So far, my experience with BizSpark has been mediocre at best
It's the middle of 2013. I had recently quit my job at Woot where, as an Amazon subsidiary, we used a ton of AWS stuff. I had just spent three years next door to the AWS team and had friends over there. I helped beta test new features. I gave them feedback on what did and didn't work well. I knew AWS like the back of my hand.
But, when we decided to form Mediocre Laboratories (http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/13/mediocre/) and needed a cloud service I was ready to try something different. My friend, and Microsoft employee, Clint Rutkas (http://www.betterthaneveryone.com) suggested I enroll in the BizSpark program and give Azure a shot. I'd been hearing good things about Azure, so I enrolled in the BizSpark program.
Fast forward a couple weeks and I have some Node.js apps ready to deploy. The first one I deploy to an Azure Web Site using Git publishing (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/web-sites-nodejs-develop-deploy-mac/). It works great. Like really, really great and I'm genuinely impressed with how easy it was to setup. I start doing things with the Azure Service Bus and it's one of the best messaging systems I've ever used.
Things are going great when I run into my first issue. At this point I'm not even worried a little bit because I remember seeing things all over the BizSpark website about how "Microsoft takes really good care of their developers". I also remember the welcome email when I enrolled in the program that wanted to make sure "I'm happy with the product and have what I need to get started".
Gonna walk you through my experience with BizSpark support over three different issues. You should take it with a grain of salt, I suppose, considering I haven't paid a dime for BizSpark... but my expectations were set significantly higher than the service I've received because of the marketing material I've seen.
Issue #1: Deploy a Node.js app to a Cloud Service from a Mac
Like I mentioned above, deploying a Node.js app to a Azure Web Site using Git publishing works great. But I simply couldn't figure out how to deploy a Node.js app to a Cloud Service from my Mac. I poured over the documentation. I found a great tutorial explaining how to deploy a Node.js app to a Cloud Service using PowerShell (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/cloud-services-nodejs-develop-deploy-app/). Couldn't find anything similar for Mac.
I read over the source code of the Windows Azure SDK for Node.js (https://github.com/WindowsAzure/azure-sdk-for-node). Then I read over the source code for the Windows Azure Cross Platform CLI (https://github.com/windowsazure/azure-sdk-tools-xplat). Nothing's jumping out at me.
I write up an email to my BizSpark point of contact that reached out to me the day I enrolled. That contact isn't working on the Azure team anymore. They forward me to my new point of contact. I explain that I'm trying to deploy a Node.js app to a Windows Cloud Service from my Mac. Five days later I hear back:
Hello Shawn. Thanks for the note. I would suggest you start with the following: Build and deploy a Node.js application to a Windows Azure Cloud Service http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/nodejs/tutorials/getting-started/
I explain that I've already looked all over the Node.js Developer Center documentation and that I'm looking for something like this "Create a Node.js web site on Mac" article (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/web-sites-nodejs-develop-deploy-mac/) but for a Cloud Service instead of an Azure Web Site. A day later I hear back:
Let’s take a look on the technical forums page to see what we an find: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/support/forums/
I give up and ask Glenn Block (at the time still working at Microsoft before joining Splunk) on Twitter who's super helpful. Sounds like the Azure team is building support for Cloud Service deployments into the Windows Azure Cross Platform CLI but it's not ready yet.
Issue #2: Can't access my billing history
It's nearing the end of November (11/26/2013) and I need to do my expense report. At this point we're using more than the $150 of monthly Azure credits given to us by the BizSpark program. There's a charge on my credit card and I need the receipt. I sign in to the Windows Azure account portal and click the "billing history" link. I get an error message:
We are sorry, but we could not complete that operation.
I sign out and sign in again. I clear my cookies. I try another browser. I stand on one foot, but I'm not getting around "We are sorry, but we could not complete that operation". There's a helpful link on the page to create a support ticket. I do that and get a response the same day:
Thank you for contacting Windows Azure Subscription Management Support. I am the Support Professional who will be working with you on this Service Request 113112710981174. I am reviewing your case and will contact you soon with the plan to complete your request. This is a severity C case with updates every 24 hours. If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.
But I don't hear anything back after that. It's 12/2/2013. My expense report is late. I log into the Azure portal and ask for an update on my ticket. No response. On 12/3/2013. I ask for another update. Nothing.
I give up and explain to our accounting team that I can't get the receipt for a several hundred dollar transaction on my card.
The next year, on 1/22/2014, I finally get a response asking for me to try again. Access to my billing history has been restored.
Issue #3: CDN
It's 2/9/2014 and I'm trying to setup the Windows Azure CDN. I get to step 2 in these instructions (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/cdn-how-to-use/) but I don't see an option to create a CDN in my App Service menu of the Windows Azure portal.
At this point I've tried my dedicated point of contact over email and tried opening a support ticket through the Azure portal. Haven't tried Twitter yet, let's give that a shot:
Eventually I'm asked to write email@example.com which I send on 2/9/2014:
Trying to gain access to the Windows Azure CDN. I was told to email you here after a brief discussion on Twitter.
I’m trying to follow the docs here: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/articles/cdn-how-to-use/
I get to step 2, but I don’t see CDN as an option in my App Services menu: http://cl.ly/image/3N0I3A092S0M
Looks like I’m not the only one with this issue: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/18883426/unable-to-find-option-to-create-a-cdn-in-the-new-azure-portal
Looks like our options are to ask you nicely, pretty, pretty please to enable CDN access for our account… or I have to start comparing other CDNs and cloud services outside Windows Azure.
What should I do?
Shawn Miller Co-Founder, CTO Mediocre Laboratories https://mediocre.com
I hear nothing back. On 3/12/2014 I reply to my email and ask if there's any update. On 3/14/2014 I finally hear back and I'm asked to read some unrelated documentation and to contact Azure support if that doesn't work.
Haven't done that yet, because it seems like I'm just gonna wait for another month or two for a "here's a link to the documentation" response.
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