OK… I submit to Microsoft Azure!

For years I have been a Microsoft Certified Professional and, for the most part, I have embraced Microsoft software as it is the most likely that I will encounter Microsoft software in my day to day work. But there is one area that I have stubbornly, and might I say, stupidly, pretty much ignored… Azure.

Microsoft Azure is Microsoft’s offering for Cloud Computing. It allows the “renting” of virtual hardware and software without the need to rent or buy actual hardware or in many cases licences. You just tell Azure what you want and it “spools up” a virtual machine to satisfy your needs. Need a bigger server? More cores? More RAM? More hard disk space? No problem… just change your requirements through the Azure website and hey Presto! Your server is resized. The wonderful thing about all this is that you only pay for what you use. If your requirements change the next day… or even the next hour… then you can up-size or down-size to your exact needs and start to pay the appropriate rate. All this can be done automatically too so your websites or other computer needs can upsize/upscale in response to system load… all without your intervention.

Wonderful eh? Well, yes, except that it comes at a price in that Azure, like Amazon’s AWS and Google’s Cloud Computing offerings (which offer similar functionality) it isn’t clear just how much all this computing is going to cost. You pay per minute for the server, you pay for the network bandwidth, you pay for the hard disk space used… but all this can vary hour to hour, minute to minute. With a traditional virtual machine rental you pay a fixed fee per month/year and you know what it will cost but with Azure it is all in the cloud how much you will end up paying and it is for this reason I have stubbornly avoiding it. I have preferred to pay a fixed amount and know what it is costing me in advance… until now.

So I have decided to learn to use Azure and to test it out and see if it is cost effective for a small business like mine.

As a first step I have switched this website (purplemud.co.uk) to a Azure VM and I will run it for a while and see how much I am paying. Azure is all about flexibility and responsiveness so if it doesn’t work out I’ll just pay for what I have used without any further commitment and I suppose that is the real benefit of using cloud services like this.

Watch this space for more details on how I get on.

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