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Windows in the Cloud? Been there, done that!

October 1st, 2008 by - 15,633 views

Today (Wednesday) there were a flurry of announcements about Microsoft Windows suddenly being available in the Cloud, first by Amazon Web Services and then by 3tera. (Oh, and now since the writing of the first draft of this post, Steve Ballmer just revealed the “Windows Cloud.”) It made me scratch my head a bit. If you are a regular reader of this blog or are familiar with GoGrid in general, you would know by now that GoGrid has been offering Windows Server 2003 (and more recently Windows Server 2008) in the Cloud since the public launch at the beginning of 2008. So why is this suddenly “breaking news” in the industry? Probably because the Goliath in the Cloud industry, Amazon, has thrown its weight behind this.

Being the “David” though has its definite advantages. Having the ability to introduce new and different Operating Systems and features quickly (weeks as opposed to quarters or years) is a clear plus. And being able to offer a “complete” package is another. One thing that Amazon EC2 users are used to is using a command line to control their EC2 server instances. Many of those users are Linux programmers and developers – those who are well versed “in the command line.” Windows users are a very different breed. For them, the GUI is very important. Users want to see icons, click on them, use menus, etc. to “make things happen.”

When we started developing GoGrid over 3 years ago, the user experience was a huge factor in determining the feature set. We settled on using Google’s Web Toolkit (GWT) because it provided the structure to create a rich experience without compromising performance. We won awards (Linux World 2008′s Best of Show) for our implementation. The rich web portal won the hearts of many for its ease of use and the eye candy.

GoGrid users wanted to also control their infrastructure programmatically as well. We responded with a public API for full “control in the cloud.” The GoGrid API is a huge untapped resource for any developer. Add the rich experience of a graphical web interface with the programmatic power of an API; GoGrid provides the full control spectrum for all types of users. 

So, before you run off spawning a bunch of EC2 Windows servers (oh wait, you can’t yet), remember that GoGrid has already almost a year of proven experience providing Windows Server 2003/2008 to end users… we are also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

Regardless, it is important for Cloud Users to have a choice. Making the proper one is the challenge however, which means that (as I have mentioned before) one has to look beyond the Cloud itself and also at the ancillary services (SLA, Support, Industry knowledge, etc.) when making the choice.

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Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan, formerly the Technology Evangelist for GoGrid, is a recognized technology, social media, and cloud computing pundit and blogger who writes regularly about technology news and trends.

11 Responses to “Windows in the Cloud? Been there, done that!”

  1. Raf says:

    I read about the EC2 Windows offering, but still find the GoGrid interface, pricing, and customer support superior. Your Cloud Storage announcement is also very exciting — a game changer — and is what I’m eagerly awaiting. Keep up the great work.

  2. David Sheardown says:

    Well business is war (evidentially), and competition whilst important for sure, is only part of the deal. Lets face it, Microsoft are going to get quite dominant in this area – they always do, although there are a lot of people who really try to support other vendors (I'm one). Of course cost has to come into it, and features, but if the technology works well, and keeps working well, then I am a loyal customer.

    I agree with the previous post though about being able to "snapshot" a server in order to delete, and re-create at a later stage.. I know it means less revenue in one way, but from my perspective it would be a very powerful feature.

  3. jp says:

    I think any competition in this industry is good for everyone. Being the only provider of a windows cloud allowed go-grid to not need to bring out hinted at features like not being billed ram/hours for images that are turned off. Granted, the interface is golden, certainly the easiest thing going. But now GG will have to fight a little harder, for people like me…and I enjoy the benefit. If the Storage Cloud Images can be booted from, then it is a game changer, otherwise it’s just helpful.

  4. you guys are doing an amazing job….. super sales support , nice website and good technology.

    Ady

  5. Brian says:

    My Wish List…..(What’s yours ??)

    - Cloud Storage — soon from the sounds of it.
    > plus support for on-demand and user defined backup snapshots

    - Custom Server Images

    - Larger RAM/CPU options

    - Ability to upsize and existing server (increase RAM/CPU)

    - Roll out the RightScale MySQL support functions

    - Tweak the Dash
    > key server stats and config details
    > internal IP assignment
    > ability to RD or SSH directly from Dash to server by clicking on server icon
    > in IP tree show which are assigned to what server
    > Remember Me option – so username/pass doesn’t have to be typed each time
    > Fix forum login so it happens automatically

    - Ability to turn “off” a server (and not get billed) without deleting it…..at least for a period of time.

  6. Nicholas McGee says:

    I just wanted to keep “Keep up the good work!” as well. If I had a wish list (and I do) it would be:..

    - On top of the ability to rescale CPU/Memory on an existing deployment, and save base server images for scaling, it would be:

    - An edge firewall controlled in the interface for basic port management of all your external IPs rather than having to setup individual software firewalls on each server. VPN would be a big plus.

    - Beef-up security of the grid management dashboard. It’s scary how easy it is to delete a server, and the more popular you will get, the more you will become a target. Additional passwords? Secure ID-type tokens, maybe?

  7. Tim says:

    I agree with Nicholas’s comment on security concerns — while it should be very easy to set up and get started on a GoGrid, it should be incredibly difficult to make accidental changes once you’re “live” on it in a production environment. I’d love to see GoGrid incorporate OpenID secondary authentication.

  8. Brian says:

    Nic,

    Yes…a couple of good catches…I neglected to mention those two items.

    Additionally….to the network firewall…it would be great is something like the Barracuda Spam Firewall could be made available….to help protect all servers against Virus/Spam/el al rather than having to deal with this on a server by server basis.

    -Brian

  9. Martin says:

    It's interesting that this post mentions comparing the whole package when evaluating cloud providers. I currently use Crystaltech to host a single dedicated server. If I have a problem I email support and no matter what time of day I usually get a prompt response and resolution.

    About a month ago I decided to use a cloud provider to support the expansion of our business. After first trying EC2 and finding it unable to support our requirements I decided to give GoGrid a try. A month in I had my first problem, contacted support and over the last 18 hours I've had poor support from people that seem to struggle to understand English. My database server has been down for 18 hours with no idea yet as to when it will be available for use. I'm looking to host mission critical applications on GoGrid, with this level of support there's no way I can. I'm now evaluating other providers, GoGrid was promising, but poor support has badly let it down

    • Hi Martin,
      First, I would like to apologize for any issues you are currently experiencing. We make all efforts to provide the highest level of support possible.
      I am currently reviewing your case as well as will be escalating it for faster resolution. Always be sure to include as much detail as you can within each case correspondence so that we can assist you more effectively.
      If it helps, my direct email is michael [at] gogrid.com and I would gladly assist you to my best ability.
      Sincerely,
      Michael

  10. Martin says:

    As an update Michael quickly had a support person dealing with this, including calling me to talk me through it. The issue is a problem with Windows Server 2008 that the support engineer is liasing with Microsoft to try and resolve.

    Whilst my experience of using GoGrid so far has seen many problems, I still believe that GoGrid provide the easiest to use and most cost effective solution, and so, for now, I'll be persevering with the service to try and get my products running.

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