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Azure vs AppHarbor

update: Since I wrote this article lots has changed with the Azure platform. We are now using Azure Websites with continuous deliver from TeamCity and it works really well. The list of issues highlighted below are not a true reflection of the current state of Azure.

update: after a brief twitter conversation with ScottGu he pointed me to this article about Automated Builds for Windows Azure, apparently they are going to update it with automated deployment in the next couple of weeks. Thank God there is somebody at Microsoft who just gets it!!!

I have been putting together a basic platform architectural document for a small start up who want a cheap scalable solution. As this is most likely going to be a Microsoft platform I have been comparing  Azure & Appharbour. At the moment our requirements are not really special or crazy, just basic stuff.

They need a platform that can:

  1. scale as the business scales
  2. supports good engineering practices – e.g. simple to configure Continuous Integration
  3. cheap to get the ball rolling
  4. easy to set-up and configure
  5. offers a good search technology

I dont think that the above is radical, and I would imagine that just about any application would need these basic requirements.

So lets see how Azure fairs:

  1. scale as the business scales – Yes, that’s in the bag
  2. supports good engineering practices – No, this is what you have to do get CI set up for Azure WTF!!!
  3. cheap to get the ball rolling – No, only if you are a member of the Bizspark programme
  4. easy to set-up and configure – Its getting better but still not great
  5. offers a good search technology – There is no good search story on Azure. Currently you have to either implement Lucene yourself  or use Solr on Azure, which I have failed to get working yet.

Ok, so how does AppHarbor fair:

  1. scale as the business scales – Yes, that’s in the bag
  2. supports good engineering practices – CI & unittest built in
  3. cheap to get the ball rolling – Free as in Free Beer for your 1st instance
  4. easy to set-up and configure – Just point it to your online source code repository
  5. offers a good search technology – They had index tank integrated, but Index Tank moved on, so nothing yet. So its going to be Solr on EC2

I find it really frustrating all the good work that has been put into Azure, and the simple fact that to get a build running on a build server is so complicated makes me think that they still just dont get it.

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