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Microsoft Continues Ascent to OSS Relevance with Engine Yard for Windows Azure

by Richard Seroter on Aug 14, 2013 |

At the end of June 2013, Engine Yard announced that they had formed a partnership with Microsoft. The first fruits of that partnership have been released as developers can now run the full Engine Yard platform-as-a-service stack on the Windows Azure cloud. This, coupled with updates to the OSS VM Depot repository, positions Microsoft as a reasonable host for a variety of open source platforms.

PaaS veteran Engine Yard came through on a promise to offer support for Windows Azure by adding a stack of Ubuntu servers to the Windows Azure store. Developers can deploy Ruby on Rails, PHP, and Node.js applications to this container. The Engine Yard configuration consists of five servers: two extra-small HAProxy instances, two small Ruby application servers, and a single small MySQL database. Customers pay $99 for the PaaS software stack in addition to the virtual machines charges imposed by Windows Azure. Those total costs aren’t outlined by Engine Yard or Microsoft, but a simple calculation based on the advertised virtual machine sizes and 100GB of bandwidth and storage, results in a monthly charge of $281.08.

2 extra small HA proxy servers $29.76
3 small app servers $133.92
100GB bandwidth $11.40
100GB locally redundant storage $7.00
Engine Yard software (basic support) $99.00

Deployment to this Windows Azure hosted environment appears straightforward. Engine Yard has prepared a handful of knowledge base articles about “Engine Yard for Windows Azure” and they demonstrate how to use their new AngularJS-based user interface for publishing applications. While more configuration sizes may be on the way, Engine Yard says that their Professional Services team can help with custom setups today.  All of this work is part of Engine Yard’s strategy of making their platform portable between clouds. A blog post on the Engine Yard Developer Blog outlines their direction.

We’ve been working hard to make our platform more extensible and flexible. Our Windows Azure integration is part of the continual evolution of our systems that takes advantage of the new architecture we began rolling out at the beginning of the year. We’ve built a new provisioning system responsible for dealing with the always complex IaaS interactions. This system implements our infrastructure abstraction layer and gives us better visibility, development flexibility, and maintenance. Since putting it in production several months ago, we’ve seen provisioning success rates for customers increase at the same time that we’ve been adding an entirely new infrastructure integration.

Developers can provision this service by visiting the Windows Azure Store. Somewhat confusingly, there is another place where users can go load up Windows Azure with non-Microsoft technology. The VM Depot (see previous InfoQ coverage) is Microsoft’s repository of virtual machine images containing vendor and user-created open-source software stacks. This image gallery was highlighted in a blog post this week by Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman who described the VM Depot as “one of the great secrets of Azure.”

There’s actually over 400 open source VM images in there, made by the community and companies like BitNami, and hosted by MS Open Tech. You can create VMs from this interface within the Azure Portal, but I think it's even easier to make VMs from the command line.

Among the 400 images developers can find ones for Ruby on Rails, Magento, Drupal, Redis, and more. The relatively slow growth of the VM Depot indicates that it’s either too well kept of a secret, or, there is not yet a massive wave of interest in running Linux application stacks in the Microsoft cloud. Hanselman mentions that he is attempting to increase the profile of the VM Depot and asks developers to comment on its usefulness.

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Engine Yard support is very much included by Richard Watson

Hi Richard, thanks for the write-up. Just to clarify a mistake in your table above: The $99 monthly charge (or $1 for the 1st month with a discount code - try RUBY) includes Engine Yard support, in addition to the PaaS. You can certainly opt for premium support, giving you extra goodness like proactive monitoring, 24/7 emergency response and escalation, but our standard support, included in the $99 is pretty kick-ass. The front line support (there is only one line) is a team of Ruby, DevOps and DBA experts the like of whom I've never met in a 20 year career.

Re: Engine Yard support is very much included by Richard Seroter

Thanks for the clarification! I've updated it accordingly.

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