Posted by Thiago Almeida
Technical Evangelist, Microsoft New Zealand

Spreading the good word about Openness at Microsoft (check out our updated website!) and Windows Azure can take us far and wide, but we didn’t expect to find ourselves in the middle of Middle Earth. Let me explain…

Earlier this month, a few of us at Microsoft embarked on a road trip to talk with developers across New Zealand about Windows Azure and its support for a myriad of OSS technologies. Little did we know that New Zealand was also in the midst of celebrating the worldwide premiere of The Hobbit movie, with Wellington temporarily renamed the “Middle of Middle Earth.”


The scene at Wellington airport

Amid a throng of hobbits, wizards and Gollums, were Cory Fowler from Microsoft’s Windows Azure evangelism team, and Mark Cowlishaw from the Node.js on Windows Azure engineering team. Both made the trip from Redmond to take part in meetings with customers, partners, open source communities, and key user groups.

We met and presented to more than 100 people, ranging from developers and architects to IT managers. Here are just a few highlights from a busy week:

      • We had the exciting opportunity to participate in the inaugural meeting of the newly formed PHP User Group Wellington. Cory presented on Microsoft’s work with open source communities, especially the support for PHP on Windows Azure. He then unleashed a series of great demos that had the attendees nodding along. Demos involving the command line (one pictured below) were particularly well received, but the icing on the cake was the availability of PHP 5.4 in Windows Azure Websites.

Demo with the PHP User Group Wellington
  • At the Auckland JavaScript Meetup, we talked about Node.js on Windows Azure Web Sites, cross-platform command line tools, the Windows Azure portal, and the Node.js SDK for Windows Azure storage and service bus. Some interesting case studies of partners and clients utilizing Node.js on Azure in production piqued interest.
  • We spent time with Datacom, one of New Zealand’s largest IT services providers and a valued Microsoft partner. The show-and-tell included Windows Azure Web Sites demos using Node.js and PHP. “We are very happy with the direction Microsoft is taking toward open source, the improvements made to the Windows Azure portal, and the openness of their offerings” said Kerry Topp, Datacom’s General Manager, Microsoft Solutions in Auckland. “As one of Microsoft’s National Systems Integrator (NSI) partners, we’re looking forward to helping our customers take full advantage of the benefits of the Windows Azure cloud.”
  • We also connected with GreenButton, who provides their customers with parallelized cloud computing solutions like movie rendering, genetic sequencing, and share trade forecasting. They are key users of Windows Azure and are benefitting from support for Linux. “We are very pleased with our experience running Linux images on Windows Azure Virtual Machines”, said Peter Soukalopoulos, Development Manager at GreenButton, “Around one in eight of our customers require their workloads to run in Linux and the openness of the Windows Azure platform helps us support them.” For example, most of the larger RenderMan studios require Linux to run on Windows Azure to execute their compiled shader code and custom plugins.

These meetings were great opportunities to listen to our partners and gain valuable feedback on our cloud solutions and interoperability efforts. We learned about specific trends, like PostgreSQL as a database option on Windows Azure gaining interest amongst PHP developers while at the Wellington PHP User Group, as well as the general excitement around Windows Azure as a platform and Microsoft’s continued work with open source was very exciting…

Unlike The Hobbit, this wasn’t quite “An Unexpected Journey,” but like the story, our trip did have a happy ending, as we have already noticed an increased local interest in Windows Azure. Let us know in the comments what your “expectations” are for Windows Azure.