Microsoft’s platform nearly invisible at QCon London 2012

QCon London ended yesterday. It was the biggest London QCon yet, with around 1200 developers and a certain amount of room chaos, but still a friendly atmosphere and a great opportunity to catch up with developers, vendors, and industry trends.

Microsoft was near-invisible at QCon. There was a sparsely attended Azure session, mainly I would guess because QCon attendees do not see that Azure has any relevance to them. What does it offer that they cannot get from Amazon EC2, Google App Engine, Joyent or another niche provider, or from their own private clouds?

Mark Rendle at the Azure session did state that Node.js runs better on Windows (and Azure) than on Linux. However he did not have performance figure to hand. A quick search throws up these figures from Node.js inventor Ryan Dahl: 

 

v 0.6.0 (Linux)

v 0.6.0 (Windows)

http_simple.js /bytes/1024

6263 r/s

5823 r/s

io.js read

26.63 mB/s

26.51 mB/s

io.js write

17.40 mB/s

33.58 mB/s

startup.js

49.6 ms

52.04 ms

These figures are more “nothing to choose between them” than evidence for better performance, but since 0.6.0 was the first Windows release it is possible that it has swung in its favour since. It is a decent showing for sure, but there are other more important factors when choosing a cloud platform: cost, resiliency, services available and so on. Amazon is charging ahead; why choose Azure?

My sense is that developers presume that Azure is mainly relevant to Microsoft platform businesses hosting Microsoft platform applications; and I suspect that a detailed analysis would bear out that presumption despite the encouraging figures above. That said, Azure seems to me a solid though somewhat expensive offering and one that the company has undersold.

I have focused on Azure because QCon tends to be more about the server than the client (though there was  a good deal of mobile this year), and at enterprise scale. It beats me why Microsoft was not exhibiting there, as the attendees are an influential lot and exactly the target audience, if the company wants to move beyond its home crowd.

I heard little talk of Windows 8 and little talk of Windows Phone 7,  though Nokia sponsored some of the catering and ran a hospitality suite which unfortunately I was not able to attend.

Nor did I get to Tomas Petricek’s talk on asynchronous programming in F#, though functional programming was hot at QCon last year and I would guess he drew a bigger audience than Azure managed.

Microsoft is coming from behind in cloud -  Infrastructure as a Service and/or Platform as a Service – as well as in mobile.

I should add the company is, from what I hear, doing better with its Software as a Service cloud, Office 365; and of course I realise that there are plenty of Microsoft-platform folk who attend other events such as the company’s own BUILD, Tech Ed and so on.

Update:

This is the basis for the claim that node.js runs better on Windows:

IOCP supports Sockets, Pipes, and Regular Files.

That is, Windows has true async kernel file I/O.

(In Unix we have to fake it with a userspace thread pool.)

from Dahl’s presentation on the Node roadmap at NodeConf May 2011.

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