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DTMark

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Has anyone here any experience of the MS Azure platform?

We lease a pair of dedicated servers - one web, one MS SQL, at a UK DC.

The idea of a virtualised environment appeals for two key reasons:

1. Resilience: responsibility for the hardware - if the database server dies, we have to raise a ticket and get another one put in the rack. Only our box has failed. If the Azure platform fails I'd imagine someone would look at that rather quickly.

2. Scalability.

So Azure seems perfect for us.

I've spent hour after hour looking at this.

For the virtual servers, performance is dedicated, unlike cheaper cloud services where resource isn't dedicated. This is why I've ignored other cloud offerings in the past. You cannot host an MS SQL Server on a platform with no guaranteed level of resource.

And yet I still can't get a handle on two things:

1. Performance

2. Price

All I can conclude is that until we migrate several large scale applications, we won't know how it will perform nor how much it will cost. The risk is way too high.

Clients expect hosting to cost a fixed fee. Say £35 a month.

We cannot sell it on the basis that it will cost £x per month where x could be almost any number which we will only tell you at the end of the quarter when your bill arrives.

If I then look at the base costs of the SLA and the kit, the order of magnitude by which it is more expensive than dedicated servers with their own hardware occupying space in a rack is huge.

Which leads me to conclude that Azure is best suited to companies with very deep pockets - say, the tesco.com of this world who have the space and resources in house anyway and might prefer to keep it that way, or people with tiny low traffic sites who probably don't need the resilience anyway.

I cannot see who Azure is "for".

So after some time I come away bewildered by this.

Shall I stop now and come back to this in a few years by which time the word "cloud" does not automatically equal "monumentally expensive"?

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Has anyone here

So Azure seems perfect for us.I've spent hour after hour looking at this.For the virtual servers, performance is dedicated, unlike cheaper cloud services where resource isn't dedicated. This is why I've ignored other cloud offerings in the past. You cannot host an MS SQL Server on a platform with no guaranteed level of resource?

Hi Mark. I own a technology managed services business and sell cloud services amongst everything else you would expect Data comms, solutions resourcing, support etc in a more traditional sense.

Azure is Microsofts brand name for a burstable platform great as you say can scale quickly. Plenty of independent cloud providers deliver this type of service in the UK some using Azure some putting the building bricks together themselves ie tin, operating system, VMware etc

In reality though how often do you need to burst up without some form of prior notice to a massive extent ? If your a Corp and your are running a flash sale maybe ? Or running an ad in the super bowl in reality as you say for the majority of clients a solution really looking for a need

If you are hosting services for other clients or providing a service. Two ways of providing dedicated servers with the security of a data centre for business resilience etc are:

Put your own servers in a data centre where you can manage yourself or build a private cloud essentially putting together all the components without the tin, starting to gain traction, plenty of clients doing this

As you have identified cloud isn't cheap and if you choose a solution other than either of the above you lose a lot of control and transparency and flexibility by definition Azure type solutions can only make money if at all by offering a cookie cutter approach

Our observation so far is that clients go for some form of hybrid that retains control but gives access to scalability

If you found the above useful and would like to chat further please PM me , on hols till Monday so might take a little while to reply

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The general rule of thumb with services like Azure is that they are expensive if you want to run 24x7x365, but can be vey cheap if you use them for things like burst workloads, development or testing new business ideas. The key thing is you need to be able to turn some or all of the infrastructure off at points in time to save money.

So for developers, shut down your instances and Databases when you go home, finish a project or go on holiday. For new business ideas fail fast, Ie if it doesn't get demand turn the service off. And for burstable workloads, spin down the unnecessary servers - you would need to keep some skeleton infrastructure up though.

A lot of apps that use Azure, actually automate the scaling/downscaling to achieve this.

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As they said. Beware it can get very expensive in a hurry. Equally there is no capital outlay.

Be aware that for true High availability for sql you still need 2 servers...so it more rapidly works out cheaper if you buy the sql license separately. You do need to dial stuff back to save money. You do have a cap on how much cpu you can have on 1 server...much less than if you buy big metal yourself.

Azure or any cloud is all about scale out, low cost of entry and automation.

Do the maths and do look very carefully at the sla. It's not a nice one.

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The SLA appears to be $300 a month for a basic one.

IIRC that's about the same as we pay for one of our dedicated boxes which includes bandwidth, backup and 10 minute ticket response.

When a server failed once, the DC had it rebuilt and back online in half an hour.

The Azure DB as a service really appeals. Then I look at the "work units" style pricing and my eyes start to glaze over. "But how will it perform compared with a Quad Core Pentium/whatever it is that we have" seems a sensible question but one that doesn't seem to have a clear answer.

We'd find out if we put up a site which has sporadic high load (we have some of those) but I'm not going to find out at the clients' expense or place anything in a position where it may be jeopardised only to then keep throwing more and more money at it to get back to where we started.

The documentation seems as virtualised as the platform itself. There is reams of it, but I come away with really basic questions.

I think what we'll do is to use the "Developer Benefit" programme to set up a dev/test environment with some very cheap services and start from there.

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I looked in Azure and came to the same conclusion - it is very expensive. I thought it looked like an early adopter / wow premium, and didn't proceed.

OTOH, a company I work with has just gone to Azure - IMO the ceo was blinded by the Microsoft tag and thought (and still thinks) he's buying a more quality product. (he's got a very stable load and doesn't need burstable, etc. I suppose uptime is an issue, but I don't think Azure is particularly good in this regard)

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I looked in Azure and came to the same conclusion - it is very expensive. I thought it looked like an early adopter / wow premium, and didn't proceed.

OTOH, a company I work with has just gone to Azure - IMO the ceo was blinded by the Microsoft tag and thought (and still thinks) he's buying a more quality product. (he's got a very stable load and doesn't need burstable, etc. I suppose uptime is an issue, but I don't think Azure is particularly good in this regard)

Bear in mind this is the cheap stage for Azure.

They'll gauge you at a later date.

MS always do.

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Starts cheap/ free? but you don't get a lot of resources.

Was going to set up an Azure account recently just to evaluate a .net web app but found all the affordable packages lacking in RAM for my purposes (3GB free).

Went instead for the Java equivalent on my existing dedicated Linux server.

If you've got a resource-hungry app (CPU/ RAM) then cloud doesn't always cut it.

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Starts cheap/ free? but you don't get a lot of resources.

Was going to set up an Azure account recently just to evaluate a .net web app but found all the affordable packages lacking in RAM for my purposes (3GB free).

Went instead for the Java equivalent on my existing dedicated Linux server.

If you've got a resource-hungry app (CPU/ RAM) then cloud doesn't always cut it.

I have plans on doing something with Docker/container.

At its core, its just a web server sat on a DB.

I'm clueless on the traffic load, so containers ought to scale.

Ive not interest in Windows on the box. My app is just a socket and a DB/filesystem.

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Azure takes some tweaking. But it's not really the done thing to buy the biggest vm you can and leave it running 24-7x365. Buy 2 small vm's in a HA cluster (or LB arrangement depending on role), Script it to failover, beef up the box to meet defined traffic patterns, fail over again, beef up the other - do this at certain times then script the opposite to scale it down when you know the load is going to be low - you are not stuck with what you provision at first. This advice is generic obviously but it''s the basic premise for IaaS service. I've not looked too much at the SQL Server offering myself so can't comment on the pricing, but it wouldn't cost you too much to provision a server and benchmark a suitable test load against it, then destroy it - it's not like you are paying for the month if it's gone.

I'm actually a big fan of parts of it. Service Bus, BizTalk Services (PaaS), any PaaS really, i love that geo-resilience if a click away (at a price). Caveat, I work in a SME - they love shit like this as they think they can reduce headcount with it.

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yesterday...servers in your cupboard.

today...shared servers somewhere else.

This is the cloud.

It is no different.

Set up your stuff as you would for economical use as if it was in your cupboard.

End of.

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yesterday...servers in your cupboard.

today...shared servers somewhere else.

This is the cloud.

It is no different.

Set up your stuff as you would for economical use as if it was in your cupboard.

End of.

You haven't seen the Azure pricing structure, have you ;)

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Is azure all power shelled?

Yes, you can script out a build of say an SQL AlwaysOn high availability group with 2 nodes in a single PowwrShell script.

SQL Azure is the easiest to manage though and cheaper and you can use it though SQL Server Management Studio just like normal SQL.

As a side, SQL Server 2016 was released yesterday

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I think it's time to give up on this. It's just so ludicrously priced that it needs a few more years for the word "cloud" not to mean "monstrously expensive".

If I distil it down to a cheap quote for a single basic server and an SLA which necessarily has to be the top one because the cheaper ones are inadequate for production environments, then add bandwidth, storage and VPN, I get a price of £995 a month.

The same thing in a dedicated environment would probably be closer to what our cheapest machine costs, which I think is about £220 a month.

There is only one use that I can see for Azure which is as a development test bed/shared repository with scalability for load testing.

So that once you've done that, you then have a good idea of the sort of dedicated servers you'd need at a data centre to run the app on.

Either I'm missing something, or, this is premium pricing purely based on the "cloud" buzzword.

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