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CloudBusters: Episode 1 – What is the Cloud?

smallWith this post we are launching finally the CloudBusters series. It was very hard to decide what should be presented in the first episode. After some struggles I’ve decided to start from the scratch –  from the explanation of what the CLOUD really is. It seems that everyone heard about it but probably not everyone knows exactly what does it mean. Does it ?

The term “cloud” is relatively new in IT and for a long time there was no structured definition. In 2012 the National Institute of Standards and Technology published its own definition that in my opinion the best describes what really the cloud computing is and what it differs from other technologies. The full definition can be found under the below URL:

http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

But in simpler words – what is the cloud? Continue reading

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Bug in Windows Azure Management Portal

Windows Azure Management Portal is probably the most commonly used tool for management and administration of Windows Azure. There is a bunch of other tools that might be used – I’m going to write about that in the next post – however the most accessible is of course Management Portal as it is web based application. But what happens if the reporting inside the portal is not accurate and provides false information? That’s exactly what I discovered some time ago. One of my PaaS services recycled multiple times ( at least 5 ) during quite short period of time. Finally I was able to solve the problem with the cloud service hosted on that PaaS machine so wanted to check if everything is OK with the machine itself. After logging to the Management Portal I’ve noticed the following on the main page:

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The cloud service was running but the red exclamation mark was a bit scary. So I checked the details of one of my PaaS instance.

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The detailed information was saying that my Web server is recycling and is in unhealthy state. I logged to the server and haven’t found any suspicious entries apart from quite many errors inside WaHostBootstrapper log. The log was showing that at least few agents including Diagnostic and RemoteAccess were not able to launch. Due to the fact that my knowledge of Azure environment literally speaking is still quite low I’ve opened a ticket to Microsoft support. After few days of email sending and switching between different support teams (from India, US to France 🙂 ) I finally got few answers:

1. Errors in WaHostBootstrapper log are not source of the problem – but no one could answer my question what do they mean and should I fear for my cloud services.

2. My Web server has rebooted quite few times 🙂 According to the below log it rebooted 74 times! No idea how it could happen and no one of course was able to explain that.

<following is the last failure before the role started:>

[00000010] [xx/xx/2013 15:14:02.72] [WARN]  role.Start() failed with exception: System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access is denied. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070005 (E_ACCESSDENIED))

   at System.Runtime.InteropServices.Marshal.ThrowExceptionForHRInternal(Int32 errorCode, IntPtr errorInfo)

   at Microsoft.WindowsAzure.GuestAgent.AppAgentRuntime.AppAgentRuntimeImpl.StartRole(String containerId, String roleInstanceId, String configFilename, CertificateBlobType certsBlobType, Byte[] certificatesBlob)

   at Microsoft.WindowsAzure.GuestAgent.ContainerStateMachine.Role.Start(RoleGoalStateAssets goalAssets, ManualResetEvent stopping)

   at Microsoft.WindowsAzure.GuestAgent.ContainerStateMachine.RoleStateExecutor.StartRole(RoleGoalStateAssets goalAssets).

<role start success at 15:17:07.42 >

3. It occurred that if your server hosted on Windows Azure will reboot at least 5 times during one hour and it will not start properly (not sure what is the definition of proper boot 🙂 ) you will be welcomed by this red exclamation mark on the main page of the Management Portal. That is of course a bug and Microsoft is still working on that. No final fix nor workaround available now.

All in all do not believe always what you see and always check with different tools/approaches.

One interesting thing is that also Cerebrata Azure Management Studio is showing that error – so the problem is somewhere deeper in Azure platform itself.

My ticket to Microsoft support is still open so I will let you know when the solution will be provided.

BTW: another interesting thing is that I did not get  any date/details when I can expect fix of that problem. So it seems that there is no SLA defined for Azure bugs. The known portal issue was opened on 9/22/2013 and is still under investigation. Nice ! 🙂


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CloudBurst 2013 – my review

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As I wrote in the previous post last week I participated in CloudBurst 2013 – The Sweden Windows Azure Group Developer Conference. The conference took place in Stockholm between 19-20th of September. It was organized by SWAG – Sweden Windows Azure Group in cooperation with Microsoft.

Location

CloudBurst 2013 took place at the Microsoft offices in Akalla, Stockholm. It was quite easy to get there with a metro (red line to Akalla) and then it was only 10 minutes walk from the metro station.

Registration

The only thing I needed to say at the reception desk was my name and few seconds later a nice lady put on my shirt the sticker with Microsoft visitor logo. Additionally the second sticker contained the credentials to the WIFI network for Microsoft guests. This was quite well organized.

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Then together with my colleague we were directed to the conference room.

Conference room

Conference was hold in probably the biggest available conference room in Microsoft office. It could accommodate about 80 people (rough estimation – I do not remember official stats). Each seat has it’s own power socket and there was enough place to store all personal belongings. As I was a bit late I chose first raw just not to disturb other people. The only thing I can complain here was the seat which became quite uncomfortable after 7-8 hours of sitting. But could be a lot worse 🙂

Speakers

From the list of speakers published on the conference website I found many MVPs and Microsoft employees so my expectations were high.

Sessions

Below I put my personal opinion about every session I attended with some subjective rating.

DAY 1 Sessions

1. The State of Windows Azure – Mark Brown – Windows Azure Community Manager

In general Mark’s presentation showed basic information about the services and features available in the Windows Azure. It was good summary of the information and also the slides were quite good. Unfortunately the demo that Mark wanted to show was not working due to network problems. The best part probably for me was Q&A.

Grade: 7/10

2. Cloud is the new Black… and all that Jazz! – Magnus Mårtensson – Windows Azure MVP

And here comes Magnus – for sure the most colorful person on the whole conference. Magnus continued the presentation of Mark showing where Azure is right now, which place and what are the main advantages of cloud computing. What I was missing a lot was some scenarios where cloud computing will not apply and some comparison of advantages and disadvantages of the Azure. It is still not mature IMHO solution and would be nice to tell that to the people to give them the big picture.

Grade: 7/10 +1 for Magnus personality = 8/10

3. Windows Azure though the eyes of an IT Pro and how to cope with Developers and Business Stakeholders  – Mike Martin – Windows Azure MVP

The session I was awaiting the most from the whole conference. As I also work in the company where in my office 39/41 people are Devs wanted to get some practical advices from real IT Pro. First of all Mike did a review of IT Pro duties before and after cloud implementation – one info for you guys we will have less work and that is true 😦 Secondly he was talking a little about the management tools that can be used by IT Pro. More info can be found on his blog but I also plan to write separate post on that. To be honest I expected a bit more from the session and it was noticeable that Mike just run our of time as he had still some slides to present – maybe next time 🙂

All in all that was the session the closest to my role and I really enjoyed the information presented.

Grade: 8/10 – but you can make it better Mike 🙂

btw. We had some interesting talks apart from the conference speeches.

4. How it’s made: MyGet.org – Maarten Balliauw – Windows Azure MVP

Session from the series: how it was done/built. Some nice info how guys built their own service. However from my perspective as IT Pro it was not so interesting. However my Dev colleague was very satisfied from this session – as I wrote the grades are completely subjective.

Grade: 5/10

5. Getting your Nerd on with Windows Azure data services – Scott Klein – Windows Azure Technical Evangelist

The session about SQL Azure was quite interesting. The biggest drawback as for other sessions during day one was that demo was not working. Apart from that there was to much amusement for me and we had less time to discuss other topics.

Grade: 5/10

6. Big Data for the Win!!  – Andy Cross – Windows Azure MVP

Any talked about HADOOP – topic was quite interesting even for me 🙂 However as IT Pro I do not touch such a topics.

Grade: 6/10

Day 1 summary: quite interesting sessions especially before lunch. The biggest drawback were not working demos – that should be checked beforehand if there are any network or firewall problems.

Day 1 grade:  6,5/10

DAY 2 Sessions

1. Connecting the Cloud with your local applications – Sam Vanhoutte – Windows Azure Insider

I think that organizers decided to put more interesting sessions in the morning to wake up everyone. Sam’s session was great with very good explanation of the sample source code and fully working demos. He even showed how he used Azure to open curtains at his house 🙂 really nice and interesting session.

Grade: 9/10

2. Bursting to the Cloud in 1 Hour – Patriek Dorp, van – Windows Azure MVP

The whole session I can cover in one 2 sentences: “Learn Powershell. It is the main tool for Dev and IT Pro”. And that would be all. Unfortunately IMHO the worst session on the conference. Not because of Patriek person but beacuse of not working Powershell scripts. Also some topics were to basic as for such an audience. I would really like to look into the scripts and run them by myself. However grade is quite low.

Grade: 4/10

3. DNN Cloud Services – Under the Hood – David Rodriguez – Windows Azure Insider

David had good session about the DNN Cloud. It was quite nice to see how large solution work in the cloud environment.

Grade: 7/10

4. Handling Big Data in Windows Azure Storage – Alan Smith – Windows Azure MVP

Alan’s demos are already famous among the CloudBurst paricipants. The same was this time when Alan showed how to use Azure to manage Wikipedia articles and how much it may cost. Nice overview of the power of the cloud and virtual machines on demand.

Grade: 8/10

5. Dependable Cloud Architecture – Michael Wood – Windows Azure MVP

The last session I attended was Mike Wood presentation about reliability of the solution not only in the cloud. A lot of examples from everyday IT life.

Grade: 8/10 btw. one more time thanks Mike for Cerebrata license 🙂

6. Windows Azure Store – Björn Eriksen – Architect Evangelist

I did not attend this session so cannot assess this one.

Day 2 grade:  7,2/10

In overall the whole conference was a good start for me in learning Azure platform. However I’ve noticed few things that I will try to share with you in the next posts.

One more time thanks to all speakers and whole team who prepared the event. There was quite a lot of great things but still you can make it better 🙂

I would like to underline the giant work done by Magnus Mårtensson. For sure whole team did a huge work to prepare the event but Magnus was the loudest there 🙂  Still cannot believe that he is Swedish guy 😀

I would forgot! The official recordings from the conference can be found on the Channel 9 here:

http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Cloud-Burst/Cloud-Burst-2013