The term ’cloud’ can sometimes obscure the obvious. Today’s Microsoft Cloud Day conference in
London provided a good example. Scott
Guthrie was halfway through what was an excellent keynote when he lost network connectivity. This proved very disruptive to his
presentation which centred on a series of demonstrations of the Azure platform
in action. Great efforts were made to find
a solution, but no quick fix presented itself.
The venue’s IT facilities were dreadful – no WiFi, poor 3G reception
(forget 4Gthis is the UK) and, unbelievably, no-one on hand from the venue staff
to help with infrastructure issues.
Eventually, after an unscheduled break, a solution was found and Scott
managed to complete his demonstrations.
Further connectivity issues occurred during the day.

I can say that the cause was prosaic. A member of the venue staff had interfered
with a patch board and inadvertently disconnected Scott Guthrie’s machine from
the network by pulling out a cable.

I need to state the obvious here. If your PC is disconnected from the network it
can’t communicate with other systems. This
could include a machine under someone’s desk, a mail server located down the
hall, a server in the local data centre, an Internet search engine or even,
heaven forbid, a role running on Azure.

Inadvertently disconnecting a PC from the network does not
imply a fundamental problem with the cloud or any specific cloud platform. Some of the tweeted comments I’ve seen today
are analogous to suggesting that, if you accidently unplug your microwave from
the mains, this suggests some fundamental flaw with the electricity supply to
your house. This is poor reasoning, to
say the least.

As far as the conference was concerned, the connectivity
issue in the keynote, coupled with some later problems in a couple of presentations,
served to exaggerate the perception of poor organisation. Software problems encountered before the
conference prevented the correct set-up of a smartphone app intended to convey
agenda information to attendees.
Although some information was available via this app, the organisers
decided to print out an agenda at the last moment. Unfortunately, the agenda sheet did not
convey enough information, and attendees were forced to approach conference
staff through the day to clarify locations of the various presentations.

Despite these problems, the overwhelming feedback from conference
attendees was very positive. There was a
real sense of excitement in the morning keynote. For many, this was their first sight of new
Azure features delivered in the ’spring’ release. The most common reaction I heard was
amazement and appreciation that Azure’s new IaaS features deliver built-in
template support for several flavours of Linux from day one. This coupled with open source SDKs and several
presentations on Azure’s support for Java, node.js, PHP, MongoDB and Hadoop
served to communicate that the Azure platform is maturing quickly. The new virtual network capabilities also
surprised many attendees, and the much improved portal experience went down
very well.

So, despite some very irritating and disruptive
problems, the event served its purpose well, communicating the breadth and
depth of the newly upgraded Azure platform.
I enjoyed the day very much.