Switching to Windows Azure

The annoying sound of the alarm clock crying for attention at 5:00am in the morning woke me up. Everybody in my house was still sleeping, after all it is summer and it was just 5 in the morning! For a moment I thought about going back to sleep and forget about the reason I setup the alarm at such an early time, especially after going to bed around 3am, just a few hours earlier.

About 30 minutes later I was outside and in my car, and I started to drive on IH35, heading north, I was on my way to Dallas to attend a Microsoft Azure Summit. For a while I have been thinking about using Azure for my software startup but have been avoiding it since other cloud solutions offered by Amazon and Rackspace have been sufficient to host a few web applications and image files. The reason I have been avoiding Azure is because the first time I tried it, almost two years ago, I was disappointed with it for various reasons, the product didn’t seem to be ready, it lacked many basic features and there was not enough documentation. I have been using Amazon S3 for file storage and Rackspace’s Cloud Servers for my web servers and database.

It took me about 2.5 hours to get to Irving Convention Center, I got there just in time to listen to Scott Guthrie‘s keynote. After many ounces of coffee and listening to Scott talk about Azure’s features, it was clear that Azure has come a long way since the last time I looked at it. This time, all the features I am interested on seem to be robust enough for me to use it with my upcoming web application. These are some of the features Scott Guthrie talked about during his keynote:

  • SLA: 99.95% uptime
  • Pay only for what you use
  • Continuous storage, by the time your data shows as saved successfully, it would have been written to 3 different places.
  • Git support
  • Azure Websites, focus on apps not infrastructure
  • Database: you can use the VM and install it yourself or use the db service Azure offers which is fully managed and clustered
  • Blob storage to serve files, it offers infinite storage, pay for what you use
  • Distributed cache (memcached protocol support)
  • Identity service
  • Service bus support! Distributed apps
  • Media services (currently in preview)
Click here to see a list of all features in shown in the Azure website.

On top of that, I realized that with my BizSpark subscription, I could get up to $3700 worth of Azure services per year, that is about $308.3 per month, which should cover the expenses for the site and applications I currently have without the need to pay anything extra, at least not now.

As a bootstrapped startup, having the ability to use a cloud provider with all the features I need, integration with my development tools and at a zero cost… it is a no-brainer. Also, deployment of web apps to Windows Azure is very simple, even if your web app was created in a language other than .NET. Azure supports many different languages and frameworks.

For the next few months, I will be monitoring the reliability, performance and cost of Windows Azure. Two of my projects, Foreverbit and OnTechies Community should run perfectly with the amount of processing power and storage given to me (for free) by the BizSpark program.

Peace out.


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