Microsoft: We’re Not Stupid

by Jon Davis 2. May 2010 23:40

We get it, Microsoft. You want us to use Azure. You want us to build highly scalable software that will run in the cloud—your cloud. And we’ll get the wonderful support from Microsoft if we choose Azure. Yes, Microsoft. We get it.

We’re not stupid. You play up Azure like it’s a development skill, or some critical piece of the Visual Studio development puzzle, but we recognize that Azure is a proprietary cloud service that you’re advertising, not an essential tool chain component. Now go away. Please. Stop diluting the MSDN Magazine articles and the msdev Facebook app status posts with your marketing drivel about Azure. You are not going to get any checks written out from me for hosted solutions. We know that you want to profit from this. Heck, we even believe it might actually be a half-decent hosting service. But, Microsoft, you didn’t invent the cloud, there are other clouds out there, so tooling for your operating system using Visual Studio does not mean that I need to know diddly squat about your tirelessly hyped service.

There are a lot of other things you can talk about and still make a buck off of your platform. You can talk about how cool WPF is as a great way to build innovative Windows-only products. You can focus on how fast SQL Server 2008 R2 is and how Oracle wasted their money on a joke (mySQL). You can play up the wonderful extensibility of IIS 7 and all the neat kinds of innovative networked software you can build with it. Honestly, I don’t even know what you should talk about because you’re the ones who know the info, not me.

But Microsoft it’s getting really boring to hear the constant hyping of Azure. I’ve already chosen how my stuff will be hosted, and that’s not going to change right now. So honestly, I really don’t care.

Maybe I need to explain why I don’t care.

Microsoft, there are only two groups of people who are going to choose your ridiculously wonderful and bloated cloud: established mid-market businesses with money to spend, and start-ups with a lot of throw-away capital who drank your kool aid. You shouldn’t worry about those people. The people you should worry about are those who will choose against it, and will have made their decision firmly.

First of all, I believe most enterprises will not want to put their data on a cloud, certainly not with a standardized set of cloud interfaces. It’s too great a security risk. Amazon’s true OS cloud is enticing because companies can roll their own APIs with proprietary APIs and have them talk to each other while rolling out VM instances on a whim. They have sufficient tooling outside of cloud-speak to write what they need and to do what needs doing. But for the most part, companies want to keep internal data internal.

Second, we geeks don’t fiddle a whole lot with accounting and taking corporate risks. We focus on writing code. That code has to be portable. It has to run locally, on a dedicated IIS server, or in a cloud. Writing code that deploys to your cloud—whether a true cloud or locally for testing, it doesn’t matter—if it doesn’t run equally well in other environments it’s at best a redundant effort and at worst a potentially wasted one. We have to write code for your cloud and then we have to write code for running without your cloud. We most certainly would not be comfortable writing code that only runs on your cloud, but the mangled way your cloud APIs are marketed we might as well bet the whole farm on it. And that just ain’t right.

See, I don’t like going into anything not knowing I can pull out and look at alternatives at any time without having completely wasted my efforts. If I’m going to write code for Azure, I want to be assured that the code will have the same functionality outside of Azure. But since Azure APIs only run in the Azure cloud, and Azure cannot be self-hosted (outside of localhost debugging), I don’t have that assurance. Hence, I as a geek and as an entrepreneur have no interest in Azure.

When I choose a tool chain, I choose it for its toolset, not for its target environment. I already know that Windows Server with IIS is adequate for the scale of runtimes I work with. When I choose a hosting service, I choose it expecting to be very low-demand but with potential for high demand. I don’t want to pay out the nose for that potential. I often experiment with different solutions and discover a site’s market potential. But I don’t go in expecting to make a big buck—I only go in hoping to.

What would gain my interest in Azure? Pretty much the only thing that would have me give Azure even a second glance would be a low-demand (low traffic, low CPU, low storage, and low memory) absolutely free account, whereby I am simply billed if I go over my limit. If free’s no good, then a flat ridiculously low rate, like $10/mo for reasonable usage and a reasonable rate when I go over. A trial is unacceptable. I’m not going to develop for something that is going to only be a trial. And I also prefer a reasonable flat rate for low-demand usage over a generated-per-use one. I prefer to have an up-front idea of how much things will cost. I don’t have time to keep adjusting my budget. I don’t want to have to get billed first in order to see what my monthly cost will be.

I’m actually paying quite a bit of money for my Windows 2008 VPS, but the nice thing about it is there are no surprises, the server will handle the load, and if I ever exceed its capacity I can just get another account. Whereas, cloud == surprises. You have to do a lot of manual number crunching in order to determine what your bill is going to look like. “Got a lot of traffic this month? We got you covered, we automatically scaled for you. Now here’s your massive bill!”

Let’s put it this way, Microsoft. If you keep pushing Azure at me, I can abandon your tool chain completely and stick with my other $12/mo Linux VM that would meet my needs for a low-demand server on which I still have the support of some magnificent open source communities, and if my needs grow I can always instance another $12/mo account. Honestly, the more diluted the developer discussions are with Azure hype, the more inclined I am to go down that path. (Although, I’ll admit it’ll take a lot more to get me to go all the way with that.)

Just stop, please. I have no problem with Azure, you can put your banner ads and printed ads into everything I touch, I’m totally fine with that. What is really upsetting to me is when magazine and related content, both online and printed, is taken up to hype your proprietary cloud services, and I really feel like I’m getting robbed as an MSDN subscriber.

Just keep in mind, we’re not stupid. We do know service marketing versus helpful development tips when we see it. You’re only hurting yourselves when you push the platform on us like we’re lemmings. Speaking for myself, I’m starting to dread what should have been a wonderful year of 2010 with the evolution of the Microsoft tool chain.


[UPDATE: According to this, Azure will someday be independently hostable. That's better. Now I might start paying attention.] 

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About the author

Jon Davis (aka "stimpy77") has been a programmer, developer, and consultant for web and Windows software solutions professionally since 1997, with experience ranging from OS and hardware support to DHTML programming to IIS/ASP web apps to Java network programming to Visual Basic applications to C# desktop apps.
Software in all forms is also his sole hobby, whether playing PC games or tinkering with programming them. "I was playing Defender on the Commodore 64," he reminisces, "when I decided at the age of 12 or so that I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up."

Jon was previously employed as a senior .NET developer at a very well-known Internet services company whom you're more likely than not to have directly done business with. However, this blog and all of have no affiliation with, and are not representative of, his former employer in any way.

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