Why Microsoft Azure?
I had already begun migration to Microsoft Azure, when I was accepted into the Microsoft BizSpark program. The program has allowed me to explore the offerings of Azure and how I can apply it to my small business and how I can push myself to learn more. The BizSpark program allows me $150 worth of credits per month that I can use on Azure services, with some caveats.
If you use the Azure websites feature rather than spinning up a virtual machine, you’ll immediately notice when dealing with PHP/MySQL that the MySQL platform is run through another company. The company is called ClearDB, and from everything I experienced in my meddling with their offerings, they are slow and costly. Two things that you don’t want when you’re a small developer. You would think that ClearDB would accept my BizSpark credits since it is part of the Azure program, but you’d guess wrong.
ClearDB offers a free database with the Azure website service, however you’ll no doubt quickly become frustrated by the database timing out from maximum connection thresholds. The free package is definitely not intended for production environments. So, that being said, I moved on to the “Mercury” tier, which costs $10/mo and this is not covered by BizSpark credits. From dealing with this pricing tier I also found that this tier too is not production ready, and I would still have problems from the database not responding quickly (and yes the database and website blob were set in the same region.)
Naïvely, I upgraded to the “Venus” plan, which is a whopping $50/mo. That pricing is outrageous given that you can get higher output and connection limits from other providers. I also found that database queries, despite the price point, was pretty slow. Though I do blame some of this on Azure’s websites throwing you into a Windows environment, and honestly just doesn’t work well with WordPress right now. While I’d love to deal with a Windows environment in the future, at least on the Azure websites side of things, it’s not ready.
Please note though that Azure websites is a very new offering, and I have no doubt it will get better with time. It does have a lot of compelling offerings, especially if you aren’t using a MySQL database. Scaling within that environment is much easier, and Microsoft even offers a “Scalable WordPress” but you still have to deal with ClearDB.
Because my experience left me feeling cold towards the Azure websites service, I spun up an Ubuntu image from Bitnami. While this did require some more “advanced” configurations (which I’ll go over at a later time) the speed and reliability was much better. The MySQL is also free as it falls under the BizSpark program.
That brings us to this new site. Currently I have this WordPress Multisite site running on an Ubuntu VM and I’m using a blob as a CDN. The CDN is offloading the cache and also the media files using the Azure WordPress plugin to take over all media uploads. That plugin needs to be updated, since it’s still using the “Windows Azure” branding, but that’s not too important, it does get the job done.
There are a lot more solutions that Azure offers, and I hope to start utilizing those soon. Their offerings are robust and I have no doubt that Azure will eventually overtake AWS in gross revenues as a result of Microsoft continuing efforts.