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Why doesn’t Harvard want to talk about its mystery Microsoft Azure project?
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Why doesn’t Harvard want to talk about its mystery Microsoft Azure project?

Microsoft Azure seems to have scored a high-profile buyer: Harvard College’s prestigious CS50 laptop science class, not that anyone needs to talk about it.

A now-deleted web page on Microsoft’s Github account, initially posted in April, outlined a latest collaboration effort between Microsoft’s Azure crew and an unnamed “main US analysis college.” The mission deployed to Azure some inside purposes that had been beforehand operating on Amazon Internet Companies and the varsity’s {hardware}, with assist from Github and Codeship.

Actually, a number of main U.S. analysis universities are engaged on fashionable improvement practices and cloud computing, however when the identify of a well-known laptop science class is included within the URL — CS50.html — it’s not that tough to determine who was being talked about.

CS50 is an introductory stage laptop science class at Harvard that has hosted visitor lecturers akin to Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout who nonetheless managed to make an honest dwelling for himself. Its lead professor, David Malan, is a well known speaker who truly filed for a trademark on “CS50,” causing a stir in Cambridge last year.

After GeekWire emailed him Monday about the Github web page describing the collaboration, Malan wrote, “We’re truly nonetheless on AWS, although most each summer season we do have a tendency to re-evaluate our apps’ structure for the approaching 12 months, with AWS, Azure, Google, et al. all the time among the many candidates. So no plans but, however joyful to attain out towards summer season’s finish if we’ve made any selections!”

Microsoft’s Github submit was a bit extra definitive about the usage of Azure — saying, for instance:

The employees want the power to broaden the category with out increasing IT infrastructure. They want to scale their present container setting to the cloud to allow them to develop with out buying and laying down important further {hardware} or upfront capital. In addition they have purposes at the moment operating in AWS however want to scale back lock-in and threat related to having just one supplier. …

This mission is a hit. It streamlined the college’s deployment course of and supplied Codeship customers with a well-documented resolution to combine Azure into their pipeline. By holding detailed information of the steps taken to obtain our targets, Codeship was simply in a position to create new documentation on their web site in order that much less work will want to be performed sooner or later for any customers wanting to use the identical DevOps toolchain to automate their processes.

Sooner or later after that e mail alternate Monday afternoon, the Github web page was deleted, however the URL stays. And Google’s cache revealed the entire thing, excerpts of which you’ll learn on the backside of this submit.

On Tuesday, Malan stated he was out of the workplace, and referred inquiries to Senior Preceptor Doug Lloyd, who repeatedly referred to as the Github submit “overzealous” in its account of the work performed between Harvard and Microsoft. Nevertheless, Lloyd additionally stated that he’s not concerned within the day-to-day improvement course of, and was not a part of any discussions between Harvard and Microsoft.

Microsoft declined to remark in response to our inquiry.

It’s not fully clear why Harvard would want to preserve the mission with Microsoft beneath wraps; it looks like a greater matter of dialogue than the widespread cheating scandal just uncovered in CS50. Generally firms and organizations have a coverage of not speaking about the tech distributors they use, however Malan and CS50 have been fairly lively on the convention circuit, talking at DockerCon and AWS re:Invent final 12 months.

Listed here are excerpts from the now-deleted submit (the entire thing was over 3,000 phrases lengthy):

How a serious US analysis college used Azure and Codeship to apply CI/CD to pipeline
Apr 14, 2017

A serious US analysis college partnered with Microsoft to be taught and deploy Microsoft Azure infrastructure, Internet Apps, and DevOps finest practices to higher handle their want to rapidly, simply, and persistently onboard classroom infrastructure apps to Azure Cloud Companies. This included migrating present apps operating on native {hardware} to the cloud.

The mission befell over the course of three weeks with the premise of standing up all infrastructure wanted in Azure, and utterly automating every part so that every one purposes may merely be plugged right into a GitHub repo to deploy. Within the professor’s phrases, “I would like you to get GitHub, Codeship, and Azure working collectively, and wire all of it up.”

Buyer profile
This US college is world-class, well-known for its analysis and its alumni. For now, they would like to stay nameless, so this doc will refer to them as “the college.”

One in every of their most attended programs is an introduction to the mental enterprises of laptop science and the artwork of programming. This course teaches college students how to assume algorithmically and remedy issues effectively. Matters embody abstraction, algorithms, knowledge buildings, encapsulation, useful resource administration, safety, software program engineering, and net improvement.

The category supplies greater than 40 completely different purposes and companies for his or her college students. Some are hosted on-premises whereas others are supplied on the Amazon Internet Companies (AWS) Cloud platform. A various collection of languages is used to ship purposes and companies, so the category can use their very own apps as actual time examples of the rules they train.

Downside assertion
The employees want the power to broaden the category with out increasing IT infrastructure. They want to scale their present container setting to the cloud to allow them to develop with out buying and laying down important further {hardware} or upfront capital. In addition they have purposes at the moment operating in AWS however want to scale back lock-in and threat related to having just one supplier.

The mission will likely be documented so further TAs could possibly be introduced in with minimal coaching required. The college would really like us to assist them rise up a single easy app that they’ll then use as a base for porting their different purposes. The deployment ought to give you the chance to be performed by deploying to Azure (any language) together with CI/CD. The professor prefers Codeship for CI/CD nevertheless it was not required. Utilizing GitHub for a code repository was a requirement.

The professor is already very acquainted with DevOps instruments and practices and is aware of how to apply them, which is why he needed to interact Microsoft on this mission (he didn’t care to share his present processes externally). To stroll by the applying improvement pipeline, we merely laid out what a completely optimized setting would appear to be. This gave the professor an important educating instrument for his TAs to create profitable purposes with the least quantity of waste, lead time, and processing time. On this academic setting the place there aren’t any full-time workers engaged on code, there could possibly be a lot waste and lead/lag time as TAs work by schedules. Within the new, optimized setting, the person TAs may work anytime they’ve time, which is usually virtually every day.

The mission we outlined and delivered was precisely what they had been on the lookout for.

It might be a number of months earlier than the employees may put the brand new course of in manufacturing. It’s unfeasible to make main modifications in the midst of a category this measurement, so full deployment and migration will wait till summer season. After the answer is absolutely deployed, limitations on deploying apps and companies in the midst of a category time period will likely be minimized and normally even eradicated. This may supply great worth to the employees and the college. The professor was happy with the method and practices we put collectively and delivered. They had been additionally joyful to have a simple migration path to Azure from AWS. They can’t begin these strikes proper now as a result of class is in session, however they are going to be utilizing it extensively in the summertime.

Resolution, steps, and supply

The professor opted to have Microsoft do all of the work as a substitute of getting his TAs instantly concerned. He needed us to train him and his crew the way it all works by documentation. With this method, the employees may vet out the documentation as they went by the primary deployment. It was an ideal resolution for an setting the place your improvement employees turns over often as TAs advance and transfer on. This was additionally an important alternative for Microsoft engineers engaged on this mission to take a look at their coding expertise and their documentation expertise in a single mission. We discovered extra nice worth by sharing documentation to the lots by open supply and thru a direct collaboration with Codeship.

The category had already transformed a few of their apps from on-premises to AWS and located some challenges and limitations in that resolution. One such instance was when utilizing GitHub, Codeship, and AWS they acquired apps working however they noticed quirks (akin to “One container per VM”). Our mission was to do it proper, with none of the “quirks” or limitations. This is able to permit the category to spend much less cash for his or her purposes and supply a easy approach to migrate between Azure and AWS.

Conclusion

This mission is a hit. It streamlined the college’s deployment course of and supplied Codeship customers with a well-documented resolution to combine Azure into their pipeline. By holding detailed information of the steps taken to obtain our targets, Codeship was simply in a position to create new documentation on their web site in order that much less work will want to be performed sooner or later for any customers wanting to use the identical DevOps toolchain to automate their processes.

Official Codeship Documentation

This mission supplied the college the power to “transfer ahead” of their DevOps journey by displaying them that despite the fact that they had been already making use of DevOps practices (utilizing containers), there was a lot worth in drilling into these practices, on the lookout for waste, and filling the holes that contributed to delays and waste. They now know that taking a fast have a look at what they’re doing isn’t sufficient. It’s rather more necessary to have a look at what is feasible by evaluating the place waste exists and on the lookout for methods to remove it. Merely “making use of DevOps practices” isn’t sufficient. We confirmed how waste is available in many kinds. We discovered and solved issues for waste by way of time for brand new TAs to ramp up, making use of consistency to present practices, and saving actual cash by optimizing deployment strategies and instruments.

An answer was delivered leveraging CI/CD by Codeship, Docker, Azure Container Service, and Linux VMs. These applied sciences and processes will save money and time.

Challenges and options

The next are the challenges we confronted and the way we solved them:

TAs time to ramp up was weeks or months; now it’s a couple of hours.

Operating a single VM for every container was wasteful; now many containers could be run on a single VM.

Managing the infrastructure (VM) was difficult; operating Azure Container Service utterly eradicated this problem.

Future enhancements to this mission could be achieved by opening up your complete improvement pipeline to scrutiny. The college now is aware of how to look deeper into present processes to obtain higher outcomes. Subsequent they’ll dive deeper into increasing the monitoring and alerting capabilities of the system operating on Azure.

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