Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Zakia Bouachraoui, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microsoft Cloud, Silverlight

@CloudExpo: Article

Microsoft Windows Azure Distilled

Windows Azure's concepts of Web Role and Worker Role is absolutely, totally, and unequivocably a game-changer in cloud computing

As I spend more time with the CTP I will be posting more detailed, in-depth walkthroughs of the technologies as well as code samples (hopefully I'll get approved for my Azure hosting account soon *hint* *nudge* *wink*!!). For now, I'm just going to do a high-level breeze-by of the main aspects of Azure.

Windows Azure

Put simply - Windows Azure is a technology that will allow developers to build applications in the cloud. The GUI for the application is in the cloud, the back-end processes that are running are running in the cloud, and the central data store for the application is in the cloud. The great part about this is that you can run it all locally, test it, play with it and vet it. Then you can upgrade it so it's running locally but using cloud storage. When you're finally set that your app is ready for primetime, you can push the app to the cloud and continue using cloud storage. 

On a lower level, Windows Azure allows you to build and publish these things called Web Roles and Worker Roles. A Web Role is nothing more than a bunch of code that has been bundled up and pushed into the cloud that responds to HTTP(S) requests. These Web Roles, at least in this CTP, are ASP.NET applications but it looks as though you'll be able to do Ruby on Rails, PHP (god forbid), Python, or whatever you like. I'm hoping for a VS 2008 plugin that lets me build ASP.NET MVC Beta 1 apps that can be published as Azure Web Roles. A Worker Role is a piece of .NET code that is running in the background.

Traditionally one of the biggest problems people have, from hobbyists to developers for huge corporations, is that external hosting facilities only work well if your ASP.NET app is 100% self-contained and requires no additional services and no background processing, etc. Windows Azure lets you develop apps in cloud AND push your services into the cloud AND store your data in the cloud. Keep in mind that a Silverlight application counts as a web application ;) Starting to see the possibilities here?

.NET Services

Apple's MobileMe slogan was at one point "Exchange for the rest of us". .NET Services can be thought of as "Biztalk Services (in the cloud) for the rest of us". The bottom line is that .NET Services are a cloud-centric way of solving many of the problems of distributed applications. There are three main pieces of .NET Services:

  • Access Control
  • Service Bus
  • Workflow
While access control is certainly nice, and it is done using tokens and claims (more on that in another blog post... tokens, STS, claims, and authentication is a pretty dry topic and needs a good sample when talking around it), the thing that interests me here the most is the Service Bus. The Service Bus allows you to create these publicly exposed endpoint URIs for services. You can then host that service from some application on some desktop. Any client that knows the public URI for that service can then connect to that desktop application and consume the service - regardless of whether that client is on a 10.* or 192.168.* subnet, behind firewalls, in a Starbucks, or whatever. The "cloud" is providing a relay service through which clients in a distributed application can communicate with each other. One of the relay types that I am REALLY looking forward to experimenting with is the P2P relay, which I would assume allows me to have a globally registered peer mesh, allowing all of my app clients to talk to each other, no matter where they are in the world (note: this assertion has yet to be proved, I'm just dreaming big at this point). Workflow is also pretty big if you've been using WF now. Think of this as the WF integration that BizTalk was going to get, but plugged into the cloud.

SQL Services

I'm sure a lot of data guys are going to be pretty excited about this, but for me it's pretty straightforward. SQL data (in a slightly different shape and form than if you were storing it in your own SQL 2008 Server in your enterprise) in the cloud. I can imagine big concerns around privacy, encryption, and reliability will crop up around SQL services in the cloud.

Live Services

Live Services isn't really all that new, they're just being re-branded underneath the Azure umbrella. This is all of the goodies that you get with the Live APIs like contacts, calendars, e-mail, identity, etc.

Summary and Vision

So..what does all this stuff mean anyway? What's in it for you? In the short term what it means is that developers are going to start finding that they have been given a ridiculous amount of power. This is more than just Microsoft hosting your code in some central data centers... This is Microsoft abstracting away the notions of data centers, virtual machines, or even physical CPU cores (well, that abstraction is coming later). If you want to build an internet application, and you want to build it quickly and easily and you know that your app needs to run "out there", and you don't have the resources to do it yourself, or have your own data center, then you're going to find that Azure may just be that enabling force that we've all been missing for so long.

Windows Azure's concepts of Web Role and Worker Role is absolutely, totally, and unequivocably a game-changer in the world of cloud computing. The best thing we've had prior to this were cloud-hosted VMs that had a predefined stack (e.g. ASP.NET or J2EE or PHP or Cold Fusion, etc) to which we could upload our code and hope it all worked. There are always problems in managing configuration files of hosted apps and your hosted app NEVER behaves the same way while hosted as it does on your home PC. With Windows Azure, they're saying - quit worrying about the physical logistics - build your app, write your logic, use (cloud) data, and fahgeddaboudit. If the price is comparable - where are you going to host your back-end services? Amazon's EC2 or Azure, especially if you want to write your back-end services in .NET? 

If the prices are comparable, are you going to write your cloud app to use S3 data or SQL Services or Azure cloud storage?

Even just a few years ago, people didn't live on their computers - they thought of them the same way they thought of their graphing calculators - only they were more powerful. Now, people live on their computers. Moreover, they live online. They live connected. They live attached to the cloud. The problem is that right now, developers don't live attached to the cloud. 

Before cloud services, picture a meeting between a couple hobbyists who are thinking of building an app. They say, "Ok, we're going to need a web app.. but, we'll need some services and some central storage." At that point, they're forced to lease space in a data center, paying up front before anyone is even using their app, or they're forced to make COMPROMISES in their app's DESIGN to accomodate limitations of hosting companies.

With cloud services like Azure, those same people in that room talking about big ideas for big apps can now simply concern themselves with what they want their app to do instead of how they're going to manage the logistics.

-- That said, this is all on probably a 1.5 to 2 year time frame before this stuff is fully baked and they've got critical mass adoption. There is a lot of promise in Azure. Here's to hoping they pull it off.

tags:        
links: digg this  del.icio.us  technorati  reddit 

More Stories By Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman, editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's iPhone Developer's Journal, has been programming since he was 10 and has written everything from DOS shareware to n-tier, enterprise web applications in VB, C++, Delphi, and C. Hoffman is coauthor of Professional .NET Framework (Wrox Press) and co-author with Robert Foster of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed. He authors The .NET Addict's Blog at .NET Developer's Journal.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Moroccanoil®, the global leader in oil-infused beauty, is thrilled to announce the NEW Moroccanoil Color Depositing Masks, a collection of dual-benefit hair masks that deposit pure pigments while providing the treatment benefits of a deep conditioning mask. The collection consists of seven curated shades for commitment-free, beautifully-colored hair that looks and feels healthy.
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
The textured-hair category is inarguably the hottest in the haircare space today. This has been driven by the proliferation of founder brands started by curly and coily consumers and savvy consumers who increasingly want products specifically for their texture type. This trend is underscored by the latest insights from NaturallyCurly's 2018 TextureTrends report, released today. According to the 2018 TextureTrends Report, more than 80 percent of women with curly and coily hair say they purcha...
We all love the many benefits of natural plant oils, used as a deap treatment before shampooing, at home or at the beach, but is there an all-in-one solution for everyday intensive nutrition and modern styling?I am passionate about the benefits of natural extracts with tried-and-tested results, which I have used to develop my own brand (lemon for its acid ph, wheat germ for its fortifying action…). I wanted a product which combined caring and styling effects, and which could be used after shampo...
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.