Saturday 4 October 2014

Azure: Building an online company - Part 2

The shopping list to get me up and running with an inexpensive public site was as follows:-
  1. A public server to host the website
  2. A database server
  3. Source control
  4. A copy of Visual Studio

After signing up and creating a pay-as-you-go account on Azure I configured the following:-

1. A public server to host the website

Using the FREE web hosting plan mode I have a single-server, 32-bit host (on shared metal) for my web site. I also get the option to specify a domain suffix giving Neat.

Start-up performance is not great, especially if the site hasn't been touched for a while. This suggests that the site image is stopped after a period of inactivity requiring the CLR to be reloaded and re-compilation of the MSIL. Once it is warmed up it is fine however. Amazing given the £0 price tag. Pricing and scaling options can be found here

Running total £0

2. A database server

On the basis that I am sticking with my areas of expertise and with my requirement for a relational database (SQL Server or similar), I signed up for the "Web" sku/tier of SQL Server. This tier has since been superseded by the BASIC service tier and offers pay as you go storage and 5 DTU's, So what is a DTU?

Extracted from the online reference

"DTUs are based on a blended measure of CPU, memory, reads, and writes. As DTUs increase, the power offered by the performance level increases. For example, a performance level with 5 DTUs has five times more power than a performance level with 1 DTU. A maximum DTU quota applies to each server. For more information on DTU quotas, see Azure SQL Database General Guidelines and Limitations.

Running total £0 (expected £3.18)

3. Source control

I like TFS, especially the recent upgrades to the SCRUM templates in TFS 2013 with the simple backlog management. So I signed up for the free edition of TFS online or "Visual Studio Online Basic" as it is known.

Signing up for this includes a free Web Edition of Visual Studio which means that I now have everything I need to get started.

The BONUS is that by linking the Azure account with the Visual Studio account, I also get Continuous Integration for free, put simply whenever I check in my web project, an MSBuild job (no doubt wrapped in powershell) launches in the background and deploys may latest code to the site. If anything goes wrong the Azure portal keeps a log of the deployment  history.
The number of CI hours per-month is limited on the free plan, but this hasn't caused me a problem yet, given that I am developing in my free time once or twice a week.

Running total £0

Having received my first bill after a month, the cost is £3.18, the charge is for SQL Server - not bad considering the cost of a standard license.

Month 1: £3.18

Saturday 6 September 2014

Azure: Building an online company - Part 1

In 2009 at the beginning of cloud computing boom, I attempted to see how far I could get building an online company for free - on the understanding that my leisure time working on the project was considered "free" and that numerous organisations were offering database access, storage and hosting for for free, certainly for developer or low-volume skus.

The project was a success and I had some interest from some small local companies at the time, so job done, but I wasn't satisfied with the experience or the product, however, this exercise in turn prompted me to use Azure for a successful mobile gateway project in my full time job as an Architect.

So, 5 years later I am looking to do this again and I plan to record what I have been up to.
A lot has changed and I believe that now, more then ever, the options available should mean that start-up costs are close to zero and that enterprise products and tooling are also available with no initial start-up costs.

In the main I will use Azure hosting and Microsoft development tools. This is what I know and if this is going to be successful this isn't the time to stall the process with new technology.

My measures of success are:-

  1. That the product is used by someone that I don't know.
  2. That my monthly outlay is less than £50 during the "bootstrap" phase
  3. That the product is used by someone that I don't know
  4. That the low-cost approach does not result in a compromise in features or quality

Wish me luck.