Its about driving adoption

So I exchanged a few tweets with Buck Woody yesterday. For those not familiar, Buck is an incredibly passionate SQL Server guy with Microsoft who recently moved over to their Azure product family. Its obvious from some of the posts that Buck has made that he was well versed in ‘the cloud’ before the move, but he hasn’t let this stop him from being very vocal about sharing his excitement about the possibilities. But I digress…

The root of the exchange was regarding access to hosted Azure services for developer education/training. Now before I get off on my rant, I want to be a bit positive. MSFT has taken some great steps to making Azure available for developers. The CTP was nice and long and there were few restrictions (at least in the US) to participation. They also gave out initial MSDN and BizSpark Azure subscription benefits that were fair and adequate. They have even set up free labs for SQL Azure and the Azure AppFabric. And of course, there’s the combination of free downloads and the local development fabric.

All in all, it’s a nice set of tools for allow for initial learning on the Windows Azure platform. The real restriction remains the ability to actual deploy hosted services and test them in a “production environment”. Now the Dev Fabric is great and all, but as anyone that’s spent any time with Azure will tell you, you still need to test your apps in the cloud. There’s simply no substitute. And unfortunately, there is no Windows Azure lab.

Affective November 1st 2010, several of the aforementioned benefits are being either removed (AzureUSAPass) or significantly reduced. Now I fully understand that it costs money for MSFT to provide these benefits and I am grateful for what I’ve gotten. But I’m passionate about the platform and I’m concerned that with these changes, it will be even more difficult to help “spread the faith” as it were.

So consider this my public WTF. Powers that be, please consider extending these programs and the current benefit levels indefinitely. I get questions on a weekly basis from folks about “how can I learn about Azure”. I’d hate to have to start telling them they need to have a credit card. Many of these folks are the grass roots types that are doing this on their own time and dime but can help influence LARGE enterprises. Furthermore, you have HUGE data centers with excess capacity available. I’m certain that a good portion of that capacity is kept in an up state and as such is consuming resources. So why not put it to good use and help equip an army. An army of developers all armed with the promise and potential of cloud computing.

The more of these soldiers we have, the easier it will be to tear down the barriers that are blocking cloud adoption and overcome the challenges that these solutions face.

Ok… my enthusiasm about this is starting to make me sound like a revolutionary. So before I end up on another watch list I’ll cut this tirade short. Just please, either extend these programs or give us other options for exploring learning your platform.

Sincerely – a code monkey

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4 Responses to Its about driving adoption

  1. Cory Fowler says:

    Hey Brent,

    I’d like to throw this out there, but I didn’t have an Azure Account for the first few months of Learning Windows Azure. I spent my time in the Windows Azure Training Kits, and ran them locally using DevFabric. I know it doesn’t give the down to the metal experience, however it gives you a nice out of paying until you have something ready to deploy.

    I do agree with you that there should be some trial accounts, maybe a time limited account where you have three free deployment hours until your instance gets a “Burn Notice”.

    Let’s keep pushing for some change, I know we can get a great story for people learning Azure.

    • Brent says:

      I agree Cory. The Dev Fabric is a good starting point to learn. But you eventually need to graduate up to a hosted services. Its the “real world” proof that most managers are going to want to see for validation of the platform. But I also agree that we can somehow box that access. I just feel that the upcoming reduced levels (250hrs for example) may be a tad too restrictive.

  2. Brent – I’m with you 100% on this: I look forward to current BizSpark and MSDN Premium benefits being extended.

    I do want to point out that, in both of those programs, the compute-hour allowance is being reduced to 250 per month, vs. its current 750 per month threshold. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that 750 hours is just enough to keep one small compute instance running 24×7 (or plenty of headroom to test with multi-instance deployments without running 24×7). Once it drops to 250, people will still be able to test their apps in a real live Azure environment; however, they’d be wise to then delete their deployments between test cycles to avoid costly overruns.

  3. The Azure Service Management API is not simulated in the development environment so autoscaling can only be tested in the cloud.

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