I blogged before about Microsoft being a surprise new player in the linux IaaS cloud arena. Well, yesterday, I had a burning need for a new virtual server, and what's more I needed a Window server. So, I decided to take this chance to evaluate Azure. Went through the prices again, watched a couple of setup videos: it all looks competitive, and looks like it might be easier to manage Windows cloud instances than on Amazon EC2.
I signed up (created a LiveID). Then had to give my address and credit card details, to apply for their 90 day free trial. No problems there, though one minor gripe: Japanese postcodes are three digits, then four more digits. It refused "123", and then it refused "1230001". You have to put it in as "123-0001".
Then it tells me "Setting up your Windows Azure subscription". It takes forever, then after two very long minutes it comes back and says: "Sorry! We could not activate this feature. Please contact support." Gulp, I just gave these cowboys my credit card.
However going to my account page shows the 90 day free trail is activated. OK, we're rolling... no, we're not, I click add subscription, end up in that same long "Setting up your Windows Azure subscription" screen. But this time it does something different after 30 seconds, and it looks my account and trial are activated. (Incidentally I ended up with two emails, both telling me my credit card has been charged for $0.00)
It takes quite a bit of clicking around to find the screen where you create new instances - no link from inside the Account page, as far as I can see. Anyway, once there I get told I cannot create a virtual server without signing up for the "preview program". First mention of that!! So, I sign-up for it and I get told:
We are sorry, but we could not complete that operation.
I then click the "portal" button in top right and end up at a page that tells me I've been accepted to the "preview"?!
That then takes me to a page where I still cannot start a virtual server. I get told I need to sign up for the preview program. Umm, didn't we just do this?
Logged off, on again.
This time, at the top I see a green "preview" button. It tells me the interface I'm trying to use is a crippled new version, the old version is the one that actually works. (I'm paraphrasing.) I click that and get told to install silverlight. Silverlight?!!
Off to Amazon EC2, and my Windows instance was up in 20 minutes (which is still far too long, I can get a Linux instance running to the same level of usefulness in 2-3 minutes, but that is a rant for another time... at least Amazon are not wasting my time telling me they have a service that in fact they don't have.)