I spent much longer than I expected writing my First Look at the Microsoft Azure Services Platform. It wasn't just that I hadn't been at the PDC where Azure was announced: I normally do pretty well reading between the lines in Microsoft documentation. First, the invitations for services dribbled in over the course of a week. Then, the SDKs required Windows Vista SP1 or Windows Server 2008 with Visual Studio 2008 SP1 and SQL Server Express just to install.
My main installation of Visual Studio 2008 is on a Windows XP SP3 desktop. I do have another copy that is installed on Windows Vista, but it's on a laptop that normally lives on my desk at home, and I wanted to do most of the work on this First Look at my office, where it's relatively quiet. Attempting to learn new concepts while the teens in the next room erupt into fights over Project Runway versus Family Guy is less than ideal.
I tried to get a quad-core system built quickly for this effort, on which I'd run Windows Server 2008, but I had a small snag in my personal finances when the stock market melted down and my upstairs bathroom suddenly needed remodeling. So I was reduced to doing my First Look on an underpowered laptop, and to carrying the laptop back and forth to my office on a daily basis.
Once I resigned myself to that and slogged through all the downloads and installations, I found myself overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the Azure Services Platform and the multiple sources of documentation and samples and labs. Eventually, as I tried the samples and built simple projects, I calmed down about the whole thing and started admiring the Azure Services SOA architecture.
The day after I turned in the first draft of my article, I finally got to speak with five of the managers on the Windows Azure-related teams: Steve Yi, Senior Product Manager, Marketing, Connected Systems Division (CSD); Dennis Pilarinos, Principal Group Program Manager, .Net Services; Tudor Toma, Principal Group Program Manager, Data and Storage Platform Division; Arash Ghanaie-Sichanie, Senior Program Manager, Live Platform Services; and Tracey Yeager Blackburn, Senior Marketing Manager, PR, CSD. Frank Kane of Waggener-Edstrom organized the teleconference.
I started off with the hard questions: What will Azure cost, and what service-level agreements will be available? As I expected, those answers have yet to be determined, but according to Yi they'll probably be announced in March 2009. Then I had a pleasant surprise: Tudor Toma jumped in and made an impassioned case for high service levels.