Testing Microsoft Azure

Le stand Windows Azure aux #techdays 2010
Le stand Windows Azure aux #techdays 2010 (Photo credit: tomconte)

Beginning Azure

In the world of cloud hosted computing platforms it is fair to say that Amazon have taken the lead with their Elastic Compute Cloud (ECC). The newest contender to their crown comes from Microsoft. The Azure infrastructure provides a global backbone suitable for building, deploying and managing applications and services.

As a test of the suitability of Azure for these types of deployments I chose to deploy and build a new WordPress instance from scratch. This seemed a reasonable, albeit fairly simplistic, way of testing each part of the processes in turn:

  • Implementing a new computing instance
  • Installing a standard piece of open source software
  • Transferring data to the new virtual machine

While Azure as a platform supports many more technologies including XML, ASP.NET and Node.js the standard WordPress combination of PHP and MySQL provides a test that will cover a large percentage of implementations.

Sign Up

The sign up process for Azure is reasonably simple for those with one of the many incarnations of a Live account. (If not creating a new account at outlook.com is fairly painless.)

Once logged in the sign up requires verification delivered via either a texted code of a phone call followed by payment details. Payment is only required where usage exceeds the fairly generous trial limits.

Shortly after you find yourself confronted with the management portal.

Azure Management

Azure instances fall into four general themes:

  • Compute: including web services and virtual machines
  • Data Services: including storage and SQL databases
  • App Services
  • Networks

Creating a new instance of one of these is as simple as following the options. For this test I chose to create a new web service form the app gallery. This is a continually expanding  set of pre-cast applications such as ASP.NET, Drupal and Joomla. Creating my new WordPress site is easy.

  1. Choose WordPress and click next
  2. Give the database a name
  3. Keep the default “Create new MySQL database” option
  4. Choose the region where the database is to be stored. For those of us in Europe that have to comply with data protection legislation this step should be given some serious thought
  5. Press the tick and off you go

The new web site is then created and made available. (I’ve skipped over the WordPress setup.)

I’m sad to report that that’s it. The new instance is made available and is ready to go right here

http://tonygurneywordpress.azurewebsites.net

In some ways I would have preferred a longer, more tortuous set-up. As an IT guy I can always charge more for obfuscation but in this case that won’t be possible. The only thing that remains is to try the other facilities.

I look forward to it.

4 Ways To Improve School Communication Using Social Media – Edudemic #yammer

A segment of a social network
A segment of a social network (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 Ways To Improve School Communication Using Social Media – Edudemic.

5 Education Apps That Don’t Exist (But Should) | Edudemic

My iPhone apps as of February 2010
My iPhone apps as of February 2010 (Photo credit: dougbelshaw)

Having been teaching with a tablet in my classroom for nearly a year it has become evident that the market for Education apps still isn’t quite right. I think this is most evident in the fact that the course I run training teachers to use an iPad effectively in the classroom features almost no ‘education’ apps. I do one session (out of 7) that revolves around subject-specific apps, but other than this, the apps that are used on a day-to-day basis are commercial, and often free.

That said, even these great apps, that no doubt you read about all the time – Evernote, Dropbox, iMovie etc, don’t do everything we need them to do.

The key to successful technology integration in schools is to get the staff on board. To get the staff on board, you need to show them how much easier life becomes with the technology, as well as how much better/enhanced the learning can be. There will always be a core group of teachers who get on board without much fuss and these people are what keep you sane when you’re trying to push things forward. I will discuss the role of ‘champions’ in a future post.

Back to what we need to get devices functioning at a higher level in a classroom. My wish list includes the following:

via 5 Education Apps That Don’t Exist (But Should) | Edudemic.