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Some Users Complain about Windows Azure

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Appirio switched from using Windows Azure to’s Database, mentioning difficulties with deployment, using Web Roles and DBA overhead, while Adron Hall, a developer, complained about the SDK, price, and administration issues.

Appirio, an IT and cloud consultant, has recently launched CloudSpokes, a web portal for developers to compete on cloud projects for money. They initially developed the project using the Windows Azure services, but they switched later to,’s database that is now available to everyone in the cloud. The New York Times published the some details on the technology change that took place.

The first problem mentioned was related to the deployment of a crowdsourcing project:

The deployment process was painful, especially due to how CloudSpokes decided to build its site. Because CloudSpokes had crowd-sourced site development, using its own contests to attract developers across the world, so any complexities in the process quickly became untenable, Dave Messinger, a community architect at CloudSpokes, explained.

Narinder Singh, Chief Strategy Officer at Appirio, added that Azure’s Web Roles lack true platform support:

Singh characterized the process as being close to Infrastructure-as-a-Service in terms of having to deal with low-level processes, which isn’t necessarily how most Platform-as-a-Service offerings, such as Windows Azure, market themselves.

But the main reason why Appirio moved to seems to have been the level of database administration skills required by Azure:

Windows Azure required some level of database-administration know-how, which is something the CloudSpokes didn’t really want to deal with. It wanted to focus on the front end and other business-critical aspects rather than on DBA work. So it looked to, and Messinger and Singh haven’ looked back since beginning the transition in mid-July.

The overall results of leaving Azure were summarized as increased productivity, fewer developers needed and overall faster project delivery:

  • A reduction to one full-time developer from seven when using Windows Azure.
  • First production deployment took only one month, compared with an estimated six months in Windows Azure.
  • Expected to take about two and a half months to go live, versus an estimated seven and a half months to go live using Windows Azure.

Another example was provided by Adron Hall, Senior Application Developer at Russell Investments, who wrote a post detailing some of the positive and negative aspects of using Windows Azure. He outlined a number of problems regarding the SDK, the price, and the administration tools:

Ok, the SDK has driven me nuts. It has had flat out errors, sealed (bad) code, and is TIGHTLY COUPLED to the development fabric. I’m a professional, I can mock that, I don’t need kindergarten level help running this! If I have a large environment with thousands of prospective nodes (or even just a few dozen instances) the development fabric does nothing to help. I’d rate the SDK’s closed (re: sealed/no interfaces) nature and the development fabric as the number 1 reasons that Windows Azure is the hardest platform to develop for at large scale in Enterprise Environments. …

Windows Azure is by far the most expensive cloud platform or infrastructure to use on the market today. AWS comes in, when priced specifically, anywhere from 2/3rds the price to 1/6th [of] the price. Rackspace in some circumstances comes in at the crazy low price of 1/8th as much as Windows Azure for similar capabilities. I realize there are certain things that Windows Azure may provide, … and that in some rare circumstances Azure may come in lower – but that is rare. …

The Silverlight Interface is beautiful, I’ll give it that. But in most browsers aside from IE it gets flaky. Oh wait, no, I’m wrong. It gets flaky in all the browsers. Doh! This may be fixed now, but in my experience and others that I’ve paired with, we’ve watched in Chrome, Opera, Safari, Firefox, and IE when things have happened. This includes the instance spinning as if starting up when it is started, or when it spins and spins, a refresh is done and the instance has completely disappeared! I’ve refreshed the Silverlight UI before and it just stops responding to communication before (and this wasn’t even on my machine).

The boot time for an instance is absolutely unacceptable for the Internet, for web development, or otherwise. Boot time should be similar to a solid Linux instance. I don’t care what needs to be done, but the instances need cleaned up, the architecture changed, or the OS swapped out if need be. I don’t care what OS the cloud is running on, but my instance should be live for me within 1-2 minutes or LESS. The current performance of Rackspace, Joyent, AWS, and about every single cloud provider out there boots an instance in about 45 seconds, sometimes a minute, but often less.

Hall continues with a number of positive features Windows Azure has, such as platform support, the .NET, PHP and Ruby on Rails ecosystem, SQL Server, Service Bus, Access Control, Azure Marketplace, SQL Azure, but he ends his post on a slightly negative note, practically saying that Azure is not up to the job yet:

Windows Azure has grown and matured a lot over the time since its release from beta. It still however has some major negatives compared to more mature offerings. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for those choosing the Windows Azure route, or those that are getting put into the Windows Azure route….

I do see myself using Windows Azure in the future, maybe not extensively, but it’ll be there.

We are wondering what other users can tell about their experiences with Windows Azure. What is your case? Have the benefits of using Azure outweighed its growing pains, or was it the other way around? 

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