After a week or so on Windows Azure, I must say that I am impressed with Windows Azure. The Windows Azure portal is easy to navigate and is really fully featured for any service you’d care to offer.
Initially, I had a case open for a over a month as my Azure account was being sorted out. Upon signing up with a promo code, I changed my LiveID within a few minutes of signing up for Azure. This, I fear, was my mistake. I went back and forth with support for about 6 weeks before I was finally able to log into the portal. It was well worth the wait, however. Windows Azure comes as a subscription benefit for various levels of MSDN — in my case I receive a $150/month Windows Azure credit (which is a recent change within the past month where previously it had a rather complicated benefit). With the simplified structure, I can do whatever I’d like — host VMs, websites, media services, storage, SQL and more.
Starting with websites was incredibly easy as well. Azure offers full hosting for websites and has a host of options available. There are various guides for developing on Azure, but even simpler was the option to deploy from catalog. My initial exploration lead me to deploying Orchard CMS on Windows Azure. I was left wanting a bit for various plugins and didn’t really feel the need to extend a CMS as it is a technology I expect to be a bit mature by now. After toying with it a bit, I opted to deploy WordPress. Free websites are deployed at yournamechoice.azurewebsites.net, or if you opt for “Shared” or “Standard” mode you can use your own domain. After getting a great deal on a .com domain, AtumVirt.com was born.
Website reporting in Azure is also quite impressive. Although my traffic is fairly small now, if it were something that was a concern I’d know exactly when and what was driving my costs. All in all, Azure seems to be a solid platform that was much easier to get going than my previous experience with Amazon’s services (which seemed rather labyrinthine just to find the ‘costs’ for their free services at the time).