Activating MSDN Windows Azure Platform Benefits

*glances around* It’s been awhile. It’s been a long while. It feels good to once again be putting my fingers to the keyboard and documenting my journeys through the Azure Platform. I won’t bore you with any excuses or explanations about why it’s been so long. It’s enough to say that I’m glad to finally be getting back to this blog. In 2010, I hope to update more frequently and bringing you lots of great Azure and Cloud Computing content.

I’ve decided to start to by going back to the beginning. So much has changed since I wrote my early posts nearly a year ago that I’ve decided to start with revisiting those topics and updating them with all the changes. Today we’re going to start off with how to get a hosting account activated using the new MSDN Premium benefits.

Now admittedly you don’t need any hosted services to put content up in Azure. But we’re geeks and a hosted application is what we’re after. The Azure Platform is a shiny new car and we don’t want to just play with a model of the car (aka the local development fabraic). We want to be able to take it for a test drive. So the question is, now do we get our hands on the keys for that shiny new car? 

There are a few options. One is of course to whip out our credit cards and pay for a subscription. I’m all for investing in my career, but I’d rather not go there. I’m a husband and father of two so as you can imagine there’s other things I’d rather spend money on. Fortunately, my wonderful employer made the mistake… er… saw the value in giving me an MSDN Premium subscription. Today, I’m going to walk you through creating a hosted account using that subscription.

Redeeming our MSDN Premium Benefits

If you already have an MSDN subscription, start by logging in at msdn.microsoft.com then clicking on the “My Account” link. If your subscription includes MSDN Premium, you’ll see a page similar to the one on the left. If you do not have a premium subscription, it you’ll see something more like the image on the right.

image   image

Notice the “Windows Azure Platform” section in the image on the left. If its not there, then your MSDN subscription does not qualify for Azure Platform benefits. If its, there, then click that link and you’ll be redirected to a portal I became VERY familiar with back when I was working with BPOS, the Microsoft Online Services Customer Portal (MOCP).


MCOP Shopping Cart

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Being geeks we tend to just accept things and click on them without fully reading them. But it’s important to read the text by this checkbox before we proceed. While MSDN benefits do give us access to Azure for free, those benefits are limited. If we go over the allotment granted to us by our subscription, we’re on the hook to pay for it. So when it comes to the limits of our benefits, look at it, remember it, and keep it in your brain. (+10 points to whomever knows the origin of that quote)

You can link a credit card or a purchase order to your subscription. But remember this is where charges will go if you exceed your benefits. Fortunately, the Azure Platform is supposed to send us a notification via email once we hit 75% of our benefit limits. Once your payment method of choice is specified, you will have to agree to another Terms of Service type page and provide some contact info. Get that done and we can confirm our subscription.

MCOP Subscription Activation

imageNext up, we’ll need to give a name to our subscription and assign a primary administrator. While I can’t confirm it, this seems to indicate that a single MCOP account can be used to manage multiple Azure subscriptions. What I had concerns about last year when dealing with BPOS is that they didn’t allow for multiple primary admins. That still appears to be the case. Of course, there’s also the issue with tying the subscription to a live ID that is associated with a single person.

As I’ve told clients in the past, when signing up for MCOP managed services, setup an email account that is generic to your organization. This account can then either be shared between the people who have responsibility for the subscription(s), or an account that can easily be transferred as staff members change positions within your organization.

Another item to note is that our Windows Azure Platform MSDN Premium subscription is set to expire in 8 months. I won’t know for certain for eight months or so, but according to the benefits overview, after our introductory subscription period is over, we will still have benefits available. It may be that our current subscription will be converted, or it may be that we’ll need to redeem a new subscription.

Anyways, I’m getting off track. If we’ve gotten our subscription activated we should get an email within a few minutes that explains how to start using our new benefits. It’ll look something like this:

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Azure Platform: Ready for use

That’s all there really is to it. We now have access to Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and the AppFabric. Simple enough! Just tag out to the following websites to start using our benefits

For application hosting: https://windows.azure.com
For hosted SQL Databases: https://sql.azure.com
For AppFabric:c https://netservices.azure.com

A final item I want to point out is that there are limits for application hosting that are not called out in the benefits overview. You are only allowed 5 storage accounts and a maximum of 20 hosted services.

Well, it’s been swell, but the swelling has gone down..

It seems short but that’s all I really wanted to cover today. Next time I’ll outline my development environment and loading a simple “hello world” application up into our hosted account.

Until then, thanks to everyone that’s been visiting during my hiatus. Despite the lack of updates this blog has surpassed 5,000 page views. This is well above the goal I set for myself when I started this almost a year ago. In 2010, I hope to never go more than 2 weeks without an update of some kind. Thank you all!

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