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Binary Studio 09.04.2009

Microsoft Azure Service Platform in use

The article is about our first impression of ASP.NET MVC software development and porting of the application on the Azure cloud services platform.

Recently we have developed a web application using very interesting and promising technology from Microsoft - Asp.Net MVC. For sake of an experiment we have decided to deploy it on the new Microsoft Azure Service Platform from Microsoft. And this experience I would like to share with you (If you're looking for azure development services check our page about our services).

Deployment ASP.NET MVC software applications on Azure

Both Asp.Net MVC and Azure products are pretty young, but attract close attention of programmer’s community. We have a positive experience with Asp.Net MVC, but this is a subject of another post, and I would like to concentrate on Azure. I should confess here that I did not figure out how exactly we can benefit from using Azure yet. In other words what are the specific requirements for the web application that make it adequate to be deployed using Azure. But already now I can tell you that when it comes to deployment Azure really makes life easy.

So, let’s go step by step.

1. Downloading and installing SDK.

Here is an official link for downloading page: http://www.microsoft.com/azure/sdk.mspx

First of all we will need these packages: "Windows Azure SDK" and "Windows Azure Tools" for Microsoft Visual Studio. I did not download "Microsoft SQL Data Services SDK", but I surely will and you also may like to check it out.

Important thing - system requirements.

Supported Operating Systems: Windows Server 2008 Enterprise; Windows Server 2008 Standard; Windows Vista Business; Windows Vista Business 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Home Premium; Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition; Windows Vista Ultimate; Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition

And this means that you simply can not install "Windows Azure SDK" on WindowsXP. If you also have this OS virtual machine is a good option.

2. Creating new project.

As soon as 2 packages are installed we can create a new project. You should use “Web Cloud Service” template. I will not guide you through creating a new cloud project, there is a bunch of good videos, please take a look at this link for example.

Suppose you have created a cloud project, and there is a web site you want to put into this cloud. Please go to your projects folder (the one, ending with “_WebRole”) and delete all the auto generated files except of project files - those with “_WebRole” postfix ({YourSolution}_WebRole.csproj). Now you can copy your web site files into the folder and include them into the solution.

3. Setting up the database.

Well, this is a subject for further investigation. I guess Microsoft will provide some SQL service for storing your sql data soon, but I have not figured out if it is already provided. Instead some articles say that for now you should use some third-party database hosting and use a corresponding connection string in your application. Or you can use some simple data storage instead, I did not have a close look to it, but you can try this link for more info. In our case we have simply used our internet provider’s database. 🙂

4. Debugging.

You can debug you web application just like you do for any asp.net application. Just don't forget to set your “_WebRole” project as a start project, because if you won’t then debug may never start.

5. Deploying a web site.

Well that is the sweetest thing - you right click you solution, press "Publish" and process is started. I will not repost deployment stages, but here is a link that will give more light: I will just say that in a couple of minutes your web site will be up and running.

What I disliked in Azure platform:

  • You have poor or none hosting configuration abilities.
  • You can not change some file on a hosting with a newer version without republishing the whole thing.
  • In my subjective point of view web site deployed on Azure works a bit slower.

What I liked in Azure platform:

  • You do not have to look for a hosting provider. Microsoft is a hosting provider. 🙂
  • Deployment done in few clicks.

And finally I would like to say that Microsoft seems to bet high bids on Azure, so it definitely is worse your attention if you want to stay in stream.

Eugene T,
.Net team, Binary Studio