Monday, March 15, 2010

My Great Windows Azure Idea:: A window into my lover's heart

Today, I dare reminisce on how my lover treats me. You may have such a lover too. Like, it's all feeling blissful until that rare "wait-a-minute!" moment. Then, you wonder if you've been getting the rough end of the stick all along.

Windows Azure is Microsoft's cloud computing offering. It's like your application sitting on some platform out there, nestled on top of a highly scalable, robust and distributed (NLB + operating system + database + network + servers + domain name + buildings + air conditioning + disaster recovery + CDN + ...  'you get the idea') all wrapped in one single "pay-per-use" experience located at Microsoft-maintained data centers.

Long ago, in October/November 2008, some of us tech lunatics (as in 'madly in love with technology') were recruited by Microsoft to try out these new stuff and tell them what we think The idea was that we are the technology community and we were previewing this stuff and we say what we want, they make it happen and then they'd release the final product, and we and them will live happily ever after. Just think of it as the nerd equivalent of, "Windows 7: my idea!".We were a select few. Our idea mattered. We loved it! We worked tirelessly night and day, we poured in opinion, we made friends, we fought one another, we fought Microsoft, we defended Microsoft, champions rose and fell on the score board (rising when their answers helped others and stayed up late taking questing from another time zone, and falling when they go on vacation), people got help! People gave help! The revolutionary Azure way was on its way! Our compensation package: Pure adrenaline. Yes, Microsoft paid us in adrenaline units; the excitement of uninstalling Feb CTP to install July CTP! The uncertainty that follows if you didn't follow the uninstall/install order carefully. The sigh that follows when Pita.O or Neil Mackenzie or Yi-Lun Luo or Steve Marx or jnak (there are many other heroes of the community) gives you an answer that works. The frustration when you got the wrong answer, the diligence from re-installing, the fortitude from data corruption, calling in sick at work because you were hung over from doing too much Azure last night at home, the $200 you shelled out to get a Vista upgrade because they wouldn't put the SDK on your Windows XP. The laptop you have to lug to work because your client still insisted on Windows XP ... again, you got the idea. All pure joy! All pure adrenaline! All worth it. Lunatics, remember? After all, you were contributing to something important.

The idea was that all those opinions were heard and someone in the back office was also working day and night to consider the ideas and actually do something with them. After all, the community has spoken! After all, this would have cost Microsoft so much and would have cost the community so much too! It can't just be for nothing, right? They must be important, those ideas. Yes!

Bolstered by this feeling of relevance, we gave ideas:
(a) We want multiple roles per instance
(b) We want to make it less expensive to run my very small service on Windows Azure
(c) We want you to continue to offer Azure free for developers
(d) We want the ability to send emails right from Azure (as in local smtp server)
(e) We want a way to reschedule worker roles so they only run when needed
(f) We want you to Create a "beta" environment for.NET 4.0 tests and evaluation
(g) We want you to Provide DNS services for our domain and subdomains

But then,  these ideas and many others like them were scattered over the community space or placed on connect. There was no way of seeing, in one place, what Microsoft actually did with these ideas. So we just kept giving them!

Then, there was this top shot from Microsoft who sent surveys to a few of us, really select few! These guys can really make you feel important. Mike Wickstrand. And we responded to the surveys, all about how to make Azure better. And Mike sent back these nice appreciation letter of how they so love what you  are doing for Azure and even invited you to VIP status for the next PDC. The point being, these ideas we give are really very important to Microsoft. So, we kept giving them!!

Then, Mike goes and sets up this aptly named website called and invited us to go aggregate these ideas there and vote on them. The concept caught on. They even pinned a redirect on the community space telling us in essence, "if you put your idea on this new ideas aggregator and it gets voted up by the community, you'll get Microsoft's listen". So, we went. And we kept giving them and voting them up!!!

Then, here's the time of reckoning! Microsoft released the commercial build of Azure on Feb 2, 2010. Then, I cast my eyes back at those great windows azure ideas we gave. The most popular ideas are captured in the list I showed you above. They have votes ranging from 266 - 1790. Yes, 1790! About 600 and 1000 early adopters of the Windows Azure platform actually spoke with one voice on an idea. It must have been accepted or even completed, right? (Note that there are tabs for "Accepted" and "Completed" on the site.

Oh! There! There are items in the competed and accepted columns. It must be good. What? Just one item  accepted? It has 150 votes. Oh, do you know why it was moved to accepted? No, not the votes! Mike said he heard it "annouced at PDC[09]" prior to even launching the "my great windows azure ideas" site. Ok. What about the other accepted ideas? None. Right, and the completed ones? All 4 of them. Yeah!! Highest votes on each of them? Vote count: 1,2,4,58. Who are the proud authors of the "completed" ideas? Mike, Mike, Mike and ... Mike. Each and every one of them. Wait a second!! Nooooo! Each of these ideas was already implemented and deployed prior to PDC09. So, let's just call these Mike authored ideas, "Idea templates" seeded into the system to show us how the process will work.

So, last week or two, I got another questionnaire from Mike. I haven't even opened it. Maybe I should. Maybe there's a t-shirt ballot to be entered for. Maybe I should do it for the t-shirt. Man! I'd love to be paid in Microsoft t-shirt rather than sheer adrenaline. Hmmm ... could I still do it just because the ideas count for something?

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