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On 1 February 2010, when Microsoft Azure officially goes into production, the CTP version will come to an end.  In an instant, thousands of Azure apps in some of the remotest corners of the Internet, built with individual enthusiasm and energy, will wink out of existence – like the dying stars of a discarded alternative universe.

Sadly, the only people that will notice are the individual developers who took to Azure, figured out the samples and put something, anything, out there on The Cloud and beamed like proud fathers and remembering their first Hello World console app.  For the first time we were able to point to a badly designed web page that was, both technically and philosophically, In The Cloud.  Even though the people that we showed barely gave it a second look (it is, after all, unremarkable on the surface) we left it up and running for all the world to see.

Now, Microsoft, returning to its core principles of being aggressively commercial, is taking away the Azure privilege and leaving the once enthusiastic developers feeling like petulant children the week after Easter – where the relaxing of the chocolate rations has come to an end.  Now, developers are being asked to put in their credit cards to make use of Azure – even the free one.  Now I don’t know about anyone else’s experiences, but in mine ‘free’ followed by ‘credit card details please’ smells like a honey trap.

So its not enough that we have to scramble up the learning curve of Azure, install the tools and figure things out all on our own time, we now also have to hand over our credit card details to a large multinational that has a business model that keeps consumers at an arms length, is intent on making money, and may give you a bill for an indeterminable amount of computing resources consumed – all for which you are personally liable.

Gulp! No thanks, I’ll keep my credit card to myself if you don’t mind.

The nature of Azure development up until now and until adoption becomes mainstream is that most Azure development has no commercial benefit for the developers.  While some companies are working on Azure ‘stuff’, there is very little in the way of Azure apps out there in the wild and even fewer customers who are prepared to pay for Azure development… yet.  A lot of the Azure ‘development’ that I am aware of has been done by individuals, in their own time, on side projects as they play with Azure to get on the cloud wave, enhance their understanding or simply try something different.

While I understand Microsoft’s commercial aspirations, the financial commitments expected from Azure ‘hobbyists’ run the risk of choking the biggest source of interest, enthusiasm and publicity – the after hours developer.  Perhaps the people in the Azure silo who are commenting ‘Good riddance to the CTP developers, they were using up all of these VM’s and getting no traffic’ have not seen the Steve Ballmer ‘Developers! Developers! Developers!’ monkey dance that (embarrassingly) acknowledges the value of the influence that developers who are committed to a single platform (Windows).

It comes as no surprise that the number one feature voted for in the Microsoft initiated ‘Windows Azure Feature Voting Forum’ is ‘Make it less expensive to run my very small service on Windows Azure’ followed by ‘Continue Azure offering free for Developers’ – the third spot has less than a quarter as many votes.  But it seems that nobody is listening – instead they are rubbing their hands in glee, waiting for the launch and expecting the CTP goodwill to turn into credit card details.

Of course there is a limp-dicked ‘free’ account that will suggestively start rubbing up against your already captured credit card details after 25 hours of use (maybe).  There is also some half-cocked free-ish version for MSDN subscribers – for those that are fortunate enough to get their employers to hand over the keys (maybe).  So there are roundabout ways that a developer can find a way of getting themselves up and running on the Azure platform but it may just be too much hassle and risk to bother.

Personally, I didn’t expect it to happen this way, secretly hoping that @smarx or someone on our side would storm the corporate fortress and save us from their short sightedness and greed.  But alas, the regime persists – material has been produced, sales people are trained and the Microsoft Azure army is in motion.  There won’t even be a big battle.  Our insignificant little apps will simply walk up, disarmed, to their masters with their heads hung in shame and as punishment for not being the next killer app, they will be terminated – without so much as a display of severed heads in the town square.

Farewell Tweetpoll, RESTful Northwind, Catfax and others.

We weren’t given a chance to know you.  You are unworthy.

Simon

@simonmunro

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