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Infrastructure Design Sys Admin

Microsoft Azure 90 Day Trial

I’ve just started a 90 day trial of the Microsoft Azure cloud service as I’ve got a day session next week with MS on the topic. For those of you thinking about giving it a go I suggest you go and jump in now. It’s very easy to sign up (no cost but it does ask for your credit card details) and the management portal is very easy to use. In 5min I have a web site running, a server being provisioned and a domain namespace configured.

There’s also the suggestion that the websites you add remain free after the trial period, but I’m cynical and thinking that you still need to pay for data transfers and storage at least.

azure-demo-2

You can provision a whole raft of different infrastructure from within Azure, some of which are shown on the left. There are plenty of Linux images to kick start your server provisioning off and the websites come with templates for common web apps – blogs, CMS’s, etc. While there are some apps in the later category that use non-MS technologies like MySQL, it seems you can’t provision a standalone database other than a SQL instance. Perhaps to be expected.

Once your new virtual machines are up and running you can download an .rdp file to get access to the server and do your normal tasks. But an RDP session from NZ to the Southeast Asia data centre is a bit slow, so I’m, thinking my home connection is either a little busy or connectivity really is that bad out of NZ.

DNS and other management roles such as AD and the associated namespaces are easy enough to add too. The configuration for the namespace includes all the identity provider set up that will also allow your apps and services to plug into your own source of user info.

All things considered after an hour or two of playing, the Azure 90 day trial looks to be very worthwhile, even just for a play. If you’re a business based around some of these core Microsoft technologies there’s a good chance this may be your “gateway drug” to actually stepping into doing this Cloud stuff for real.

Categories
Interesting Stuff Sys Admin

MS Exchange Local vs Hosted vs Google for 10,000 Users

After looking at some comments around Exchange Hosted Services, I thought I might do a quick (and very dirty) comparison between that and Google for 10,000 users. (This is no way reflects on the three options and may not resemble your reality).

MS Exchange Hosted Services would cost US$90k/month for company with 10k email users and selecting roughly half the options available (Communicator and Hosted Archive being two). That sounds really pricey vs local in-house servers and admins? I have no specific Exchange knowledge but say 20 servers across 5 virtual hosts, plus storage and backups is roughly NZ$350-400k as a one-off cost. Plus a team of seven admins to run it @ NZ$80k pa each is a five year cost of around $2.8 million, but lets say $3.2M to round it up to include a few software licenses and some power,cooling and floor space.

Google’s offering that I compared MS against is their Premier Edition of Apps. It’s US$50 per user per year and offers the usual email, calendar, resource booking, etc much like Exchange. I was expecting a few missing features but was surprised to see BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) synching and user and group provisioning APIs. It integrates with LDAP and offers Single Sign-On (SSO) so most of your users won’t see too much of a change – especially if they keep on using the Outlook client. The main issue for some businesses may be the 99.9% uptime guarantee – that’s 8h 45m down time per year. I’m sure there are a few features that Exchange holds over Apps but in many situations the cost may outweigh the benefit or it’s just not needed. Using Google Apps also unties you from MS Outlook and possibly MS Office, so this option may open the door to other savings.

So over 5 years for the 10k user company we have the following options:

In-house MS Exchange with 20 VMs, storage and 7 admins = NZ$3.2M

MS Exchange Hosted Services with a mid-tier option seclection @ US$90k/month = NZ$7.4M (at today’s exch rate of 0.72)

Google Apps Premier Edition @ US$50 per user per year = NZ$3.5M

Now one stands out there and not for a particularly good reason. The MS EHS option does include Communicator and Hosted Archiving as an option but I don’t see the extra value over staying with what you have or sending it all to Google. Add to both the off-site options, the project costs of actually implementing this and your own Exchange would have to be in a bad way or have some serious pain to go either way.

What are your thoughts on this one? Are my locally run Exchange costs way off for 10k users and are there any NZ based companies of a similar size (NZ Post’s 2100 users are on the way to Google Apps) that have taken either remote option? Is Google half the service or twice the value of the MS offering?

My last thought would be – just how reliable is that internet connection of yours?

Categories
Sys Admin

IE7 in the Wild

The latest version of Internet Explorer is out and about now and reaction seems to be mixed.

Most feedback on forums and in newsletters so far are of problems with the last Release Candidate (RC). The IE7 installs I’ve experienced have ranged from a single reboot for the last RC to two reboots when I installed the production version. Mozilla’s competitor browser Firefox has never needed a reboot. IE7 does work as advertised though and once people move to the new browser there should be fewer problems and less security holes.

Overall IE7 is a huge step forward from Microsoft, combining security fixes, tabbed browsing, a new UI, speed increases and a host of rendering improvements. But is it good enough to combat the hordes or techy folk who have embraced Mozilla’s Firefox browser? The latest 2.0 version of Firefox makes it’s own improvements and in my experience remains faster and most importantly handles standards based code better.

Nice work Microsoft, but you’re not quite there yet.