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Cloud breakup: Why CloudSpokes chose over Azure

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Join the Community!’s (s crm) service just entered general availability earlier this week, but it already has at least one happy user. CloudSpokes, an Appirio-led community that hosts contests in which developers compete on projects for cloud companies with the goal of winning a monetary prize, recently re-architected the site from Microsoft (s msft) Windows Azure to, and its team couldn’t be happier with the results.

The relationship with Windows Azure wasn’t always sour, though. Narinder Singh, chief strategy officer at Appirio, told me that Windows Azure certainly has its strong points, but the deployment process was painful, especially due to how CloudSpokes decided to build its site. Because CloudSpokes had crowdsourced site development, using its own contests to attract developers across the world, so any complexities in the process quickly became untenable, Dave Messinger, a community architect at CloudSpokes, explained.

Initially, Messinger said, his team was really happy with Windows Azure’s table storage and blob storage features, but trouble arose when it came to deploying computing resources called “Web Roles.” Singh characterized the process as being close to Infrastructure-as-a-Service in terms of having to deal with low-level processes, which isn’t necessarily how most Platform-as-a-Service offerings, such as Windows Azure, market themselves. Because the team was new to Windows Azure and already was expending resources learning it, the added complexity was too much to handle.

Additionally, said Messinger, Windows Azure required some level of database-administration know-how, which is something the CloudSpokes didn’t really want to deal with. It wanted to focus on the front end and other business-critical aspects rather than on DBA work. So it looked to, and Messinger and Singh haven’t looked back since beginning the transition in mid-July.

Not only does take care of the heavy lifting — it offers helpful tools and dashboards, and developers can interact with the database through a REST API — but it also helped ease the process of running various parts of the CloudSpokes service on different cloud backends, Messinger explained.

Because CloudSpokes crowdsourced the development of various aspects of the site, submissions came in using all sorts of languages and cloud platforms. When the new site is flipped on near the end of this month, the front end will run on Heroku, and the middle tier will run on a combination of Heroku-, Google (s goog) App Engine- and Amazon (s amzn) Elastic Beanstalk-based services. And, said Singh, the only developers who had to know CloudSpokes utilizes were those participating in contest to expose certain aspects of that platform.

Messinger said that Windows Azure would have allowed a certain degree of interfacing with these third-party cloud computing platforms, but that it would have required using Microsoft tools rather than REST calls.

As with many thing cloud, though, the proof of a project’s success is in the numbers. Here’s a sampling of the improvements that the CloudSpokes team experienced:

  • A reduction to one full-time developer from seven when using Windows Azure.
  • First production deployment took only one month, compared with an estimated six months in Windows Azure.
  • Expected to take about two and a half months to go live, versus an estimated seven and a half months to go live using Windows Azure.

Feature image courtesy of Flickr user banjo d.

4 Responses to “Cloud breakup: Why CloudSpokes chose over Azure”

  1. What a complete surpise!! Apprio like a service.

    The same company (Appirio) that bases it’s business on SalesForce prefers a product from SalesForce over something from Microsoft!!

    The same company that (from Wikipedia)…

    In 2007, moved its headquarters into’s Startup Incubator in San Mateo.

    And in early 2008, secured a Series A investment of $1.1 million from

    In October, 2009, Appirio’s Chief Architect, Jason Ouellette released a book titled Development with the Platform: Building Business Applications in the Cloud.

    The same company that received additional funding from 3 weeks ago?

    I’m sure they put away their bias and provided their honest opinion!!

    Honestly, this has to be a joke and you didn’t just republish a press release from

  2. Sean McIlvarny

    Is this a serious article or a press release? I mean, nobody has to like Azure or anything they don’t want to use, but I don’t think there is one statement in here about Azure that is true. REST API’s are in every service, and Web Roles are quite possible TOO PaaS from what people argue and I’ve heard in criticism of the service.

    I don’t know, just seems like an odd article and isn’t an investor in Appirio? So wouldn’t it make sense they use their service instead of Microsoft’s since SF and MSFT are competitors?

    • Derrick Harris

      To be fair, the CloudSpokes guys weren’t insinuating that Azure doesn’t have REST APIs — that could have been clearer. The APIs were just another reason they liked, in addition to the general ease of use. I thought it was an interesting story given the timing of’s GA and relative lack of case studies out there.

      I could have written it without the Azure comparison but it’s always interesting, if you ask me, to hear why someone moved away from another platform if (a) it actually happened and (b) they’re willing to talk about it. Of course, every technology has its devotees, so one person’s criticisms won’t necessarily wash with everyone else.

  3. Hmm, there isn’t a single API in Azure that isn’t REST based, including the managment API used for deploying and managing your compute roles.

    They either have extremely out-dated knowledge, or just never knew what they were talking about to begin with.