Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Microsoft PDC 2010

Windows Azure is the big topic of this years Microsoft PDC. I haven't payed much attention to Windows Azure in the past but after the PDC I actually felt the urge to write some code in the cloud (hilarious isn't it?).

The developer experience for Windows Azure is what you'd expect with Visual Studio 2010. The transition is easy to make, and the big difference is primarily on the Windows Azure Storage side of things. That did not sit well with me, and it took me a while to figure out that the out-of-the-box tools don't really support the development storage, which is what you use if you haven't paid for an Windows Azure account.

There's a lot of pesky things about the Windows Azure Development Storage that's not entirely obvious. e.g. there's only one development storage account (which limits you to exactly one database at any given time), it can be completely wiped simply by clicking a button on the storage service client and there is no built-in tool for managing the storage (only querying from within Visual Studio is possible). Given that I might wanna switch between different projects, I thought I'd keep my schema and data primarily in scripts, that made sense until I realized the way to talk to the Windows Azure Storage service is through this REST API. That's fine though, but not if you're expecting to write T-SQL scripts. Windows Azure Storage, is a no-SQL storage and fundamentally different from what you get out-of-the-box with SQL Server. I realize that's a good thing for writing scalable software, but it did catch me off guard. I believe I was expecting something along the lines of what Microsoft is offering with SQL Azure.

I'm interested in learning more about Windows Azure, but this sort of thing doesn't not help with that. Eventually, I would put up the money for it, (truth be told, it's not that expensive). However, it's hard to get an overview of the what you need (in terms of computing power) and the final cost when running in the cloud is pretty guess work. Though, you can scale back to whatever supports your revenue stream as well as scale up, if necessary.

It's likely that my concerns right now, will fade away with time. As I learn more about the platform my ability to make the right decision will certainly increase. Though, as of today, the first-class developer experience I've come to expect from Microsoft with Windows Azure is not quite there.