As reported on TechCrunch, Microsoft launched its first startup accelerator on Tuesday. The program is intended to foster innovation for “early stage startups doing big things in cloud, web and mobile” and to indirectly promote adoption of Windows Azure. Participating startups will receive free access to the Window Azure platform instead of seed capital. The accelerator will be housed at Microsoft’s Israel Research and Development Center. Called the Windows Azure accelerator, the program is part of the Microsoft BizSpark initiative. As in the case of the Microsoft BizSpark Plus accelerator TechStars, select startups will “be able to leverage a development environment based on the cloud services of Windows Azure, including development tools, processing and storage resources, and more, to a value of tens of thousands of dollars per startup at no charge. The tools will remain at the startups’ disposal even after they complete their incubation.” The Windows Azure accelerator promises to increase global adoption of Windows Azure by targeting Israel’s vibrant startup community.
Microsoft has provided details of the outage that affected the Azure platform on February 29. The outage was caused by a transfer certificate used to guarantee encryption of the connection between the “host agent” (HA) and the “guest agent” (GA) in its platform as a service server architecture. The guest agent contains the applications that are deployed onto the OS within the host agent. Meanwhile, the integrity of the communication between host agent and guest agent is maintained by way of a transfer certificate sent from the guest agent to the host agent. The problem that caused the outage on February 29 involved the creation of faulty transfer certificates because of a leap year bug as outlined in Microsoft’s March 9 blog post by Bill Laing, corporate VP of Microsoft’s Server and Cloud Division:
When the GA creates the transfer certificate, it gives it a one year validity range. It uses midnight UST of the current day as the valid-from date and one year from that date as the valid-to date. The leap day bug is that the GA calculated the valid-to date by simply taking the current date and adding one to its year. That meant that any GA that tried to create a transfer certificate on leap day set a valid-to date of February 29, 2013, an invalid date that caused the certificate creation to fail.
On February 28, the platform used midnight of the current day qua February 29 as the from-date for the date for the transfer certificate. The to-date was calculated as one year from the from-date, meaning, February 29, 2013, “an invalid date that caused the certificate creation to fail.” The glitch led to a number of retried connections that resulted in the mistaken conclusion that a hardware problem was responsible for the failed connection. Microsoft migrated the failed virtual machines to other hardware that similarly failed to function as expected.
As a result of the outage, Microsoft will “provide a 33% credit to all customers of Windows Azure Compute, Access Control, Service Bus and Caching for the entire affected billing month(s) for these services, regardless of whether their service was impacted.” The blog post outlined a set of remediation measures Microsoft intends to take to prevent service disruptions like this from occurring again. Nevertheless, the post starkly illustrates how a rudimentary programming error caused a disruption that required over 10 hours and a shutdown of the Azure customer service management platform to fix. On one hand, customers can take heart from Microsoft’s transparency here and the depth of their explanation of the root cause of the outage. On the other, Azure fans should have cause for concern given that the programming glitch that caused the outage should have been caught by any QA team investigating use cases specific to exceptions involving date and time values.
Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus, a program designed to accelerate the success of technology startups, expanded its range of startup services by announcing $60,000 in free Windows Azure compute and storage over a period of 24 months for select startup accelerators. Specifically, the BizSpark Plus startup accelerator TechStars will allow TechStars accelerators in Boulder, Boston, New York, Seattle and Texas to provide the designated $60,000 in free Windows Azure services to each of their respective startups. In addition to TechStars, Microsoft is extending the offer of free Windows Azure services to startup founders that belong to a technology accelerator within the Global Accelerator Network, a network of roughly 40 startup accelerators that are similar to TechStars. The expanded relationship between Microsoft Corporation and the startup accelerator community represents an astute strategic move on the part of Microsoft insofar as it constitutes a golden sales and marketing opportunity to seed its Windows Azure platform in the IT infrastructure of up and coming technology startups all over the world.
Unconfirmed reports from the All About Microsoft blog by ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley suggest that Microsoft is gearing up to support Linux on its Windows Azure cloud platform in 2012. The blog claims that Microsoft will launch a persistent virtual machine on the Azure platform that enables customers to run Windows or Linux “durably,” meaning, without suffering any loss of data due to rebooting on the Azure platform. Support for the persistent virtual machine on Windows Azure will additionally enable customers to host applications using SharePoint and SQL Server. While the conjunction of Linux and Windows might seem unthinkable given Microsoft Corporation’s historical antipathy toward Linux and open-source computing, Linux support on Azure would represent a huge coup for Azure customers that would like the flexibility to run Linux-based instances in the vein of Amazon Web Services. Moreover, Linux support on Azure enables Azure to compete more squarely with VMware. Microsoft reportedly conceded to customer requests for persistent virtual machines because customers demanded the ability to host applications such as SharePoint within a persistent virtual environment.
Microsoft today announced a set of updates to Windows Azure, its Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud computing offering that was launched in February 2010. Microsoft grouped the updates into the categories of Ease of Use, Interoperability and Overall Value. Here are some highlights from the wide-ranging update:
• Node.js language libraries added to the Windows Azure software development kit (SDK)
Windows Azure now supports the Node.js software system, known for its suitability for highly scalable internet applications such as web servers. The Azure software development kit for Node.js includes libraries for blob, table and queue storage as well as PowerShell command-line tools for development.
• Apache Hadoop on Windows Azure – A Preview
Developers seeking to unlock the Big Data potential of Apache Hadoop can now obtain a preview of Hadoop on Windows Azure by taking advantage of a streamlined installation process that sets up Hadoop on Azure in hours as opposed to days.
• Upper Bound on Price for Large Azure Databases
The maximum Azure database size has been increased from 50 GB to 150 GB. Additionally, the maximum price for the 150 GB database has been set at $499.95, resulting in a 67% price decrease for customers using the largest size.
• Lowering of Data Transfer Prices
Data transfer fees in Zone 1 (North America and Europe) have been lowered from $0.15/GB to $0.12/GB. Data transfer fees in Zone 2 (Asia Pacific) have been lowered from $0.20/GB to $0.19/GB.
Additional updates include enhanced tools for Eclipse/Java, MongoDB, SQL Azure Federation, Solr/Lucene and Memcached as well as access to Windows Azure libraries for .NET, Java, and Node.js on GitHub via an Apache 2 software license.
Software application development company Aditi Technologies announced the acquisition of cloud computing company Cumulux on November 21. The acquisition is intended to enable Aditi Technologies to promote the adoption of the Microsoft Azure platform in collaboration with Microsoft Corporation. Aditi plans to invest $5 million in the Azure Acceleration Lab, a rapid application development environment that facilitates adoption of Microsoft Azure. The acquisition is poised to drive Aditi’s transformation from a top Microsoft National System Integrator Partner for “enterprise social, big data, mobile and digital marketing” to one of the leaders in Microsoft Azure adoption. Bangalore-based Aditi acquired the Seattle start-up Cumulux, the 2010 Microsoft Partner of the Year, for an undisclosed sum.