Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Jyoti Bansal, Elizabeth White, Patrick Hubbard, Peter Silva, Steve Latham

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
What are the new priorities for the connected business? First: businesses need to think differently about the types of connections they will need to make – these span well beyond the traditional app to app into more modern forms of integration including SaaS integrations, mobile integrations, APIs, device integration and Big Data integration. It’s important these are unified together vs. doing them all piecemeal. Second, these types of connections need to be simple to design, adapt and configure...
"Splunk basically takes machine data and we make it usable, valuable and accessible for everyone. The way that plays in DevOps is - we need to make data-driven decisions to delivering applications," explained Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk and @DevOpsSummit Conference Chair, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Logz.io is a log analytics platform. We offer the ELK stack, which is the most common log analytics platform in the world. We offer it as a cloud service," explained Tomer Levy, co-founder and CEO of Logz.io, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
"ReadyTalk is an audio and web video conferencing provider. We've really come to embrace WebRTC as the platform for our future of technology," explained Dan Cunningham, CTO of ReadyTalk, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at WebRTC Summit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
In his General Session at 16th Cloud Expo, David Shacochis, host of The Hybrid IT Files podcast and Vice President at CenturyLink, investigated three key trends of the “gigabit economy" though the story of a Fortune 500 communications company in transformation. Narrating how multi-modal hybrid IT, service automation, and agile delivery all intersect, he will cover the role of storytelling and empathy in achieving strategic alignment between the enterprise and its information technology.
Hardware virtualization and cloud computing allowed us to increase resource utilization and increase our flexibility to respond to business demand. Docker Containers are the next quantum leap - Are they?! Databases always represented an additional set of challenges unique to running workloads requiring a maximum of I/O, network, CPU resources combined with data locality.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Ca...
In his session at DevOps Summit, Tapabrata Pal, Director of Enterprise Architecture at Capital One, will tell a story about how Capital One has embraced Agile and DevOps Security practices across the Enterprise – driven by Enterprise Architecture; bringing in Development, Operations and Information Security organizations together. Capital Ones DevOpsSec practice is based upon three "pillars" – Shift-Left, Automate Everything, Dashboard Everything. Within about three years, from 100% waterfall, C...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017 at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
"We formed Formation several years ago to really address the need for bring complete modernization and software-defined storage to the more classic private cloud marketplace," stated Mark Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Formation Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
"There's a growing demand from users for things to be faster. When you think about all the transactions or interactions users will have with your product and everything that is between those transactions and interactions - what drives us at Catchpoint Systems is the idea to measure that and to analyze it," explained Leo Vasiliou, Director of Web Performance Engineering at Catchpoint Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York Ci...
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, 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.