Microsoft puts its head in the clouds at TechEd

I should really know by now what to expect from the company that brought us PowerPoint. Microsoft’s recent TechEd convention in Atlanta, Georgia, kicked off with an epic day of presentations.

Microsoft puts its head in the clouds at TechEd

Regular readers will already know my views on this method of information transfer; all I need add is that there are very few slick presentation secrets I can pass on from those who work at the company that bequeathed that monstrous software to the world’s meeting rooms.

Perhaps I should be kinder: while it certainly qualifies as “trial by PowerPoint” to have to sit through ten hours of projector and remote-clicker work, some degree of counterpoint is found in the people doing the presenting.

The general rule is that the more valuable the information, the plainer the presentation

The general rule is that the more valuable the information, the plainer the presentation. Let me get my confession out of the way first. If you were to grill me on the fine detail of what those worthy presenters (in some cases eminent, too: the father of SQL Server kicked off the day with a keynote speech) actually had to say, I’d be hard-pushed to remember much of it.

Far too many of those blue backgrounds and transitions that always seem cool when you’re starting to lay out your presentation were just turned into mush in my brain.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this makes me a pretty poor traditional shorthand-scribbling reporter. Imagine all the priceless info I could have missed by almost nodding off under the barrage of all these slides!

Azure appeal

The only excuse I can offer in mitigation is that I was actually picking up on all the little asides. Almost every presenter offered some such snippet, and after lunch I started to detect a pattern; everyone in Microsoft’s development team has a Windows Azure account nowadays.

This wasn’t the main topic of any of their slides (I checked, because despite my somnolent state on the day I did keep copies), but it was present in the off-the-cuff comments they made. And it wasn’t all about writing super-complex code modules in Visual Studio while trotting the globe, but about making effective use of the low-key parts of Azure, which give you your own Windows VM in the Cloud and more.

These days, Azure has become a broad label for a wide-ranging group of services. Take a look at the screenshot of the main Azure site below, which contains no fewer than 12 neat icons.


I could devote a sizeable and rather dull chunk of copy to working my way through what they all represent, but to explain the enlightenment on offer from Microsoft’s guys at TechEd Atlanta it’s necessary to consider only two of the icons: the Content Delivery Network (CDN) and the Virtual Network service. For these guys Azure is the world’s largest server.

Some of them were talking about throwing MSI installer files at one another via the CDN, while others were extending networks that started life in their offices, out to global sites via the virtual network layer within the Azure umbrella.

Neither of those capabilities formed the main thrust of any of the Azure presentations, but they certainly got to star in the asides, and mostly this was because the guys hitting us with so much PowerPoint were the real product development men, not just the regional marketeers.

What’s really hard to get a handle on is how much it would cost for you to use Azure in the same way these guys do. There are blogs out there that peg the baseline cost for realistic use at $80 per month, mostly biased towards website hosting.

Most of the take-up appears to be from companies that have cut substantially discounted deals, or for whom the per-tick costs vanish into the kind of grossly bloated, fantasy-land IT budgets that provoke incredulity whenever I mention them here.

The problem with those 12 handy icons on the main Azure page is that, unlike MultiPoint Server (see below), they don’t provide an easy way for me to grasp the mixture of services on offer.

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