Coffeehouse Thread

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Azure experiences

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  • davewill

    I'm curious if anyone would like to share their good or bad Azure experiences.  We've just recently decided to back away from SQL Azure for a bit.  We seem to spend a lot of time working around issues or fabricating new ways to do things that just work under SQL Server.  The killer this past week was a fairly reasonable database size (2.7 GB) taking 25 minutes to copy to a new database on the same server as the source database.  In and of itself it wouldn't have been the trigger to back away.  However, since there isn't a backup mechanism in SQL Azure and this is why the database copy strategy is suggested ... that kinda helped a lot.

    The tooling in Visual Studio helps a lot.  Creating web roles, worker roles, packaging it up, all good. It is difficult at times to see the differences in the projects for azure versus on-premise.  I'd guess for someone who already knows Azure differences it makes sense.  For me going the other way, from VS to discovering Azure differences, it is't always readily transparent.  Nothing bad.  I often just have that unsettled feeling that there is more going on under the covers that I really need to know about to really understand .... and leverage.

    Azure's auto load balancing with inrole shared caching rocks in concept.  We need to progress further along with Azure to see how it performs though.

    I'm bummed and was just curious to hear from others.

  • figuerres

    Hey, Dave can you say more about the backup thing ?  when you say "However, since there isn't a backup mechanism in SQL Azure and this is why the database copy strategy is suggested" that seems very odd....   do you mean just that you do not have the option to make a backup and then mount it as a new db instance ?  or that you have no way to set a backup job from the server at all ?  even if the cloud has it's internal backup system I would still want to be able to pull down a backup for local testing on a standard sql server for example.

  • davewill

    @figuerres: SQL Azure has its own replication strategy to ensure no data loss but when it comes to making a backup at a certain point in time it does not have that capability like we would do in SQL Server.  So say your user is about to perform a significant function in your system and you would typically auto-generate a backup prior to this operation for the user's safety as an example.  In SQL Azure you have to make a copy of the database then bacpac export that copy to Azure storage.  The reason you have to make a copy of the database is because SQL Azure provides a transactionally consistent set of data in the database copy that you would not get if making a bacpac directly from the live database.

    EDIT: worth a mention, the exporting of the bacpac of that 2.7 GB database to Azure storage took 1 Hour and 13 minutes on top of the 25 minutes waiting for the database copy.  (important detail: all in the same datacenter)

  • cbae

    @figuerres: Azure triple replicates data for the purpose of disaster recovery from catastrophic failures. It doesn't give you of a back-up solution for the purpose of recovering from somebody accidentally or intentionally effing up the data.

    As it seems with so many Microsoft products and services, Azure is currently about an 80% solution. You have to take care of the remaining 20% yourself. Microsoft seems to live by the Pareto Principle.

  • PopeDai

    , davewill wrote

    the exporting of the bacpac of that 2.7 GB database to Azure storage took 1 Hour and 13 minutes on top of the 25 minutes waiting for the database copy.  (important detail: all in the same datacenter)

    Hm, that is both surprising and disappointing - I get considerably better performance on my SQL Server at home running on commodity hardware. I'll send an email to the Azure guys and see if that's normal or not.

  • davewill

    @PopeDai: Thanks but you don't have to.  I posted on the Azure forums to see what others might be seeing (if they care to share).

  • kettch

    @davewill: Never turn down an opportunity to get your issue in front of people who can fix it. Tongue Out

  • DaveWill2

    @kettch: Smiley sure. but the purpose of this thread is to hear from you, people with a personality. not that people on the MSDN forums don't have a personality. I can't spend time in 1400 forums (they are granular aren't they) to learn personalities like here.

  • kettch

    @DaveWill2: Exactly, PopeDai is offering to drag a personality into this forum. Much better than having to go seek them out.

  • Retro​Recursion

    We have used Azure for a few cases and while the ideas and possibilities were intriguing, our experiences have been less than thrilling  So far we've had much better success using the Amazon platform.

    For example, we tried using just the simple file storage to post some files. You have to have special tools installed to upload something as simple as a file. After getting the necessary Visual Studio tools in place, we found that any file larger than 100 MB required a different tool (which costs hundreds of $$) that could handle breaking up the file into smaller chunks. Bottom line is that we wasted a day just trying to figure out how to upload files. On Amazon's platform, we nailed it in 10 minutes with no special tools.

    I know there are other ways to use the service, but it just wasn't a good experience for us overall.

  • magicalclick

    That sounds disappointing indeed. I thought Azure is cool, but, I guess it is still missing some basic features.

    Leaving WM on 5/2018 if no apps, no dedicated billboards where I drive, no Store name.
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  • cbae

    , Retro‚ÄčRecursion wrote

    *snip*

    After getting the necessary Visual Studio tools in place, we found that any file larger than 100 MB required a different tool (which costs hundreds of $$) that could handle breaking up the file into smaller chunks.

    *snip*

    There are plenty of free tools for uploading files to blob storage. It's also trivial to roll your own tool as a console application that uses the storage client library. But, yes, this is yet another example of Microsoft ignoring the other 20%. 

  • davewill

    , Retro‚ÄčRecursion wrote

    *snip* we tried using just the simple file storage to post some files *snip*

    Interesting ... By simple file storage do you mean blob storage?  Something like this azure sample doesn't work beyond 100 MB?

  • Auxon

    @davewill:  I've been working on Azure quite a bit and there are definitely areas that need improvement, but they have made great strides in the tooling over the past year, that's for sure.

    One thing I'd like to see is the ability to make your own base VM templates from the Management Portal, and save them there.  Currently, you have to use either System Center 2012, or Hyper-V Manager and roll your own.  It would be nice if you could build up from a base image that allows you to specify roles and features and applications to install, and then provision that VM, sysprep it for you, and store the template, from within the Management Portal and not require remote uploading and management of the VMs locally. 

  • kettch

    @Auxon: My guess is that something like that is probably in the works. I know from a few articles that Microsoft IT's internal VM tooling allows something like that.

  • Auxon

    @kettch:  Hope so.

    Also, one of the big issues I have had so far with VMs is that they don't support snapshots, so you have to delete any snapshots as you build them up.  That means I have to export the VM to save checkpoints, to avoid having to start from scratch if something goes wrong - which it did:  After removing my snapshots, I converted my VHDX to VHD, and then both the VHDX (which is not supported, so you have to convert it to VHD) and the VHD became corrupted and would not boot.

    That of course, has nothing to do with Azure per se ... except that they don't support snapshots.

  • Retro​Recursion

    , davewill wrote

    *snip*

    Interesting ... By simple file storage do you mean blob storage?  Something like this azure sample doesn't work beyond 100 MB?

    Yes, something like that will generally work. But anything over a certain size must be broken up into chunks before the BLOB service will accept it. Even the tools you can install the Visual Studio will not accept larger file sizes. Very non-intuitive.

  • Maddus Mattus

    I've been running the datalayer and worker services for the Channel9 app in Azure for over a year now. The greatest pain is updating the SDK and server family. Things always work a bit differently in the vNext.

    Other then that, it's been a great platform.

    I did wish I could trace a bit more tho.

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