Charles Young

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The term ‘cloud’ can sometimes obscure the obvious.  Today’s Microsoft Cloud Day conference in London provided a good example.  Scott Guthrie was halfway through what was an excellent keynote when he lost network connectivity.  This proved very disruptive to his presentation which centred on a series of demonstrations of the Azure platform in action.  Great efforts were made to find a solution, but no quick fix presented itself.  The venue’s IT facilities were dreadful – no WiFi, poor 3G reception (forget 4G…this is the UK) and, unbelievably, no-one on hand from the venue staff to help with infrastructure issues.  Eventually, after an unscheduled break, a solution was found and Scott managed to complete his demonstrations.  Further connectivity issues occurred during the day.

I can say that the cause was prosaic.  A member of the venue staff had interfered with a patch board and inadvertently disconnected Scott Guthrie’s machine from the network by pulling out a cable.

I need to state the obvious here.  If your PC is disconnected from the network it can’t communicate with other systems.  This could include a machine under someone’s desk, a mail server located down the hall, a server in the local data centre, an Internet search engine or even, heaven forbid, a role running on Azure.

Inadvertently disconnecting a PC from the network does not imply a fundamental problem with the cloud or any specific cloud platform.  Some of the tweeted comments I’ve seen today are analogous to suggesting that, if you accidently unplug your microwave from the mains, this suggests some fundamental flaw with the electricity supply to your house.   This is poor reasoning, to say the least.

As far as the conference was concerned, the connectivity issue in the keynote, coupled with some later problems in a couple of presentations, served to exaggerate the perception of poor organisation.   Software problems encountered before the conference prevented the correct set-up of a smartphone app intended to convey agenda information to attendees.  Although some information was available via this app, the organisers decided to print out an agenda at the last moment.  Unfortunately, the agenda sheet did not convey enough information, and attendees were forced to approach conference staff through the day to clarify locations of the various presentations.

Despite these problems, the overwhelming feedback from conference attendees was very positive.  There was a real sense of excitement in the morning keynote.  For many, this was their first sight of new Azure features delivered in the ‘spring’ release.  The most common reaction I heard was amazement and appreciation that Azure’s new IaaS features deliver built-in template support for several flavours of Linux from day one.  This coupled with open source SDKs and several presentations on Azure’s support for Java, node.js, PHP, MongoDB and Hadoop served to communicate that the Azure platform is maturing quickly.  The new virtual network capabilities also surprised many attendees, and the much improved portal experience went down very well.

So, despite some very irritating and disruptive problems, the event served its purpose well, communicating the breadth and depth of the newly upgraded Azure platform.  I enjoyed the day very much.

 

posted on Saturday, June 23, 2012 1:08 AM

Feedback

# re: Microsoft Cloud Day - the ups and downs 6/23/2012 12:51 PM Fred Morrison
Another take-away that I don't see discussed in this post is that people, not so much infrastructure, are the weakest link in any system. I'm not trying to minimize the impact of the infrastructure issues you mention; they point out how unprepared "cloud computing" for the real world (spotty/intermittent network availability being just one example) really is at this point in time. Any so-called "cloud-based" solution must be resilient to such human and/or infrastructure issues. Bottom line: I suggest that all future "cloud computing" demonstrations incorporate cable disconnects and loss of network connectivity to show how safe/resilient cloud computing can become if developers keep in mind the things that can and do go wrong in everyday life. Don't avoid the issue - embrace it.

# re: Microsoft Cloud Day - the ups and downs 6/23/2012 5:41 PM Charles Young
It was certainly 'people' issues yesterday. The venue was a cinema, and simply didn't provide adequate management and support for their IT infrastructure. A lesson learned for cloud-orientated presentations that rely on having Internet connections is always to have a back-up plan - e.g., screen shots. One of yesterday's presenters (from Microsoft) tells me he has pre-canned screencasts of his presentations that he can show if all else fails. That's wise!

# re: Microsoft Cloud Day - the ups and downs 6/25/2012 1:59 PM Johan Van Staden
Hi Charles,
I really enjoyed your talk on Friday...in fact my favourite of the day. It's a shame we ran out of time as the last couple of slides you had to skim by.
Any case, you did mention that you're not sure if they'll be sharing the slide-show, but if you know where I can get hold of the slide deck please give a shout.
Thanks

# re: Microsoft Cloud Day - the ups and downs 6/25/2012 5:20 PM Charles Young
Thanks. The slides will be made available. The conference organsiers plan to do this, but I suspect it may take a little time. I've got agreement to put the slides up on our web site, but the person I need to ask to do this was away this afternoon. I'll publish as soon as I can and tweet on #londonazure.

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