Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Craig Lowell, Dan Potter, Greg O'Connor

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.


@CloudExpo Stories
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
The emerging Internet of Everything creates tremendous new opportunities for customer engagement and business model innovation. However, enterprises must overcome a number of critical challenges to bring these new solutions to market. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Martin, CTO/CIO at nfrastructure, outlined these key challenges and recommended approaches for overcoming them to achieve speed and agility in the design, development and implementation of Internet of Everything solutions wi...
Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is expected in the amount of information being processed, managed, analyzed, and acted upon by enterprise IT. This amazing is not part of some distant future - it is happening today. One report shows a 650% increase in enterprise data by 2020. Other estimates are even higher....
With over 720 million Internet users and 40–50% CAGR, the Chinese Cloud Computing market has been booming. When talking about cloud computing, what are the Chinese users of cloud thinking about? What is the most powerful force that can push them to make the buying decision? How to tap into them? In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yu Hao, CEO and co-founder of SpeedyCloud, answered these questions and discussed the results of SpeedyCloud’s survey.
Today we can collect lots and lots of performance data. We build beautiful dashboards and even have fancy query languages to access and transform the data. Still performance data is a secret language only a couple of people understand. The more business becomes digital the more stakeholders are interested in this data including how it relates to business. Some of these people have never used a monitoring tool before. They have a question on their mind like “How is my application doing” but no id...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Qosmos has announced new milestones in the detection of encrypted traffic and in protocol signature coverage. Qosmos latest software can accurately classify traffic encrypted with SSL/TLS (e.g., Google, Facebook, WhatsApp), P2P traffic (e.g., BitTorrent, MuTorrent, Vuze), and Skype, while preserving the privacy of communication content. These new classification techniques mean that traffic optimization, policy enforcement, and user experience are largely unaffected by encryption. In respect wit...
SYS-CON Events announced today that StarNet Communications will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. StarNet Communications’ FastX is the industry first cloud-based remote X Windows emulator. Using standard Web browsers (FireFox, Chrome, Safari, etc.) users from around the world gain highly secure access to applications and data hosted on Linux-based servers in a central data center. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
StarNet Communications Corp has announced the addition of three Secure Remote Desktop modules to its flagship X-Win32 PC X server. The new modules enable X-Win32 to safely tunnel the remote desktops from Linux and Unix servers to the user’s PC over encrypted SSH. Traditionally, users of PC X servers deploy the XDMCP protocol to display remote desktop environments such as the Gnome and KDE desktops on Linux servers and the CDE environment on Solaris Unix machines. XDMCP is used primarily on comp...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...