David afterwards for lunch. Maybe next time :)

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