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A software architect, Azure expert, and former Microsoft evangelist, Mike Benkovich dedicates huge amounts of his time to helping his fellow developers and burgeoning programmers learn about new technologies and platforms. Mike’s website equips developers with tips and resources to help them get to grips with technologies including cloud, data and devices, and he produces online courses covering areas like Azure enterprise development and serverless computing. Mike is also a chronic sharer of puns, so head over to his Twitter feed if you’re after a laugh (or a groan).

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CloudTip #16-Meet the new HTML based Windows Azure Management Portal

@MikeBenkovich 06/07/2012

Windows Azure has seen a number of upgrades. The latest announced today, along with a series of events to showcase and explore the features and capabilities of the Microsoft cloud platform (http://aka.ms/MeetAzMB), clearly shows the move towards simplicity, ease of use, and the speed to which you can get started with Azure. While I can’t cover it all in a single post, this is meant as an introduction to the new portal and in future posts I will explore various aspects and features that you can use for building scalable, durable and performant information solutions. A number of things were announced on the Azure blog (blog url) including some key ones around IaaS, Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and the Application Galleries.

HTML and AJAX Based Interface

The new portal runs on HTML and JavaScript, which means it can render on any browser that supports the core HTML functionality. This is great if you need to access it from a mobile device or tablet that doesn’t support plugins like Silverlight. The next thing you notice is that you get an at-a-glance view of all your running services, storage and networks.

image

Easily Create New Services

Adding a new service is as easy as clicking “NEW” on the bottom left corner of the screen and then making a selection of what you want to create. In addition to Cloud Services (formerly called Hosted Services) and storage, you can also create Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and Networks. These generally include a quick creation option which provisions the service with minimal configuraiton, but both Web Sit4es and Virtual machines include a “From Gallery” option which allows you to select a starting point to build from. 

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This includes content management applications like Umbraco, DotNetNuke, Joomla, Das Blog, mojoPortal, and WordPress, or a Virtual Machines that already have SQL 2012 Eval, Windows Server 8 Beta, SUSE Linux, or Ubuntu installed and ready for your deployments. You can also save your own machines as starting points or upload your own VHD.

Yes, I did just say Linux. Running on Azure. In the Microsoft Cloud. Notice that the list of available images includes these as well as images I created!

image

The new dialogs walk you thru all the steps collecting the needed information in an easy to follow logical order to get the selected services up and running. Quick and easy, but where can you see the status and updates on these configuration tasks? That’s where the notification area at the bottom of the screen comes to bat. It provides a comprehensive spot for seeing summary and optionally more detailed information about your changes as they happen.

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Monitoring and Diagnostics

Beyond the provisioning of new services and configuration tasks you also can get great monitoring information about resources used by your cloud instances. By selecting a provisioned instance, clicking the name takes you to a details page where you can get deployment and configuration settings including database connection strings and more. You can quickly see how much usage you’ve used out of the available allocation that is part of the subscription.

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You can easily get started today, just go out to http://windowsazure.com and try out the 90 Free Trial, or if you have an MSDN Subscription you can get compute time, storage and a lot more as part of your subscription benefits.

Enjoy!

-mike

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CloudTip #13-What do you need to know to get started?

@MikeBenkovich 05/17/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it's a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I've got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I've been working for a while now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what's new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.


Try Azure for 90 Days Free!

In this post I'd like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

Part 1 - Get Started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
You've heard the buzz, your boss might even have talked about it. In this first webcast of the Soup to Nuts series we'll get started with Windows Azure and Cloud Computing. In it we will explore what Azure is and isn't and get started by building our first Cloud application. Fasten your seatbelts, we're ready to get started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 2 - Windows Azure Compute Services
The Cloud provides us with a number of services including storage, compute, networking and more. In this second session we take a look at how roles define what a service is. Beyond the different flavors of roles we show the RoleEntryPoint interface, and how we can plug code in the startup operations to make it easy to scale up instances. We will show how the Service Definition defines the role and provides hooks for customizing it to run the way we need it to.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 3 - Windows Azure Storage Options
The Cloud provides a scalable environment for compute but it needs somewhere common to store data. In this webcast we look at Windows Azure Storage and explore how to use the various types available to us including Blobs, Tables and Queues. We look at how it is durable, highly available and secured so that we can build applications that are able to leverage its strengths.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 4 - Intro to SQL Azure
While Windows Azure Storage provides basic storage often we need to work with Relational Data. In this weeks webcast we dive into SQL Azure and see how it is similar and different from on-premise SQL Server. From connecting from rich client as well as web apps to the management tools available for creating schema and moving data between instances in the cloud and on site we show you how it's done.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 5 - Access Control Services and Cloud Identity
Who are you? How do we know? Can you prove it? Identity in the cloud presents us with the same and different challenges from identity in person. Access Control Services is a modern identity selector service that makes it easy to work with existing islands of identity such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google. It is based on standards and works with claims to provide your application with the information it needs to make informed authorization decisions. Join this webcast to see ACS in action and learn how to put it to work in your application today.
Slides: PPTX

Part 6 - Diagnostics & Troubleshootingx
So you've built your Cloud application and now something goes wrong. What now? This weeks webcast is focused on looking at the options available for gaining insight to be able to find and solve problems. From working with Intellitrace to capture a run history to profiling options to configuring the diagnostics agent we will show you how to diagnose and troubleshoot your application.

Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure. Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

Part 9 - Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O'Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in-providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

Enjoy!

-mike

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Cloud Tip #3–Find good examples

@MikeBenkovich 03/31/2012

imageYesterday in Minneapolis we delivered the first Windows Azure Kick Start event of the series we’re running this spring to help developers learn and understand how to use the new tools and techniques for building cloud based applications. As part of that event we wrote a lot of code as a demonstration of how this stuff comes together and I’ve uploaded it to www.benkotips.com in case you’re interested in the download. The solution includes several projects including:

  • MplsKickSite - An existing ASP.NET web site that we migrated to Windows Azure, implementing the RoleEntryPoint interface and adding references to the Microsoft.WindowsAzure.StorageClient for working with storage, and Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime to give us instance information. We also added cloud identity to the site using Access Control Services to secure a data entry page with data hosted in a SQL Azure database
  • WPFUpload which is a Windows application which includes logic to support drag and drop to upload files into Windows Azure Blob Storage, and if they are images to add work to a queue to create thumbnail images
  • UploadDataLib which is a class library that implements Windows Azure Table Storage logic for working with the images uploaded by WPFUpload and the ThumbMaker worker role projects.
  • ThumbMaker which is a worker role class that demonstrated working with Tables and Queues and the System.Drawing library to create thumbnail images and brand them with a custom logo message
  • PhoneApp1 which demonstrates how to use a Windows Phone Silverlight user control to handle the login conversation with ACS
  • NugetPhone which is a second example of ACS in use with devices, except that instead of spending 10 minutes to write the code like we did with PhoneApp1 we use the Nuget package manager to include a package (Install-Package Phone.Identity.AccessControl.BasePage) to perform the authentication for us and make the 4 code changes to implement the logic…2 minutes to demo

The decks and recordings of similar sessions are available on the Soup to Nuts Cloud Computing page of my site (http://bit.ly/s2nCloud). You can download the solution and project files and run every thing with the Compute and Storage Emulator, but you’ll need an active subscription to deploy to the cloud. If you don’t have Azure benefits you can activate from an MSDN Subscription you can always give the 90 day Free Trial a try.

Enjoy!

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Cloud Tip #2–Finding Cloud Content that works for You

@MikeBenkovich 03/29/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it’s a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I’ve got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I’ve been working for the last several years now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what’s new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.

In this post I’d like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

First on my list are the webcasts we’ve created that are 1 hour long sessions on the various aspects of a given topic. For Cloud Computing and Windows Azure I’ve got a list of several on my web site (www.benkotips.com) including a 27 part companion series we called “Windows Azure Boot Camp”. The first 10 webcasts in this series cover what you would see at a boot camp event (www.windowsazurebootcamp.com).  This spring we started a new series called “Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts” which is a developer focused get started with Windows Azure and the related services. We’ve recorded 6 webcasts as part of that series and will be adding more as we go forward. We just added 3 more for April including:

4/3 : Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

4/10 : Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure.  Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

4/17 : Part 9 – Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O’Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in—providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

If you’re looking for a conversational 30 minute show that covers Cloud topics I suggest checking out Cloud Cover on Channel9. This show features Azure experts including Ryan Dunn, Steve Marx, Wade Wegner, David Aiken and others who work closely with the product teams at Microsoft to learn how to use the latest releases.

Live events are a moving target depending on when you read this post, but we try to keep a list of upcoming Microsoft Events for developers on http://msdnevents.com. As we schedule them we add the events to this hub and you can find them by date and by location with a map of upcoming events. Another place to check is the demo page I’ve created on BenkoTips which shows not only upcoming events (aggregated from Community Megaphone, if you add it there it should show up on the map) but also User Group locations and links to their sites. That’s on http://benkotips.com/ug, then use the pan and zoom to focus the map on your city. Pins get added with the links. If your User Group data is out of date, send me an email & we’ll get it fixed.

We’ve got a series scheduled to run in thru May 2012 for Cloud Computing called Kick Start, which are a 1 day focused event that takes you thru the content from Soup to Nuts. The current schedule includes:

As to books I’d suggest checking out Sriram Krishnan’s book Programming Windows Azure: Programming the Microsoft Cloud, or Brian Prince’s book Azure in Action. If it’s SQL Azure that you’re after then Scott Klein has a great book called Pro SQL Azure (Expert’s Voice in .NET). I am also partial to the Patterns and Practices team’s book on Moving Applications to the Cloud on the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Finally you need an active Azure Subscription to get started. You can activate a 90 Free Trial by going to http://aka.ms/AzureTrialMB and get the tools at http://aka.ms/AzureMB.

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