Sunday, February 28, 2010

Windows Azure and Cloud Computing Posts for 2/27/2010+

Windows Azure, SQL Azure Database and related cloud computing topics now appear in this weekly series.

Note: This post is updated daily or more frequently, depending on the availability of new articles in the following sections:

To use the above links, first click the post’s title to display the single article you want to navigate.

Cloud Computing with the Windows Azure Platform published 9/21/2009. Order today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble (in stock.)

Read the detailed TOC here (PDF) and download the sample code here.

Discuss the book on its WROX P2P Forum.

See a short-form TOC, get links to live Azure sample projects, and read a detailed TOC of electronic-only chapters 12 and 13 here.

Wrox’s Web site manager posted on 9/29/2009 a lengthy excerpt from Chapter 4, “Scaling Azure Table and Blob Storage” here.

You can now download and save the following two online-only chapters in Microsoft Office Word 2003 *.doc format by FTP:

  • Chapter 12: “Managing SQL Azure Accounts and Databases”
  • Chapter 13: “Exploiting SQL Azure Database's Relational Features”

HTTP downloads of the two chapters are available from the book's Code Download page; these chapters will be updated for the January 4, 2010 commercial release in February 2010. 

Azure Blob, Table and Queue Services

Steve Nagy asserts “The Microsoft CDN is now also utilisable from Windows Azure Blob Storage” in his Azure Locations Around The World post of 2/28/2010. See the Windows Azure Infrastructure section for more details.

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SQL Azure Database (SADB, formerly SDS and SSDS)

Rajib Bahar, Tim Filer and Jason Stratz participate in an 00:08:00 Series Of Discussion[s] On Project Management And Sql Azure Or Cloud Computing Part 2 podcast of 2/28/2010.

I haven’t been able to find Part 1.

David Robinson issued his Final Reminder – Please Upgrade your SQL Azure CTP Account TODAY post on 2/27/2010:

It is that time.  Remember this post  and this one reminding you to upgrade your SQL Azure CTP account? When we are so used to protecting and storing your data, it is hard for us to let go and just delete it.  Please don’t make us do it.  Upgrade your account today.  Here’s how:

To upgrade your Community Technology Preview (CTP) accounts to paid commercial subscriptions:

Please visit our offer page and select the offer of your choice.  When you purchase the selected offer, you will need to sign in with the same Windows Live ID as that associated with your CTP accounts. If you wish to purchase a new commercial subscription but NOT upgrade your existing CTP accounts, please use a different Windows Live ID other than the one used with your CTP accounts when ordering or remove all applications and data associated with your CTP accounts prior to sign up.

On March 1, 2010, the SQL Azure CTP accounts that have not been upgraded will be deleted. It is important to export your data if you do not plan to upgrade to a commercial subscription prior to these dates.

If you have questions or need assistance, please contact the Azure Support Desk

I’ve never been able to remove my old CTP account from the MIX 08 days. Maybe it will go away tomorrow.

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AppFabric: Access Control, Service Bus and Workflow

Dennis van der Stelt solves the AppFabric: Configuration binding extension could not be found exception in this 2/27/2010 post:

I have recently installed the Windows Azure AppFabric because I’m writing an article for the Dutch .NET Magazine. Problem is I try to do everything in Visual Studio 2010 these days, just because it’s so cool to have something that’s buggy. Seriously! Sometimes you get headaches because you just can’t figure out why something’s not working, only to find out it’s because it really isn’t working because of the current beta version you’re working with. But on the other side it’s really fun and you learn a lot.

As now, when I got the following message:

“Configuration binding extension 'system.serviceModel/bindings/netTcpRelayBinding' could not be found. Verify that this binding extension is properly registered in system.serviceModel/extensions/bindingExtensions and that it is spelled correctly.”

It’s a System.ConfigurationErrorsException which can mean that you might be right with what you configured, the .NET runtime just can’t figure out what it is that is wrong. This time it’s because some extensions to WCF weren’t added to the machine.config of .NET 4.0 RC. It was however added to the machine.config of .NET 2.0 so I took it from there. And for future reference for my dear readers and all others that come in via Google, I’m posting the fix here.

Sidenote : I’m using 2.0.50727 and 4.0.30128 version of the .NET Framework, but the versions might differ on your machine.

Go to C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727\CONFIG\ and read the machine.config from there. In the node configuration\system.servicemodel\extensions\ you find two nodes. The first is bindingElementExtensions and the second is bindingExtensions. You’ll see some bindings with a name that contains “relay” in it. Copy these into notepad or so.

Now open up C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30128\Config\ and edit the machine.config there. Copy the lines from the 2.0 config that are missing in the 4.0 config and your AppFabric service should be able to start.

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Live Windows Azure Apps, APIs, Tools and Test Harnesses

Gaurav Mantri posted on 2/28/2010 some Recent Ideas for Cloud Storage Studio on the Cerebrata community support site:

There also are several suggestions from Cloud Storage Studio users.

Adam Hicks describes Setting up a simple web app talking to a database in the Azure Cloud in this 2/27/2010 post:

I went to an Azure Open Space Coding Day in Birmingham organised by Dave Evans with help from Eric Nelson, Dave Gristwood and a few others from Microsoft. As a complete Azure newbie, I found the day extremely useful. There were 30 developers working together to learn more about what Windows Azure which made it a lot easier to get past any stumbling blocks which I would have undoubtedly hit if I was on my own!! I have written up here a few things I learnt today so that I can look back and remember…

Adam continues with a detailed illustrated tutorial.

Jim O’Neil’s I Don’t Think We’re In Dallas Anymore post of 2/26/2010 describes his recent trio of presentations on Microsoft codename “Dallas”:

The topic was “Dallas”, but the weather was all New York winter…

On the way to Rochester Squint really hard - I-90 toward Buffalo Driving essentials

This week, I took a trip down I-90, specifically the New York Thruway, to visit three of our .NET User Groups:I-90 all the way

Coordinating for one user group is a good deal of work by itself, so special thanks to Bob Nims, Andy Beaulieu, and Griff Townsend (the leaders of the above groups) for coordinating and adjusting their schedules to accommodate me.   And, of course, thanks to everyone who came out to hear about “Dallas.”  It’s not often I present to a .NET group where no one has heard of the topic, so it was kind of fun being able to introduce “Dallas” to everyone there.

What’s “Dallas”, you ask, well in a nutshell it’s a Data-as-a-Service marketplace, hosted on Azure, that provides a low friction, RESTful interface to huge amounts of data – such as from the AP, NASA, United Nations, InfoUSA and more.  You can grab my slides from the presentation here and check out my Dallas blog postings for more information.

Brandon Werner shows you How To Host Your Site and Content On Azure Quickly and Easily in this 2/25/2010 post:

This entry seeks to provide you with a quick and easy way to get up to speed on Azure quickly by deploying your own personal website as an MVC application in to the cloud. Consider it a “Hello World”. I will do the following:

  • Demonstrate how to write and deploy a simple Azure hosted website
  • Demonstrate how to to create your own image and content server using Azure Storage and expose your content publically through URLs
  • Demonstrate how to use new tools like Azure Storage Explorer to access your cloud storage

Now that Azure has been released, a lot of people are busy coding a lot of awesome applications. I’m proud of you. I’m not one of them. I just have a personal website that I’ve hosted through a collection of GoDaddy, Amazon S3 (for images and PowerPoint slides, etc.) and some custom JavaScript.

So over the Thanksgiving week I decided to move all my stuff over to Azure for fun. This includes hosting my website, moving my RoR code over to a MVC code (don’t freak, MVC is pretty much set up like RoR and PHP as far as directories and deployment, so it’s easy), and moving all my images and other media over to Azure Storage so that I can just reference images and CSS using URLs without needing to redeploy my website (much like I did with Amazon’s S3). …

Brandon continues with a detailed tutorial that’s longer than any of my posts.

Bob Familiar promoted ARCast.TV - Scalable Tax Solutions With CCH and Windows Azure on 2/25/2010:

While it's income season for most of us here in the States, for CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business, serving up sales tax information is a full-time job.

In this episode of ARCast, Denny Boynton sits down with Jones Pavan and Gurleen Randhawa at the 2009 Professional Developers Conference to discuss their use of Windows Azure to build highly scalable solutions for their customers.

The video is at ARCast.TV - Scalable Tax Solutions With CCH and Windows Azure.

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Windows Azure Infrastructure

Steve Nagy’s Azure Locations Around The World post of 2/28/2010 summarizes recent expansion of data center support for the Windows Azure Platform:

During the early CTP of Azure you could only select 2 locations for your Windows Azure compute and storage accounts, and 1 location for SQL Azure (SQL Data Services) and AppFabric (.Net Services). Now we have a lot more options for all 3 main technologies:

  • North Central US
  • South Central US
  • North Europe
  • Southeast Asia

On top of this we now have a single location for Dallas accounts:

  • South Central US

The Microsoft CDN is now also utilisable from Windows Azure Blob Storage as well. Microsoft has been building a CDN for some and uses it for a variety of purposes. There are over 18 edges in the CDN, Australia being one of those nodes.

So next time you’re wondering about the locations available, hopefully you won’t need to go into the actual portal project creation process just to find out.

Abel Avram quotes David Linthicum in a Windows Azure: Pending Success or Eventual Niche? post of 2/28/2010 to the InfoQ blog:

Microsoft has had its successes and failures over time, and it has managed to come first with some products even if it came later in the game. Is Microsoft going to be as successful with Windows Azure as it has been with the Windows operating system? Or will it remain a niche player like Windows Mobile?

Like any large company, Microsoft has had several great products, some reasonable ones and some total failures. Among those which are considered failures (or at the very least limited successes considering the amount of money and number of developers invested in them) we can start from Microsoft’s early days with Windows 1.0 (1985), Windows 2.0 and Windows 386; continuing with WebTV (1995), Windows Millennium (2000) and Internet Explorer 6; and more recent examples such as Zune, Windows Mobile or Vista.

Abel continues with a laundry list of Microsoft product failures and concludes:

Microsoft has often been late to the game with products, however in many cases it has managed to catch up and take the lead as with Windows or Office. In a continuation of this trend, Microsoft was definitely not the first out of the gate with a cloud offering, with Windows Azure entering the game after Amazon EC2,, Rackspace or Google had already established their presence in this market. However, in an article entitled “Can Microsoft Catch Up by Giving Away Azure?”, David Linthicum wondered if Microsoft will manage to catch up with AWS, Google or other cloud providers. Linthicum mentioned that Microsoft has managed to win even if they were not the first to enter a specific market:

“Once again Microsoft is late to the party. However, they continue to hold a special space in the hearts of many enterprises, a brand loyalty that most cloud computing providers just don't have. The concept here is to get as many users on the platform as possible, in the shortest amount of time. However, is that a good strategy for Microsoft?

“If you look at the history of Microsoft they seem to get into games late, and still win. Their entrance into the emerging Web in the '90s was almost kicking and screaming after the Microsoft Network was released. However, once they set their sites on the Web, they owned the browser market after only a year.”

But the cloud is different as Linthicum remarked:

“The cloud is a bit different. Cloud computing providers have already established their presence in the market. It's going to be difficult to attack users who are already loyal to one or two of the larger players, that is... unless you're willing to give it away for free.

“The reality of cloud computing is that the subscription cost of the platform has very little bearing on the ROI of the platform. Azure, like the other cloud providers, will have to prove to be productive in order to be truly cost effective. That also means being open, something that Microsoft has had issues with in the past. It does not look like the leopard has changed its stripes with Azure.

“What do you think? Will Windows Azure be as successful as the .NET Framework and Visual Studio, or is it destined to be a minor player like Windows Mobile or the Zune?”

Joannes Vermorel proposes MapReduce as burstable low-cost CPU for Windows Azure in this 2/27/2010 post:

About two months ago, when Mike Wickstrand setup a UserVoice instance for Windows Azure, I immediately posted my own suggestion concerning MapReduce. MapReduce is a distributed computing concept initially published by Google late 2004.

Against all odds, my suggestion, driven by the needs of Lokad, made it into the Top 10 most requested features for Windows Azure (well, 9th rank and about 20x times less voted than the No1 request for scaled down hosting).

Lately, I had the opportunity to discuss more with folks at Microsoft gathering market feedback on this item. In software business, there is frequent tendency for users to ask for features they don't want in the end. The difficulty being that proposed features may or may not correctly address initial problems.

Preparing the interview, I realized that, to some extend, I had fallen for the same trap when asking for MapReduce. Actually, we have already reimplemented our own MapReduce equivalent, which is not that hard thanks to the Queue Storage.

I care very little about framework specifics, may it be MapReduce, Hadoop, DryadLinq or something not-invented-yet. Lokad has no cloud legacy calling for a specific implementation.

What I do care about is much simpler. In order to deliver truckloads of forecasts, Lokad needs :

    1. large scale CPU
    2. burstable CPU
    3. low cost CPU

    Windows Azure is already doing a great job addressing Point 1. Thanks to the massive Microsoft investments on Azure datacenters, thousands of VMs can already be instantiated if needed.

    When asking for MapReduce, I was instead expressing my concern for Point 2 and Point 3. Indeed,

    • Amazon MapReduce offers 5x cheaper CPU compared to classical VM-based CPU.
    • VM-based CPU is not very burstable: it takes minutes to spawn a new VM, not seconds.

    Joannes continues with a list of his needs for lighter-weight, lower-cost Windows Azure instances.

    Dan Kasun challenges Matt Asay’s post about Microsoft lock-in a Microsoft’s REAL choice for Governments… post of 2/27/2010:

    I'm fresh from the US Public Sector CIO Summit - it was an amazing week and I had some truly enlightening conversations and experiences. Everyone I spoke with had very positive perceptions and feedback on Microsoft’s strategy - but I happened to come across Matt Asay's blog comments, "Software industry's false choice for governments," where he articulated a different perspective.

    I'm not sure what conference Matt attended, but I think he may have missed a significant portion of the CIO Summit’s theme. Just about every discussion at the Summit focused on openness and interoperability, and the importance of providing choice to enable government innovation. Granted, my viewpoint may be a bit biased given my employment with Microsoft – but I had several discussions with customers and partners who had a similar experience and perspective.

    I wanted to address some of the points that Matt outlined in his post (note: lines copied directly from Matt’s post here are indented and italicized. I’ve included the entire post, in segments, to avoid the perception of taking things out of context).

    Dan continues with a refutation of each of Matt’s points.

    Murray Gordon’s Windows Azure Resources for [Business] Decision Makers post of 2/26/2010 provides a useful link potpourri:

    Jared Bienz, an ISV Architect Evangelist on our team covering the South Central Region, came up with this fairly comprehensive list of great resources on Windows Azure and Live Framework.

    This content is great for business decision makers.

    Don’t miss the link to the SQL Azure Migration Wizard at the bottom. If you haven’t seen it, this is a powerful tool.

    Windows Azure Links

    Windows Azure Homepage: The main public landing page for Windows Azure.

    Windows Azure and ISVs – A Guide for Decision Makers: A great whitepapre written by David Chappell for ISV decision makers.

    Azure Case Studies: A great selection of whitepapers from big named companies like 3M, Seimens, Kelley Blue Book and more.

    Azure Pricing: Main public pricing page.

    Official Azure ROI and TO Calculator: The official TCO and ROI wizard.

    Getting Started with Azure: The primary public start page for those looking to move to or start development on Windows Azure.

    Azure Application Compatibility Support: Compatibility resources offered through the Microsoft FrontRunner program.

    Other Azure Resources: A great page summarizing many more Azure resources beyond what’s available in this list.

    SQL Azure Links

    SQL Azure Migration Wizard: A great tool for migrating data between local SQL and SQL Azure, even between one SQL Azure instance and another. It does it’s best to transfer both structure and data, and it lets you know why if it can’t.

    My Using the SQL Azure Migration Wizard v3.1.3/3.1.4 with the AdventureWorksLT2008R2 Sample Database is an fully illustrated, detailed tutorial for a recent version of SQLAzureMW.

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    Cloud Security and Governance

    Jonathan Penn puts cloud computing first on the list of his What I expect from the RSA Conference post of 2/26/2010:

    I’ll be pretty busy at the RSA Conference this year, with participation in the always-well-attended Industry Analyst Roundtable discussion with my colleagues at Gartner and IDC (March 2, 1:00 PM, Orange Room 302), and moderation a very interesting session on the changing nature of the vendor-CISO relationship (March 4, 9:10 AM, Green Room 123) with the CEO of Sophos and the CISO of Raymond James Financial.

    And about 30 vendor briefings, with some time to cruise the exhibit floor. I’ll probably have to view many of the keynotes online, unfortunately. But I promise to blog each day about what I’m seeing (and not seeing) at the event.

    Here’s what I expect:

    • Cloudiness. Lots of solutions focused on securing IT as it adopts cloud (IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS) computing. This is a marked difference from last year, which showed many vendors offering security products that simply exist “in the cloud” (ie, cloud/SaaS as a delivery model)
    • Commotion …
    • Corroboration …
    • Consistency …

    Jon notes in his blog’s sidebar:

    I'll be participating in the "Industry Analyst Roundtable" session. Moderated by Asheem Chandna, Partner at Greylock Partners, the panel will include myself from Forrester, Chris Christiansen of IDC, and John Pescatore of Gartner. It will held on Tuesday March 2 in Orange Room 302 at 1:00 PM PT.

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    Cloud Computing Events

    MSDN Events presents The MSDN Mid Atlantic Roadshow on 3/3/2010 at 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM at Sheraton Richmond West, 6624 W Broad St, Richmond, Virginia 23230, USA:

    MSDN Events presents: Take Your Applications Sky High with Cloud Computing and the Windows Azure Platform

    Join your local MSDN Events team as we take a deep dive into cloud computing and the Windows Azure Platform. We’ll start with a developer-focused overview of this new platform and the cloud computing services that can be used either together or independently to build highly scalable applications. As the day unfolds, we’ll explore data storage, SQL Azure, and the basics of deployment with Windows Azure. Register today for these free, live sessions in your local area. …

    SESSION 1: Overview of Cloud Computing and Windows Azure

    The Windows Azure platform is a set of high-performance cloud computing services that can be used together or independently and enable developers to leverage existing skills and familiar tools to develop cloud applications. In this session, we’ll provide a developer-focused overview of this new online service computing platform. We’ll explore the components, key features and real day-to-day benefits of Windows Azure.

    Highlights include:

    • What is cloud computing?
    • Running web and web service applications in the cloud
    • Using the Windows Azure and local developer cloud fabric
    • Getting started – tools, SDKs and accounts
    • Writing applications for Windows Azure

    SESSION 2: Survey of Windows Azure Platform Storage Options

    Durable data storage is a key component of any cloud computing offering. The Windows Azure Platform offers many options, which can be used alone or in combination. Windows Azure itself offers ready-to-use and lightweight storage in the form of tables, blobs, and queues. Another choice for storage is SQL Azure, a true relational database in the cloud. In this session, we’ll explore the highlights of these implementations and how to both create and use storage in each form. We’ll give you guidance on choosing the right forms of storage for your application scenarios.

    Highlights include:

    • Understanding table & blob storage
    • Programming against table & blob storage
    • Working with queue storage
    • Managing credentials and connection strings
    • Scaling and configuration
    • Understanding SQL Azure databases versus local SQL Server databases
    • SQL Azure firewall, logins and passwords
    • Database creation, deployments and migrations
    • Database management using SQL Management Studio
    • Programming against SQL Azure databases

    SESSION 3: Going Live with your Azure Solution

    Windows Azure features a powerful, yet simple deployment model. By focusing on your application and abstracting away the infrastructure details, you can deploy almost any app with minimal fuss. In this session, we’ll walk you through the basics of Windows Azure deployment, including site monitoring, diagnostics and performance issues.

    Highlights include:

    • Start-to-Finish Visual Studio demonstration of a realistic XML data driven business web site from the desktop to the cloud.
    • Windows Azure Deployments
    • Start-to-Finish Visual Studio demonstration of a realistic SQL Server data driven business web site from the desktop to the cloud.
    • Configuration of your application in the cloud
    • Guidance and Suggestions to ensure your success

    Registration Options: Event ID 1032439969 Register online Register by Phone: 1-877-MSEVENT (673-8368)

    See Jonathan Penn puts cloud computing first on the list of his What I expect from the RSA Conference post in the Cloud Security and Governance section.

    Mike Taulty describes Free Client Day at Microsoft TechDays UK – London, 15th April in this 2/26/2010 post:

    I wanted to do a call out for the Client development day that we’re running as part of the UK TechDays event. This is a FREE event that’s running all day in London on the 15th April and it’s targeted at developers who are interested in hearing about client development with .NET Framework V4.0 and for Windows 7.

    The agenda on the website doesn’t quite do it justice in that we’ve managed to get some really fantastic speakers for this day;


    … Windows Azure has been through a lot of changes since announcement at PDC08 ( including going live :-) ) and local Azure guy David Gristwood will give you an update on where Azure is, where it fits and what Cloud services you can make use of in your client apps today.

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    Other Cloud Computing Platforms and Services

    Maureen O’Grara claims “Cirious is HP’s vision for creating an enterprise cloud software platform” in her HP Is Cirious About Clouds post of 2/27/2010:

    HP Labs has opened an advanced research facility in Singapore, where it means to re-examine data center and application design principles to explore how future cloud computing needs will be met.

    The facility will support a number of cloud initiatives already underway at other HP Labs sites, collaborating closely with the Service Automation and Integration Lab (SAIL) in Silicon Valley and the Automated Infrastructure Lab (AIL) in England.

    Together, the three will work on Cirious, HP's vision for creating an enterprise cloud software platform.

    Through applied and exploratory research, Singapore is supposed to work with customers, partners, HP business divisions and the academe to generate advances that drive Cirious research.

    As part of the Open Cirrus project, HP has already partnered with Intel, Yahoo and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore to create a global, multi-data center, open source test bed for cloud computing research and education. IDA houses one of nine test bed locations worldwide.

    It is also in bed with SingTel building Alatum, Singapore's largest commercial grid services platform, under IDA's Grid Service Provisioning project. Alatum offers a variety of computing power, storage and software applications on a pay-per-use, on-demand and online basis. It currently has 15 ISV partners and 70 customers.

    Not to mention its US$250 million partnership with Microsoft.

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