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How to make Azure more appealing to Java and Open Source developers

Putting on the glitz

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Comment Microsoft has been reaching out to developers who use third-party languages and applications with a raft of initiatives and announcements.

Many developers are surprised when by the comprehensiveness of the company’s Interoperability Bridges and Labs Center.

But it has to do more to win Java and Open Source developers over to Azure.

It’s an interesting time for Microsoft. At a time of recession, consolidation and migration are the watch-words as people try to squeeze value from their legacy applications. As we move to the cloud and platform as a service, the operating system is becoming less relevant and it's value for money and cost savings that matter.

Ironically, many non .NET applications are easier to port to Azure because they have fewer Windows-specific dependencies. They don't write to the registry, nor do they need elevated privileges or sophisticated installation. Many Java apps are very self-contained with a clear abstraction over their operating environment.

Here are a few suggestions as to what it would take to make Azure more appealing to the wider developer community.

Lower cost

Yes there are deals, incentives and extra small instances, but it is still expensive to host a simple blog on Azure. Extra small instances are still in Beta.

The Development Fabric is not a good starting point. Developers need to use the cloud for real. If you appeal to geeks as spare-time hacks they will transfer their skills back to their day jobs.

Azure needs a loss leader.

More TCP ports

Five ports really isn't enough. Java people use sockets for everything, from AJP to LDAP, Web and so on. If you want to use Microsoft’s new Remote Desktop facilities as well, you have even less to play with.

Secure Shell (SSH)

Telnet and FTP are not secure and RDP is overkill for quick systems admin tasks. SSH access is fast, flexible and secure, so why isn't it included as an option with Windows?

A good porting layer

I know we have Cygwin, MingW and VisualC++, but whatever happened to Microsoft's Services for Unix or the Portable Operating System Interface for Unix support?

 ./configure 
make 
make install

The above works seamlessly on most Unixes and Mac OS X. Why does the build have to be complicated for Windows?

A package management system

apt-get install

works on Linux and

 brew install

works on OS X. What about Windows?

NuGet has now been released to provide some package management facilities on Windows, but it doesn’t provide compatibility with the wealth of open source software that’s already out there.

Whatever happened to the CoApp, the Common Opensource Application Publishing Platform?

A package management system is not the same thing as an app store. ®

Rob Blackwell is the R&D director of Active Web Solutions Ltd, a Suffolk, UK software developer specialising in the Windows Azure platform. The views he expresses in this article are his own and were originally published on his personal blog.

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