Testing out the public cloud

Do not miss my first entry into CGI’s cloud blog!

I work for CGI (31K headcount IT Consulting international company based in Montreal, Canada) for a year now.  CGI has been developing a cloud offering for Enterprises and we’ve started a blog around it to get the word out.

My expertise lies more around Windows Azure & the public cloud in general which is a nice complement to CGI’s offering, hence my contribution.

Enjoy it!

StreamInsight in the Cloud: Meet Project Codename “Austin”

Last week I’ve talked about Microsoft StreamInsight, an engine to do real time data analysis and a nice article overviewing at just the depth (for me anyway).

Well, StreamInsight might one day even be available in the cloud with Project Codename “Austin”.

Already available as a private CTP, this product will be a nice addition to Microsoft Cloud’s portfolio.  It’s a new product and making it available in the cloud nearly from the get go ensures that application that should be in the cloud will be instead of having those new apps deployed on premise which then add friction to move them to the cloud.

Of course StreamInsight isn’t a product with the same appeal as SQL Azure.  Without being vertical specific, it targets a narrow audience having volume of real time data (e.g. financial, oil, manufacturing, etc.).  But since data is getting cheaper everyday, more of it gets produced and stored so the appeal will likely grow in the coming years.

Update on TFS on Azure

Finally some news from an exciting upcoming product in the Azure portfolio:  TFS on Azure.

We first heard about it at the PDS 2010 keynotes, but since then, not much noise about it.

Well, in mid-may, Brian Harry, from the Visual Studio ALM team, blogged about this upcoming product.

Basically, TFS is already running in the cloud since mid-April, it’s just not available to the large public yet.  About 200 users would be using it at the moment.  The availability has been good, so the guy is optimist.

It did not divulge any product timeline, not even a CTP tentative date.

Nevertheless, this product could easily be a hit if they price it correctly.  Running TFS is a huge hassle.  You need to:

  • Install it (until TFS 2010 I could have stopped the list there so much it was difficult to install)
  • Provision servers for its Web Server, SharePoint Server & Database server
  • Maintain the SQL jobs to crunch cubes
  • Make sure the security in the portal (e.g. can’t see the reports anyone?) matches the one in TFS
  • Backup its several databases
  • etc.

Now in the cloud, you could, like everything else in Windows Azure, provision it in minutes and get going.  Of course, you’ll still have your TFS governance to do:  folder hierarchy, project boundaries, check-in policies, branching strategy, security, etc. .  But that’s it:  you’ll actually worry about ALM, not plumbing!

When I opened my first CodePlex project years ago, the first thing that impressed me was the TFS integration.  I basically had my own TFS, for free, fully featured (actually no, but for what I was doing I had the features I needed) and blazing fast!  Actually, it was faster than the on-site TFS I was using (thanks to the super complicated TFS 2005 installation at the time, it was pretty easy to get lame performance).  The next thought I had was:  why isn’t Microsoft selling a similar service?  It took them a while but they are on the road to do it.

Of course, as with the rest of the cloud, big corps won’t want to use it for their precious IP, but small shops will be able to loose the VSS, SubVersion or the like and enjoy a real ALM server tool integrated to Visual Studio like no others.

Until then…  let’s enjoy our local installations.

WCF Express Interop Bindings

Something that might come as a surprise for somebody who worked with WCF (even for years) but never had to interoperate with another platform than .NET is how much WCF isn’t interoperable out-of-the-box.

It isn’t WCF fault really.  It’s SOAP’s fault and its lousy specs.  Well…  not so much lousy as big, complicated and extremely flexible.  The result is that each vendor implements a subset of those or at least expose a subset as the default configuration for web service.  So although you’re using a platform that is interoperable, the web services you are exposing are not.

Of course, if you’re exposing your web service using basic http binding with no security, no reliability, no session and plain old XML (even for big binary payload), you are probably interoperable (and pretty unsecure).  If you use a fancier bindings, chances are you won’t be able to interoperate with another platform.

But rest assure, instead of mocking around binding configuration until you can talk to this Java server over there, Microsoft gives us the WCF Express Interop Bindings on CodePlex.  Take a look at this picture (from the site) and reflect on how “Universal” SOAP is when you have platform technology names on both side of the diagram!

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