I wanted to learn more about cloud services and decided to focus on Microsoft Azure.  The primary reason was I am familiar with Microsoft technologies.  I was also interested in the hybrid cloud approach of running domain joined virtual machines in Azure.  I am sure Amazon Web Services has many of the same cloud features but figured Azure would be the best platform for Windows Server and SQL Server.

I started a 30 day trial account which included $200 of billing.  So, I started created test services.

The first issue was the fact that there were two portal to manage your account.  I guess this is fine as the new portal looks “Metro” like and I assume will become the primary in the future.

A great introductory resource is this eBook

Here is my observation on the services I looked at:

  • Website running WordPress
    • The creation process was straightforward.  The weird thing was I had to create a MySQL database using a different service from ClearDB.  The free database has a limit of 20 MBs.  Unfortunately, some of my current databases are already bigger than that.  The next level up is a 1 GB database for $10 a month.  This is fine but my current account at Media Temple for $20 allows for 100 databases.
    • I went ahead and finished the installed.  WordPress loaded fine.
    • I wonder if Azure is the best platform for WordPress since a LAMP application but would probably be fine for a small site except that the free website plan doesn’t allow for custom domain names.
  • SQL Server
    • The creation process was also straightforward.  I think it is cool you can connect directly from SQL Server Management Studio.
  • Backup Vault
    • This service looked very interesting but wonder if it can work with Backup Exec. 
  • Storage
    • I created a new Blob Storage.  I reviewed the intro PDF and then created a container which is similar to a folder.  I wasn’t sure how to upload a blog or a file.  But, I found an explorer program called Azure Storage Explorer.  That allowed to me to upload a test file.  Next, I wasn’t able to access the file but when I created the container, I set the security to Private.  I changed that to “Blob” and then the URL worked.
  • Resource Groups
    • When I was doing my cleanup off all the test services, I realized that Resource Group hold everything related to a service.  So, deleting them cleaned up everything.  So, will try to create an individual resource group for each permanent service.
  • Websites
    • The creating went fine.  I downloaded the WebMatrix tool and it made it very easy to create a new websites.  I also figured out how to create and access a website via Visual Studio.
  • Virtual Machines
    • Again, creation was straightforward.  I found the smallest VM spec barely had enough RAM to run at 750 MBs.  The next tier up seemed necessary to do anything with the server.
    • I created a data disk which is just another VHD file.  It was linked to a storage account.