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Beware the dazzle of Microsoft's Azure lure

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When it comes to Microsoft's Azure Services Platform, it pays to be cautious.

Microsoft has joined IBM and others in trying to build its own version of what's beginning to look like a vast, mainframe-like computing and storage system in the sky.

In the case of Azure, you - the developer - will build your applications using the familiar Visual Studio, C#, Visual Studio, and ASP.NET that you'll then deploy to Azure.

Re-use existing Microsoft programming skills and technologies, never need to own another server, provision and spin up in relation to demand - that's the rhetoric that's been repeated during the last few months by Microsoft, and this week, it turned up at its VSLive and MSDN Developer conferences in San Francisco.

Yet it was clear people attending the shows struggled to come to grips with what Microsoft is offering. Even those from Microsoft and partners trying to evangelize or explain Azure couldn't completely answer some big questions, either because Microsoft hasn't got the answers or it's not sharing them.

Among the questions:

  • Just how big a system will you be able to spin up and provision on Azure, and how quickly?
  • What's to prevent Microsoft from "stealing" your ideas?
  • Is the service going to be available from Microsoft only, or will Azure also be available through partners?
  • Will you be able to analyze the performance of your application, and tell whether its Azure or your own application that's at fault if there's a problem?
  • Does Azure come with a relational database?

Some of these answers will depend on the sheer capacity Microsoft puts in place and how it backs these up with service level agreements (SLAs).

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