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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 #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.


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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 #4-How to migrate an existing ASP.NET App to the Cloud

@MikeBenkovich 04/01/2012

Suppose you have an existing application that you want to migrate to the cloud. There are many things to look at, from the data to the architecture to considering how you plan to scale beyond one instance. For simple web sites which don’t use a lot of data or stateful information the migration to the cloud can be pretty easy with the installation of the Visual Studio Tools for Windows Azure.

imageThe current release of the tools (as of March 2012) is v1.6 which adds a command to the context menu when you right click on a web project. The SDK is installed using the Web Platform Installer (aka WebPI) which checks for previous versions of the tools and any other prerequisites and the consolidates the install into a single step.

imageAfter installing the tools when you open a Web Project, whether ASP.NET Web Forms, MVC, or similar, right clicking the project file gives you the command to add an Azure Deployment Project. You could achieve something similar by simply adding a Cloud Project to your solution and then right clicking on the “Roles” folder and adding the existing site to the project.

This adds a Cloud project to the solution and then adds the current Web project as a standard Web Role in the deployment. The key assets added include a Service Definition file and a couple Service Configuration files (one for running locally and one for running in the cloud).

The Service Definition file includes markup which describes how the Cloud Service will be deployed, including the public ports that are enrolled in the load balancer, any startup tasks and plugins that you want to run, as well as any other custom configuration that should be part of the deployment.

For example the Service Definition we created for the Kick Start event in Minneapolis looked like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ServiceDefinition name="MplsKickSite.Azure" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/ServiceHosting/2008/10/ServiceDefinition">
  <WebRole name="MplsKickSite" vmsize="Small">
    <Sites>
      <Site name="Web">
        <Bindings>
          <Binding name="Endpoint1" endpointName="Endpoint1" />
        </Bindings>
      </Site>
    </Sites>
    <Endpoints>
      <InputEndpoint name="Endpoint1" protocol="http" port="80" />
    </Endpoints>
    <Imports>
      <Import moduleName="Diagnostics" />
    </Imports>
  </WebRole>
</ServiceDefinition>

In this code we’ve got a single web role being deployed that will run on port 80. It is running a small instance (1 dedicated core), and will have remote desktop enabled. The Service Configuration contains additional settings including the OS Family for the instance (1 = Windows Server 2008 SP2 and 2 = Server 2008 R2) and number of instances to run (in this case 3).

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ServiceConfiguration serviceName="MplsKickSite.Azure" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/ServiceHosting/2008/10/ServiceConfiguration" 
osFamily="2" osVersion="*"> <Role name="MplsKickSite"> <Instances count="3" /> <ConfigurationSettings> <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Diagnostics.ConnectionString" value="UseDevelopmentStorage=true" /> <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteAccess.Enabled" value="true" /> <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteAccess.AccountUsername" value="... <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteAccess.AccountEncryptedPassword" value="...
<Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteAccess.AccountExpiration" value="... <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteForwarder.Enabled" value="true" /> <Setting name="QueueName" value="createthumbnail" /> <Setting name="myStorageAcct" value="UseDevelopmentStorage=true" /> </ConfigurationSettings> <Certificates> <Certificate name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.RemoteAccess.PasswordEncryption" thumbprint="... </Certificates> </Role> </ServiceConfiguration>

Pressing F5 will run the Cloud Service in the local emulator (assuming we’re running Visual Studio as Administrator so it can communication cross process to the running services…an error message tells you if you’re not). The nice thing about this approach is it supports attaching to the local debugger and using the rich set of features such as breakpoints, local and watch variables, and all the rest of the goodness we’ve come to expect in Visual Studio debugging.

image

Once we’re satisfied that the application works and we are ready to go to the Cloud, you can right click on the Azure Deployment project and either click “Package” to create a deployment package which you can manually upload the the Windows Azure Management portal, or you can select Publish to automate it directly from Visual Studio. This runs a wizard with 3 basic steps to collect the necessary information and complete the deployment. You select the subscription you want to use, name the hosted service, optionally enable remote desktop and web deploy, and then click complete.

image   image  image

Note that if you enable Web Deploy, because this is only supported for a single instance development environment where you require the ability to publish changes to a web site quickly, the publishing process will change your configured number of instances to 1 despite having set it to 3 in the configuration files. That’s because if you have more than 1 instance deployed the load balancer will distribute the incoming web requests round robin, and if you change one of the instances with a web deploy you’ll have an inconsistent state. You can always change the number of instances from the management portal, but you should be aware of what you’re doing.

imageimage

What happens next is the deployment process takes place. This includes validating that the hosted service is provisioned for you, uploading certificates if needed, then uploading your deployment package and configuration files to Windows Azure storage, and then deploying and starting your instances. It will also add the service deployment to the Server Explorer window (CTRL + ALT + S). From there you can see the status of your service instances, download the profile or intellitrace files if you’ve enabled that option (under advanced features during the publish).

For more information on how to do this, or if you’d like to see a webcast on how this is done, check out the first webcast in the Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts series (http://bit.ly/s2nCloud).

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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