... and why you really should care.

I'm sitting in a Microsoft user group meeting right now, and I am, to be honest, pretty unimpressed. Not with the presenters - they're doing a good job - or with the presentation, which is on what should be a fascinating topic, but with the people. Sorry, Microsoft, but the greatest problem you face right now is not your technology; it's pretty damn good[1]. It's the people who are afraid of using it - who, sadly, aren't very.

OK, I'm home now, so I can type properly.

The presentation topic was the� Azure Services Platform, which is� Microsoft's� � answer to the Google cloud. Azure is a fascinating topic, both technically and strategically. The technical merits I'll discuss in a minute. Strategically, however, this platform shows that Microsoft is quaking in its boots over what Google's been doing with cloud computing, and is now trying to play catch-up. The degree of success a) remains to be seen; and b) depends upon the aforementioned people who are going to have to want to learn to use and exploit its strengths.

This platform gives immeasurable advantages to whomever wants them: almost infinite scalability, massive parallelism and redundancy, no more worries about server provisioning or downtime... the list goes on.

One of the reasons I'm so irritated is that instead of asking intelligent questions like, "How much can we scale a single computational task?" or even "How does this compare to the Google cloud in terms of speed, flexibility and response time?" people asked questions around keeping their own servers ("Can I still be woken up at 3am when a server falls over, please?") and security ("Can I host my own database and have the platform talk to it?" or, in other words, "Can I still trust Microsoft with my unencrypted data, but nonetheless re-introduce my own single point of failure into an otherwise-well-designed system?"). Honestly.

I don't want to rant, so suffice it to say this:

Learn about your craft. Go and sign up for the Azure CTP. Go and get your Google App Engine key. Read about the Google file-system and Amazon's S3. And, while you're at it, go and re-read some Knuth and some Fowler[2], just because you should, and probably haven't.

Get some enthusiasm about what you're seeing, people. It's brilliant. Go and learn about it. For what it's worth, if you haven't been hanging out for a cloud computing solution from Microsoft for a very long time, I most respectfully suggest that you might be in the wrong profession.

[1] Except for Live Writer. What were you thinking, guys? Writing this post has been painful. I tried to screenshot the crash messages and embed them into another blog post (also in Live Writer) and it crashed, too. Fail.

[2] Who are they? Shame on you.