azure cheap CPU cloud computing sql azure VPN

My take on the Cloud (pt1)

The Cloud. You knew I eventually had to get there didn’t you? What is all this hubub about the “Cloud”. Well I’ll try and explain what I think, without creating yet another definition. I think there are about 68 definitions now. Well According to Simon Wardley there are.

The Cloud is the next step in the gradual evolution of computer services from innovative tool to commodity. These days hardware is relatively cheap. CPU cycles are relatively cheap. Gone are the days when computers were only used by wizards with special hats. Now anyone has access to CPU cycles, and for cheap.

Will we all end up eventually using the Cloud, whether we know it or not? I think that is eventually the end game.  We’ll have small local physical hardware with virtual desktops. The software is there now to do it. We’re just waiting for the infrastructure to do it. The average connection speed in the UK is so slow it makes something like that undoable.

Currently we’ll just have to put up with browser-based apps with about 75% functionality of the desktop apps. Developers will use Clouds for development. Teams will be dispersed around the world and VPNs will die a most honourable death.

We here at Chameeya have embraced this concept by signing up with Azure and SQL Azure. We see this as the way forward. Particularily for small firms which can now offer big iron when needed and no iron when not. Azure is a wonderful platform and its right that Microsoft has “bet their company on it”. Though I don’t think they have….

Ash cloud azure dnsmasq Domain Exim Linux oracle SQL Server

Its altogether LDAP

This past week I had two signifiant events. Well, three really. First I one a Innovation Voucher which will hopefully allow some research into a new product offering to occur. I say “hopefully” because so far all the NWDA has done so far is to ensure that my application meets some basic requirements. Then it will be up to some suppliers to show interest and see what happens from there.

Then I upgraded one my Linux Ubuntu machines to the latest Ubuntu. This took quite some time! The machine is quite a slow machine – its a Celeron 667Mhz. But it plays a critical role in the network as it runs DHCP, DNS, Backup, NAS, Samba and WINS. Overall the upgrade went through clean, but Ubuntu needs to ask a few more questions upfront – especially relating to config files. I would walk away from the machine, the display would turn off and then when I came back I was aprehensive to hitting a key lest I answer a critical prompt incorrectly. Maybe there is a way to keep the display on all the time. Another issue I ran into is the GDM login. I had turned this off. So users logging in at the console would login to text and then issue ‘startx’ if they wanted XWindows. The upgrade ignored that setting and reset the GDM login. I removed GDM from the startup but that still didn’t help. So I just removed all the Xstuff. And then I have to tell GRUB2 to go to a text screen.

Once all that is done and you’ve upgrade GRUB fully to GRUB2 the boot time is minimal. It really is fast!

The next event was changing ly local domain. I had a local domain which ended in .local. local is a public domain which, quite often would mess up my VPN users. And in certain versions of Linux, some utilities like ping will not work properly with a .local domain. So I decided to change it – to .localdom. My what a process. I had to change LDAP and all its config files and such. Surprisingly this was the easy part. Then all the ldap.conf files in all the Linux machines and the samba setup on the PDC, DNS settings (of course), my Exim setting – more on this below, Backuppc setting for e-mail domain.

Most things worked, except for the PDC. I determined through the logs that this was because the bind password was not reset. Once that was done things worked. That exposed a configuration issue with the way the NetBIOS browsing was being done. Apparently it is an absolute must that the PDC be the master browser. So back into smb.conf to correct. But nothing I did fixed the problem. Eventually I gave up and rebooted the machine. Things worked! Sigh. All that hassle and it was just a reboot needed.

Then, however a couple of days later I got complaints about e-mails bouncing. Upon enquiry with the receivers it seems the local domain name was being left in outgoing e-mails. The problem? The ldap query inside the exim config file which does that was not updated for the new base DN.

This week I’ve been looking into SQL Azure. This is Microsoft’s cloud version of SQL Server. Its quite basic to start but with Microsoft the best is usually yet to come. I’m sure this will be a very popular service. One that I may use in the future. I’ll be doing some of my data mining testing on it. Oracle does offer Oracle in the cloud, but its through Amazon ECC.

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Microsoft and Linux and the Cloud

I read this week that Microsoft is targeting even more companies in its patent infringment case against Linux. This time it is HTC they are going after who makes smartphones. Microsoft is targeting the Android phone OS that HTC uses in some of its phones. Android is of course made by Google, a huge competitor to Microsoft. Read more…

This week I have been learning the latest parts of Analysis Services on SQL Server 2008. This is a powerful piece of software to create the basis of any company’s BI solution. To learn the basics about Analysis Services have a look at the tutorial Technet SQL Server Analysis Services Tutorial. Currently SSAS isn’t part of the SQL Azure platform but I’m sure someone is working on it. Nothing stopping you from using Amazon and putting your SQL Server in the cloud there. Or using our services to provide you with the information you are looking for.

I find the SSAS not quite up to standard of Cognos or Business Objects tool set. But those tool sets are very mature and typically used by only the largest companies. SSAS could be used by a medium sized company with a Excel front end to manipulate the pivot tables. An alternate client solution is to use the free Microstrategy Reporting Suite. This is fully featured and has most of the bells and whistles anybody would need.

Keeping on this topic I have noted some companies are building BI solutions when there is no need. Perhaps it is the hype or mis-information that fools some into thinking that a full blown BI solution is needed. With the output being just a number of reports – I wouldn’t recommend a BI solution. BI means OLAP, and whilst a OLAP system will generate reports, the real purpose is to allow dynamic discovery – hence the OL in OnLine. If nobody is doing that then don’t build cubes and don’t install clients. You’re wasting money. Any consultant worth his lunch should tell you that. Well, at least I would.

My collegues and I at Chameeya take your requirements, analyse them and come back with the solution which best fits your needs. If you have larger needs in the future we will take this into account and provide a solution that will scale up or be open to have new modules added easily. If you really do need BI then we’ll happily build it for you, but in my experience most customers don’t need it.
Now I’ve got to read through the upgrade information for Linux Ubuntu 10.04. No matter what Microsoft does, Linux is rock solid and will always run my network.