Scott Hanselman

Windows Azure - No Kidding

June 7, '12 Comments [51] Posted in Azure | Open Source
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Last year when ScottGu moved over to the Azure group and brought the ASP.NET and IIS teams with him, I'll be frank, I wasn't a fan. I didn't really appreciate Azure or its first iteration. The management portal was obtuse and confusing to use, the service was primarily a PAAS (Platform as a Service) offering and focused on (I thought) confusing terms like Cloud Services and slow deployments. The underlying infrastructure was strong but the developer experience didn't feel "right" to me. I really wasn't feeling it.

So I continued to work on ASP.NET and Visual Studio 2012 and the things that were interesting to me. Then, some months ago Scott and some folks showed us the concepts for the new experience and the new management stuff. It clicked. I saw that Scott and his team "gets" it. I started working with it, giving feedback and filing bugs. We had weekly full-day long team app-building sessions. One particular day I sent 52 different pieces of feedback to the Portal team.

I've talked before about how sometimes development on a platform can be "death by a thousand tiny cuts." It doesn't hurt in general but the little things poke at you. That's not the case with Windows Azure and this release. I'm not embarrassed to say I work for the Azure Team now, as it is pretty darned sweet.

Check out Scott's post but I'll mention a few things that are new just to make the point for you that Azure is something you'll want to check out now.

New Administration Portal and Tools

The management portal has been completely redone with a focus on usability and speed. It works on all browsers but the best part is that it's actually using a REST-based management API so anything you can do on the portal you can do from the API.

There are command line tools to talk to the REST API so you can automate anything you like from both PowerShell on Windows or Bash on Mac and Linux. If you go to the Downloads page on the Azure site you can get .NET, node.js, PHP, Java or Python tools for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Just to make the point, I'll use my Mac and download the Mac SDK on a fresh system. You can do anything from the command line be it in PowerShell or Bash. If I'm on Linux and I have npm, I can just

sudo npm install azure -g

And there's lots of stuff to explore.

The Azure Command Line on a Mac

Freaked out yet? You should be. ;) The Azure SDK is also open source under Apache 2 and available on GitHub.

Azure SDK on a Mac

After the install is done I'm sent to a "what's next" page that shows me how to get node, PHP or Python running (Given that I'm on a Mac). I'll install node.js and git, then I'll make a node.js application on Azure on my Mac.

Now, my point isn't about node nor is it about Macs. It's about choice and it's about the ability to build what you want the way you want it with the tools that make you happy.

I'll make a Web Site...

Creating a node application for Azure

Then I'll setup a git repository along with a name and password for deployment.

My git repository is ready

I'll make a folder, put an app.js in there, initialize the git repo, add "Azure" as a remote repo, and then push. The Azure management site actually notices the push and automatically refreshes without me having to do anything.

I just deployed my node app with git to Windows Azure

Boom, website in the cloud, easy as it should be.


Check out the YouTube video I did (embedded above also) on how to do the same thing with .NET and Visual Studio. You can use Web Deploy as I do in the video, Git, TFS or FTP. For example, I can use TFS and do Continuous Deployment if I like.

Virtual Machines

Azure has durable Virtual Machines (VMs) in the cloud now as well. You can make your own image and upload it or you can use a gallery of images that includes not only Windows but also Ubuntu, CentOS and SUSE images.

Linux on Azure. It's freaking me out.

Web Sites

You can make a web site in Azure yourself in a minute. You can make up to 10 small websites for free to play and experiment and then later reserve instances and scale up.

NOTE: To start using Preview Features like Virtual Network and Web Sites, request access on the 'Preview Features' page under the 'account' tab, after you log into your Windows Azure account. Don't have an account?  Sign-up for a free trial here.

Maybe go try one out and create a new Web Site from the Gallery:

You can make a website quickly from the gallery

Feel free to publish in a number of ways as I mentioned, using Web Deploy, TFS, Git or FTP. You can manage everything in the portal or you can automate stuff from the command line.

I like that I have real choice. Use whatever tools I like, whatever OS I like to publish whatever apps I like talking to the backend that I like. I'm personally really happy with the way things are going and I'm looking forward to building all sorts of things with all sorts of tools on Azure.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, 07 June 2012 19:55:29 UTC
Agreed, Azure has come a LONG way since those first iterations.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 19:59:20 UTC
Soo cool! nice to see it's so fast!

Can't wait to see the live keynote....hey, it's now, have to go.

Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:09:04 UTC
I had the same feelings about Azure, lots of Marketing push but no real clients going for it, too cumbersome, too slow, yadayada. Also felt sad, yes really sad, that 'The Gu' left us and went onto the dark side of 'Azure'.

After watching your video, the Open Source Push, the new site and portal. I feel that 'The Gu' has won me back again. I have a rekindled interest in Azure.

For my own blog, it is still more expensive than my current host. Of course I do not get the traffic to warrant Azure.

But I can now see a lot more opportunities.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:29:55 UTC
Do the Mac/Linux installers also provide links to Mono, MonoDevelop and "XSP" development for cross-platform ASP.NET website development? If not, they probably should?
Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:29:56 UTC
I've been following the evolution of azure since 2008 and played with it every now and then, but just like you said, it didn't click. It sounded perfect as a idea, but it wasn't just there.

the new version with the new features looks perfect. easy and fast deployment, not even a separate cloud project anymore in VS (as far as I can see).

Two Scotts (and their teams) FTW ! :)
Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:48:15 UTC
Is Ruby support coming?
Thursday, 07 June 2012 20:50:54 UTC
Anonymous - Yes, the Gu never left us. We are ALL under Azure now. All the "Angle Brackets" are in the same group. ASP.NET, IIS, WCF, and others are all under The Gu.

Franz - Exactly.

Jeremy - Google around with Bing and you'll find lots of discussion of Ruby on Azure. The SDKs are all open so there's no reason it couldn't be done. I'll see if it's on the roadmap.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:14:09 UTC
I was followin windows Azure for the last year! And I love its state now! MSFT Teams are recognizing the killing points now ;)
Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:32:26 UTC
I love the look down to the screen during the intro, nice transition. Your video production quality is beginning to rival the podcast quality. Are you doing all of the video mixing?
Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:38:28 UTC
Thanks Mike. That was actually done on my iPhone then I dubbed the audio in later on a studio mic. Did it all in Camtasia. I'm avoiding using Adobe's editor as it's overkill for me.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:42:54 UTC
I've been trying out Azure on and off since it launched and like others I did not really like the experience. I thought it was a great platform, but not very friendly to small web developers or hobbyists. This latest version looks really great and I'll try it out again. Also like others I was bummed when Scott Guthrie went to Azure, but you guys turned something I felt was a weak offering and turned it into something I'm excited about. There seems to be so much flexibility and possibilities now, but with added user-friendliness and simplicity for developers.

I am wondering what is the most cost-effective way to get SQL Server or SQL Server Express databases if a person were to use the Azure website model?
Thursday, 07 June 2012 21:47:54 UTC
The oly thing that still missing for me is a easy way to set up a dns if i want to have my to point to a azure website i aways fell like i'm diing some kind of hack

Should be a easy and foward way of doing this
Thursday, 07 June 2012 22:57:20 UTC
Can we develop/publish .NET 4.5 websites?
Thursday, 07 June 2012 23:09:12 UTC
Custom DNS is pretty much the same as with any host. Here's the older instructions from the earlier portal but it's the genreral idea:
Thursday, 07 June 2012 23:10:25 UTC
Awesome presentation Scott!!!

As a background, for a few years now, Azure was one of the 'jokes' I used to tell. I'd ask if a developer had heard of it, and they'd invariably say yes. I'd follow that question up with if they could 'explain' it, and the fumbling began. The just seemed so bad that it really resulted in no one caring.

And in 5 mins you guys (Gu+) changed that!

That's for great video on Azure. It's refreshing and it's exciting, and finally --- I give a d@mn! ;-)
Thursday, 07 June 2012 23:11:57 UTC
Hey Scott, just watched the Gu and this is some really great stuff. I really like that I can deploy a site so simply like how Heroku and Engine Yard are setup.

I too am curious if MS wil provide an official Ruby SDK, please keep us informed. Thanks.
Thursday, 07 June 2012 23:16:56 UTC

With the new website feature, is azure a reasonable replacement for existing websites running on other hosts such as godaddy?

Azure seems to have advantages in that it will scale better as traffic grows.

Friday, 08 June 2012 00:18:13 UTC
Hey Scott, this is awesome...whats the deal with the "free" though? Faq reads like "free for a while"?
Friday, 08 June 2012 02:29:25 UTC
I really enjoyed! I confess that I never had the courage to try to use the Azure, but now this very simple and very flexible, congratulations for the post helped a lot, especially one who is starting on Azure! Thank you!
Friday, 08 June 2012 04:00:51 UTC
@Scott "Google around with Bing" lol, classic :)
Friday, 08 June 2012 05:26:50 UTC
This says free for at least a year:
Friday, 08 June 2012 06:15:58 UTC
Hi, Scott!
New azure features and portal are awesome.
But they missing very important thing - where is support of ASP.NET & .Net 4.5?

We can't publish net4.5 website also as can't deploy net4.5 applications...

Is there any coming solution?
Friday, 08 June 2012 15:59:19 UTC
This is great news Scott, but do they have any form of a quote tool so that developers/CTOs can make valid decisions and cost compare how they'd setup with Azure vs. their existing technology stack? It was something Tim Heuer pointed out not that long ago in a roundabout way when he flipped that he got socked by a serious bill for his use of Azure services.
Friday, 08 June 2012 17:44:32 UTC
Did you see the Full Azure Calculator?
Friday, 08 June 2012 19:07:48 UTC
Heh, when I told the MS Azure salesman 4 months ago that the only thing likely to tempt me back was to buy AppHarbor or at least borrow from their concepts heavily, but I didn't expect them to do it :)
Friday, 08 June 2012 20:10:38 UTC
What about us fresh college graduates who have new ideas for a cloud storage site but are intimidated by the potential cost of Azure? I've tried to picture my site growing with Azure but the costs worry me. What if the site does not bring enough income to cover the costs of Azure? I know this is a lil off topic, but I'm liking what I'm seeing with the changes!
Friday, 08 June 2012 20:33:42 UTC
You won't be charge unless you tell it to. It will simply turn off. Set a spending limit and try it out.
Friday, 08 June 2012 21:02:40 UTC
Are there any current examples of using SQL Azure Reporting in an MVC app? I'm thinking I need to head down the SOAP endpoint road but would like to make sure I'm not missing a framework or package that would make my life easier.
Friday, 08 June 2012 21:19:45 UTC
Wow Scott, it is weird to see you giving a presentation with this diction :) <sorryformyenglish/>
Friday, 08 June 2012 21:23:10 UTC
Tom - Ya, it was a little too formal perhaps. I was being "official."
Friday, 08 June 2012 22:43:20 UTC
This has come about right time. I am thinking of moving to Azure for my websites. Nice post.

I have question about the encrypted web.config sections.

I had to go through some hoops(contact support in order to get some xml installed on the server) to get it working. Is there a easy way to do this in Azure?


Saturday, 09 June 2012 05:45:28 UTC
Great update. Azure is definitely coming together. I was able to deploy a web api and consuming website that I've been working on without a hitch in about an hour after setting up an account.

I like how the team is thinking more about Azure as a hosting company than an experiment by attempting to guide the process, remove complications and in general make running a web app easier.

Say thanks to the team for me.
Saturday, 09 June 2012 22:02:18 UTC
I've been trying to deploy git repositories with more than one solution in them but Azure complains because it can't work out which one to use. Is there a way to specify? Appharbor's solution to this problem is really neat - allowing matching a website name to a solution name. Can azure implement something similar?
David Pendray
Sunday, 10 June 2012 03:14:28 UTC
@David Pendray: you just need to add a .deployment file at the root of your repo to tell the system which project to use. This way you don't need to rename your solution. See for details.

Please follow up on if you have more questions about Azure git deployment.
Monday, 11 June 2012 09:32:15 UTC
Greetings Scott, maybe I'm missing something, but am I missing something or do I have to make a reserved website in order to use a custom domain name?

I saw the page you indicated above about "custom-dns", but if I have 3 azure shared websites running (and I do see they all have the same IP), if I add a CNAME to my host, what will be the site that will handle the request?

Bottom line, how can I set the host header in a shared azure website? :)
Monday, 11 June 2012 11:55:45 UTC
That looks awesome. I tried Azure to see what it is a year ago, and I didn't like it very much, just the same way you are describing.

In the past year I worked with Heroku on a rails side project, and I am loving its simplicity.

My first thought was, yes, this is the Heroku of .NET now.
GIT publishing, TFS publishing, REST api, command line tool, all open sourced on github...
I love what I see here!
Monday, 11 June 2012 16:15:33 UTC
Scott, let me ask for a workaround in the next release:

Azure Customers Please vote for the CNAME/Hostname/binding for shared websites:
Thursday, 14 June 2012 17:33:32 UTC
Hansel*'s: Hanselman, hanselminutes, hanselmac, hanselnode
What else? I wonder if this would work equally well with any 3-syllable last name
Saturday, 16 June 2012 10:30:45 UTC

The new Azure improvements for the developer experience are great. I wondered if anyone at MS was looking at integrating publishing static content (JS, Css, Images) to Azure Blob Storage as part of the publish operation? Maybe it is possible already and I have just missed it

Static files should ideally be served from blob storage to make scaling easier. Also easier to update them without changing the instance deploy. I guess it would have to integrate into Visual Studio so that the files were accessible at development time in their current location (or local azure storage) and then URLs created at runtime.

Hope this is possible it would make the experience a lot better for many of our projects.
Monday, 18 June 2012 13:34:47 UTC
I still have a pure psychological problem with Azure.

I really like the free year, but it actually makes me not register for Azure. Why? Because as soon as I register, the time starts ticking, so the best strategy is to register as late as possible in the project development cycle. But developing without deployment seems dull, so I don't even start.

Azure is Pay-As-You-Go service. So, being unable to go nowhere (have no real CPU usage/user traffic) and pay nothing looks a bit strange.

I think I've found my problem: I don't need cloud - I just need small shared hosting. But with the convenience of Azure =)
Monday, 18 June 2012 13:43:47 UTC
Ecuador, Sri-Lanca and venesuella, but no Russia =((

Why, Oh why?!
Monday, 25 June 2012 17:33:56 UTC
Russia is on the list, should be ready now or very soon.

Also, as for as the psychological stuff, remember that it won't charge you unless you OK it. You can also always check your bill before you are charged...even hourly.

Graeme - Yes we're looking at just that.

Jose - We're on that.
Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:31:03 UTC
What does free for a year mean?

I need to know the cost of a website so that I can communicate that to customers. I don't care if I have to start paying now.

It looks like you aren't able to point a domain to a shared instance and need to update to a reserved instance?

So is this even usable for production?

Trevor Green
Thursday, 26 July 2012 02:43:29 UTC
Trevor - Upgrading to reserved is cheap, so you can do that immediately and pay immediately. I've got sites that have domains pointing to reserved sites now. Shared is free for 10 sites for now, for a year. That may change. I'd pay the few dollars for reserved (which also gives you more disk space) to use it in production. ASPConf used a reserved instance for their site recently, for example and it cost just a few dollars, then they may the instance smaller when they were done.
Scott Hanselman
Thursday, 26 July 2012 07:06:26 UTC
Few dollars? I must be missing something. I think I see where you can run multiple sites on a single instance. That might work, but the instances themselves don't appear cheap. Right now I use Rackspace cloud sites. And I can put as many as I want on there for $150 a month within the quota.

I haven't bothered to do a comparison regarding what i'm actually getting for that money verses Azure.

Azure just seems very obtuse about what the cost is. I'm used to the low end having discrete comparable pricing.

It be nice if there was some more wizards and estimates for common scenarios. WordPress under 10000 uniques a month average cost = x.

That may seem like a cop out but I can't tell you how much value a fixed cost is even if I'm paying for more than I need to get what I want. I'm willing to pay the extra to not have to think about the majority of my sites resulting in cost overruns and to not have to monitor their individual prices.

The free for year seems to pay lip service to this idea with a bait and switch at the end.

I'll have to just keep reading to figure out what is actually possible with Azure and how that lines up with actual usage numbers to create a final price. Pretty tedious at this point.

The guidance doesn't even have to be exact. Just ballpark numbers for configurations. Numbers I don't want to have to mine for myself to do the comparisons.
Trevor Green
Thursday, 06 September 2012 02:58:48 UTC
Does anyone know when the Web Sites preview will go-live, or if a go-live license is available now?
Thursday, 06 September 2012 05:27:00 UTC
Todd - You can go live now, preview ends this fall I think.
Thursday, 06 September 2012 13:03:41 UTC
Thanks Scott. Your unbiased coverage of the .NET world is one of the reasons I'm choosing Azure for my startup. Tell Scott Hunter to give you a raise, or commission, or at least a NewEgg gift card.
Sunday, 24 February 2013 02:07:56 UTC
Azure is probably the best product I have ever seen, but that said, I won't use it because of the crazy pricing. I created a small web db and and a cloud server an started developing against it. Within a few weeks they said I had already reached by quota for the free setup.

If I met the quota that fast, imagine the cost of 200 users banging away at it from their iPhone apps.
Thursday, 28 March 2013 13:38:25 UTC
Azure is freaking awesome.
better than ANY cloud something stuff.
manage easier than my develope server.
Friday, 12 April 2013 17:20:58 UTC
Scott and friends,

I'm having an issue with Azure Websites in general. I have code that is running very light on my virtual machines hosted in GoGrid on Windows 2012 but when I post to Azure Websites and dial up the capacity, the uptime is very sketchy. I've found similar behavior when launching node.js in comparing Nodejitsu, Heroku and Azure Websites. Azure Websites is the one that seems to fall over very easily. I know its in preview but wondering if others have experienced the same. I'm a big fan of the idea of Azure Websites as the dial up and down of capacity is awesome. I'm just not experiencing the robust behavior I imagined would be there. I'm sure WebRole is a more robust approach but I really like the idea of not having to do extra things around Azure's paradigm.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.