January 2010

Volume 25 Number 01

Editor's Note - Two Guys in the Cloud

January 2010

Keith WardIt’s amazing what you can learn when you shut up and listen. Case in point: I was in a Super Shuttle van on the way to Los Angeles International airport in mid-November, having just finished my time at Microsoft PDC09. Sitting behind me were two guys talking about the show: one was a developer with Chevron, the other worked for a vendor that builds—among other things—plug-ins for Salesforce.com.

My natural inclination would be to ask them if they subscribe to MSDN Magazine, what they like and don’t like about the magazine, stuff like that (by the way, if you’d like to chat with me about anything related to the magazine, please drop a line to me at mmeditor@microsoft.com). Instead, I held my tongue (no mean feat, if you know me) and just listened to them banter. I learned a lot.

For one thing, they were both intensely interested in the potential of the cloud, which is certainly music to Microsoft’s ears. The Chevron guy was unsure of how much it could do for his company, but it sounds like he got a lot more information at the show. The vendor was much more well-versed in the cloud, of course, and seemed very knowledgeable in particular about Microsoft Azure.

Chevron Guy had some experience with both Amazon’s cloud offering and Azure. He said something very interesting. He liked both, but liked Azure more—a good bit more. In fact, he said he’d probably drop his work with Amazon to move to Azure. “Azure is a lot further along than I thought it was,” he said.

Vendor Guy agreed. “I can confirm that,” he said, or words very close to that effect. Chevron Guy mentioned how fast Azure was. Vendor Guy said he’d seen the same thing. “Maybe it’s because we’re the only two people on it,” he joked. They were both impressed with Azure, even though Chevron Guy thought cloud computing would really pick up when it could be more useful. He sees it more as a solution in search of a problem.

That’s where this issue, with its focus on Azure, comes in. We’ve got some advice for both Vendor Guy and Chevron Guy in these pages.

For me, the cloud has no real future if it can’t be secured. Moving across domain and other security boundaries is scary, and creates significant challenges for developers. Fortunately, Azure was built with security in mind. As Jonathan Wiggs writes in his article about securing data in Azure, “proper understanding of both encryption and the .NET security model will be needed by product designers and developers building on the Azure.” He dives deep into Azure cryptography, key storage and security threats, and more.

Another key to the success of the cloud is being able to easily port existing applications and architectures to take advantage of its strengths. You don’t want to be rewriting tons of code simply to move to the cloud—if that’s the case, you probably won’t move at all. Azure also helps with this process, as we demonstrate in “Designing Services for Microsoft Azure.” The authors take us through a fictional scenario where they do just that, involving a bank that moves its services into the cloud.

There’s a lot more cloud goodness in this issue as well, and more coming in future issues.

So, Chevron and Vendor Guys, I hope we’ve helped sort out some Azure and cloud issues for you. Thanks for talking.