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ScottGu's Blog - Scott Guthrie
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Scott Guthrie lives in Seattle and builds a few products for Microsoft
Updated: 1 day 1 hour ago

Docker and Microsoft: Integrating Docker with Windows Server and Microsoft Azure

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 14:30

I’m excited to announce today that Microsoft is partnering with Docker, Inc to enable great container-based development experiences on Linux, Windows Server and Microsoft Azure.

Docker is an open platform that enables developers and administrators to build, ship, and run distributed applications. Consisting of Docker Engine, a lightweight runtime and packaging tool, and Docker Hub, a cloud service for sharing applications and automating workflows, Docker enables apps to be quickly assembled from components and eliminates the friction between development, QA, and production environments.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released support for Docker containers with Linux on Azure.  This support integrates with the Azure VM agent extensibility model and Azure command-line tools, and makes it easy to deploy the latest and greatest Docker Engine in Azure VMs and then deploy Docker based images within them.   Docker Support for Windows Server + Docker Hub integration with Microsoft Azure

Today, I’m excited to announce that we are working with Docker, Inc to extend our support for Docker much further.  Specifically, I’m excited to announce that:

1) Microsoft and Docker are integrating the open-source Docker Engine with the next release of Windows Server.  This release of Windows Server will include new container isolation technology, and support running both .NET and other application types (Node.js, Java, C++, etc) within these containers.  Developers and organizations will be able to use Docker to create distributed, container-based applications for Windows Server that leverage the Docker ecosystem of users, applications and tools.  It will also enable a new class of distributed applications built with Docker that use Linux and Windows Server images together.

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2) We will support the Docker client natively on Windows.  Developers and administrators running Windows will be able to use the same standard Docker client and interface to deploy and manage Docker based solutions with both Linux and Windows Server environments.

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3) Docker for Windows Server container images will be available in the Docker Hub alongside the Docker for Linux container images available today.  This will enable developers and administrators to easily share and automate application workflows using both Windows Server and Linux Docker images.

4) We will integrate Docker Hub with the Microsoft Azure Gallery and Azure Management Portal.  This will make it trivially easy to deploy and run both Linux and Windows Server based Docker images in Microsoft Azure.

5) Microsoft is contributing code to Docker’s Open Orchestration APIs.  These APIs provide a portable way to create multi-container Docker applications that can be deployed into any datacenter or cloud provider environment. This support will allow a developer or administrator using the Docker command line client to launch either Linux or Windows Server based Docker applications directly into Microsoft Azure from his or her development machine.

Exciting Opportunities Ahead

At Microsoft we continue to be inspired by technologies that can dramatically improve how quickly teams can bring new solutions to market. The partnership we are announcing with Docker today will enable developers and administrators to use the best container tools available for both Linux and Windows Server based applications, and to run all of these solutions within Microsoft Azure.  We are looking forward to seeing the great applications you build with them.

You can learn more about today’s announcements here and here.

Hope this helps,

Scott omni

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Azure: Redis Cache, Disaster Recovery to Azure, Tagging Support, Elastic Scale for SQLDB, DocDB

Tue, 10/07/2014 - 06:02

Over the last few days we’ve released a number of great enhancements to Microsoft Azure.  These include:

  • Redis Cache: General Availability of Redis Cache Service
  • Site Recovery: General Availability of Disaster Recovery to Azure using Azure Site Recovery
  • Management: Tags support in the Azure Preview Portal
  • SQL DB: Public preview of Elastic Scale for Azure SQL Database (available through .NET lib, Azure service templates)
  • DocumentDB: Support for Document Explorer, Collection management and new metrics
  • Notification Hub: Support for Baidu Push Notification Service
  • Virtual Network: Support for static private IP support in the Azure Preview Portal
  • Automation updates: Active Directory authentication, PowerShell script converter, runbook gallery, hourly scheduling support

All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note that some features are still in preview).  Below are more details about them: Redis Cache: General Availability of Redis Cache Service

I’m excited to announce the General Availability of the Azure Redis Cache. The Azure Redis Cache service provides the ability for you to use a secure/dedicated Redis cache, managed as a service by Microsoft. The Azure Redis Cache is now the recommended distributed cache solution we advocate for Azure applications. Redis Cache

Unlike traditional caches which deal only with key-value pairs, Redis is popular for its support of high performance data types, on which you can perform atomic operations such as appending to a string, incrementing the value in a hash, pushing to a list, computing set intersection, union and difference, or getting the member with highest ranking in a sorted set.  Other features include support for transactions, pub/sub, Lua scripting, keys with a limited time-to-live, and configuration settings to make Redis behave more like a traditional cache.

Finally, Redis has a healthy, vibrant open source ecosystem built around it. This is reflected in the diverse set of Redis clients available across multiple languages. This allows it to be used by nearly any application, running on either Windows or Linux, that you host inside of Azure. Redis Cache Sizes and Editions

The Azure Redis Cache Service is today offered in the following sizes:  250 MB, 1 GB, 2.8 GB, 6 GB, 13 GB, 26 GB, 53 GB.  We plan to support even higher-memory options in the future.

Each Redis cache size option is also offered in two editions:

  • Basic – A single cache node, without a formal SLA, recommended for use in dev/test or non-critical workloads.
  • Standard – A multi-node, replicated cache configured in a two-node Master/Replica configuration for high-availability, and backed by an enterprise SLA.

With the Standard edition, we manage replication between the two nodes and perform an automatic failover in the case of any failure of the Master node (because of either an un-planned server failure, or in the event of planned patching maintenance). This helps ensure the availability of the cache and the data stored within it. 

Details on Azure Redis Cache pricing can be found on the Azure Cache pricing page.  Prices start as low as $17 a month. Create a New Redis Cache and Connect to It

You can create a new instance of a Redis Cache using the Azure Preview Portal.  Simply select the New->Redis Cache item to create a new instance. 

You can then use a wide variety of programming languages and corresponding client packages to connect to the Redis Cache you’ve provisioned.  You use the same Redis client packages that you’d use to connect to your own Redis instance as you do to connect to an Azure Redis Cache service.  The API + libraries are exactly the same.

Below we’ll use a .NET Redis client called StackExchange.Redis to connect to our Azure Redis Cache instance. First open any Visual Studio project and add the StackExchange.Redis NuGet package to it, with the NuGet package manager.  Then, obtain the cache endpoint and key respectively from the Properties blade and the Keys blade for your cache instance within the Azure Preview Portal.

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Once you’ve retrieved these, create a connection instance to the cache with the code below:

var connection = StackExchange.Redis.ConnectionMultiplexer.Connect("contoso5.redis.cache.windows.net,ssl=true,password=...");

Once the connection is established, retrieve a reference to the Redis cache database, by calling the ConnectionMultiplexer.GetDatabase method.

IDatabase cache = connection.GetDatabase();

Items can be stored in and retrieved from a cache by using the StringSet and StringGet methods (or their async counterparts – StringSetAsync and StringGetAsync).

cache.StringSet("Key1", "HelloWorld");

cache.StringGet("Key1");

You have now stored and retrieved a “Hello World” string from a Redis cache instance running on Azure. For an example of an end to end application using Azure Redis Cache, please check out the MVC Movie Application blog post. Using Redis for ASP.NET Session State and Output Caching

You can also take advantage of Redis to store out-of-process ASP.NET Session State as well as to share Output Cached content across web server instances. 

For more details on using Redis for Session State, checkout this blog post: ASP.NET Session State for Redis

For details on using Redis for Output Caching, checkout this MSDN post: ASP.NET Output Cache for Redis Monitoring and Alerting

Every Azure Redis cache instance has built-in monitoring support on by default. Currently you can track Cache Hits, Cache Misses, Get/Set Commands, Total Operations, Evicted Keys, Expired Keys, Used Memory, Used Bandwidth and Used CPU.  You can easily visualize these using the Azure Preview Portal:

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You can also create alerts on metrics or events (just click the “Add Alert” button above). For example, you could create an alert rule to notify the cache administrator when the cache is seeing evictions. This in turn might signal that the cache is running hot and needs to be scaled up with more memory. Learn more

For more information about the Azure Redis Cache, please visit the following links:

Site Recovery: Announcing the General Availability of Disaster Recovery to Azure

I’m excited to announce the general availability of the Azure Site Recovery Service’s new Disaster Recovery to Azure functionality.  The Disaster Recovery to Azure capability enables consistent replication, protection, and recovery of on-premises VMs to Microsoft Azure. With support for both Disaster Recovery and Migration to Azure, the Azure Site Recovery service now provides a simple, reliable, and cost-effective DR solution for enabling Virtual Machine replication and recovery between on-premises private clouds across different enterprise locations, or directly to the cloud with Azure.

This month’s release builds upon our recent InMage acquisition, and the integration of InMage Scout with Azure Site Recovery enables us to provide hybrid cloud business continuity solutions for any customer IT environment – regardless of whether it is Windows or Linux, running on physical servers or virtualized servers using Hyper-V, VMware or other virtualization solutions. Microsoft Azure is now the ideal destination for disaster recovery for virtually every enterprise server in the world.

In addition to enabling replication to and disaster recovery in Azure, the Azure Site Recovery service also enables the automated protection of VMs, remote health monitoring of them, no-impact disaster recovery plan testing, and single click orchestrated recovery - all backed by an enterprise-grade SLA. A new addition with this GA release is the ability to also invoke Azure Automation runbooks from within Azure Site Recovery Plans, enabling you to further automate your solutions.

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Learn More about Azure Site Recovery

For more information on Azure Site Recovery, check out the recording of the Azure Site Recovery session at TechEd 2014 where we discussed the preview.  You can also visit the Azure Site Recovery forum on MSDN for additional information and to engage with the engineering team or other customers.

Once you’re ready to get started with Azure Site Recovery, check out additional pricing or product information, and sign up for a free Azure trial.

Beginning this month, Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery will also be available in a convenient, and economical promotion offer available for purchase via a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement.  Each unit of the Azure Backup & Site Recovery annual subscription offer covers protection of a single instance to Azure with Site Recovery, as well as backup of data with Azure Backup.  You can contact your Microsoft Reseller or Microsoft representative for more information. Management: Tag Support with Resources

I’m excited to announce the support of tags in the Azure management platform and in the Azure preview portal.

Tags provide an easy way to organize your Azure resources and resources groups, by allowing you to tag your resources with name/value pairs to further categorize and view resources across resource groups and across subscriptions.  For example, you could use tags to identify which of your resources are used for “production” versus “dev/test” – and enable easy filtering/searching of the resources based on which tag you were interested in – regardless of which application or resource group they were in.  Using Tags

To get started with the new Tag support, browse to any resource or resource group in the Azure Preview Portal and click on the Tags tile on the resource.

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On the Tags blade that appears, you'll see a list of any tags you've already applied. To add a new tag, simply specify a name and value and press enter. After you've added a few tags, you'll notice autocomplete options based on pre-existing tag names and values to better ensure a consistent taxonomy across your resources and to avoid common mistakes, like misspellings.

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You can also use our command-line tools to tag resources as well.  Below is an example of using the Azure PowerShell module to quickly tag all of the resources in your Azure subscription:

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Once you've tagged your resources and resource groups, you can view the full list of tags across all of your subscriptions using the Browse hub.

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You can also “pin” tags to your Startboard for quick access.  This provides a really easy way to quickly jump to any resource in a tag you’ve pinned:

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SQL Databases: Public Preview of Elastic Scale Support

I am excited to announce the public preview of Elastic Scale for Azure SQL Database. Elastic Scale enables the data-tier of an application to scale out via industry-standard sharding practices, while significantly streamlining the development and management of your sharded cloud applications. The new capabilities are provided through .NET libraries and Azure service templates that are hosted in your own Azure subscription to manage your highly scalable applications. Elastic Scale implements the infrastructure aspects of sharding and thus allows you to instead focus on the business logic of your application.

Elastic Scale allows developers to establish a “contract” that defines where different slices of data reside across a collection of database instances.  This enables applications to easily and automatically direct transactions to the appropriate database (shard) and perform queries that cross many or all shards using simple extensions to the ADO.NET programming model. Elastic Scale also enables coordinated data movement between shards to split or merge ranges of data among different databases and satisfy common scenarios such as pulling a busy tenant into its own shard. 

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We are also announcing the Federation Migration Utility which is available as part of the preview. This utility will help current SQL Database Federations customers migrate their Federations application to Elastic Scale without having to perform any data movement.

Get Started with the Elastic Scale preview today, and watch our Channel 9 video to learn more. DocumentDB: Document Explorer, Collection management and new metrics

Last week we released a bunch of updates to the Azure DocumentDB service experience in the Azure Preview Portal. We continue to improve the developer and management experiences so you can be more productive and build great applications on DocumentDB. These improvements include:

  • Document Explorer: View and access JSON documents in your database account
  • Collection management: Easily add and delete collections
  • Database performance metrics and storage information: View performance metrics and storage consumed at a Database level
  • Collection performance metrics and storage information: View performance metrics and storage consumed at a Collection level
  • Support for Azure tags: Apply custom tags to DocumentDB Accounts
Document Explorer

Near the bottom of the DocumentDB Account, Database, and Collection blades, you’ll now find a new Developer Tools lens with a Document Explorer part.

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This part provides you with a read-only document explorer experience. Select a database and collection within the Document Explorer and view documents within that collection.

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Note that the Document Explorer will load up to the first 100 documents in the selected Collection. You can load additional documents (in batches of 100) by selecting the “Load more” option at the bottom of the Document Explorer blade. Future updates will expand Document Explorer functionality to enable document CRUD operations as well as the ability to filter documents. Collection Management

The DocumentDB Database blade now allows you to quickly create a new Collection through the Add Collection command found on the top left of the Database blade.

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Health Metrics

We’ve added a new Collection blade which exposes Collection level performance metrics and storage information. You can access this new blade by selecting a Collection from the list of Collections on the Database blade.

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The Database and Collection level metrics are available via the Database and Collection blades.

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As always, we’d love to hear from you about the DocumentDB features and experiences you would find most valuable within the Azure portal. You can submit your suggestions on the Microsoft Azure DocumentDB feedback forum. Notification Hubs: support for Baidu Cloud Push

Azure Notification Hubs enable cross platform mobile push notifications for Android, iOS, Windows, Windows Phone, and Kindle devices. Thousands of customers now use Notification Hubs for instant cross platform broadcast, personalized notifications to dynamic segments of their mobile audience, or simply to reach individual customers of their mobile apps regardless which device they use.  Today I am excited to announce support for another mobile notifications platform, Baidu Cloud Push, which will help Notification Hubs customers reach the diverse family of Android devices in China. 

Delivering push notifications to Android devices in China is no easy task, due to a diverse set of app stores and push services. Pushing notifications to an Android device via Google Cloud Messaging Service (GCM) does not work, as most Android devices in China are not configured to use GCM.  To help app developers reach every Android device independent of which app store they’re configured with, Azure Notification Hubs now supports sending push notifications via the Baidu Cloud Push service.

To use Baidu from your Notification Hub, register your app with Baidu, and obtain the appropriate identifiers (UserId and ChannelId) for your application.

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Then configure your Notification Hub within the Azure Management Portal with these identifiers:

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For more details, follow the tutorial in English & Chinese. You can learn more about Push Notifications using Azure at the Notification Hubs dev center. Virtual Machines: Instance-Level Public IPs generally available

Azure now supports the ability for you to assign public IP addresses to VMs and web or worker roles so they become directly addressable on the Internet - without having to map a virtual IP endpoint for access. With Instance-Level Public IPs, you can enable scenarios like running FTP servers in Azure and monitoring VMs directly using their IPs.

For more information, please visit the Instance-Level Public IP Addresses webpage.

Automation: Updates

Earlier this year, we introduced preview availability of Azure Automation, a service that allows you to automate the deployment, monitoring, and maintenance of your Azure resources. I am excited to announce several new features in Azure Automation:

  • Active Directory Authentication
  • PowerShell Script Converter
  • Runbook Gallery
  • Hourly Scheduling
Active Directory Authentication

We now offer an easier alternative to using certificates to authenticate from the Azure Automation service to your Azure environment. You can now authenticate to Azure using an Azure Active Directory organization identity which provides simple, credential-based authentication.

If you do not have an Active Directory user set up already, simply create a new user and provide the user with access to manage your Azure subscription. Once you have done this, create an Automation Asset with its credentials and reference the credential in your runbook. You need to do this setup only once and can then use the stored credentials going forward, greatly simplifying the number of steps that you need to take to start automating. You can read this blog to learn more about getting set up with Active Directory Authentication. PowerShell Script Converter

Azure Automation now supports importing PowerShell scripts as runbooks. When a PowerShell script is imported that does not contain a single PowerShell Workflow, Automation will attempt to convert it from PowerShell script to PowerShell Workflow, and then create a runbook from the result. This allows the vast amount of PowerShell content and knowledge that exists today to be more easily leveraged in Azure Automation, despite the fact that Automation executes PowerShell Workflow and not PowerShell. Runbook Gallery

The Runbook Gallery allows you to quickly discover Automation sample, utility, and scenario runbooks from within the Azure management portal. The Runbook Gallery consists of runbooks that can be used as is or with minor modification, and runbooks that can serve as examples of how to create your own runbooks. The Runbook Gallery features content not only by Microsoft, but also by active members of the Azure community. If you have created a runbook that you think other users may benefit from, you can share it with the community on Script Center and it will show up in the Gallery. If you are interested in learning more about the Runbook Gallery, this TechNet article describes how the Gallery works in more detail and provides information on how you can contribute.

You can access the Gallery from +New, and then selecting App Services > Automation > Runbook > From Gallery.

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In the Gallery wizard, you can browse for runbooks by selecting the category in the left hand pane and then view the description of the selected runbook in the right pane. You can then preview the code and finally import the runbook into your personal space:

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We will be adding the ability to expand the Gallery to include PowerShell scripts in the near future. These scripts will be converted to Workflows when they are imported to your Automation Account using the new PowerShell Script Converter. This means that you will have more content to choose from and a tool to help you get your PowerShell scripts running in Azure. Hourly Scheduling

Based on popular request from our users, hourly scheduling is now available in Azure Automation. This feature allows you to schedule your runbook hourly or every X hours, making it that much easier to start runbooks at a regular frequency that is smaller than a day. Summary

Today’s Microsoft Azure release enables a ton of great new scenarios, and makes building applications hosted in the cloud even easier.

If you don’t already have a Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using all of the above features today.  Then visit the Microsoft Azure Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with it.

Hope this helps,

Scott

P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at: twitter.com/scottgu omni

Categories: Architecture, Programming

New D-Series of Azure VMs with 60% Faster CPUs, More Memory and Local SSD Disks

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 19:19

Today I’m excited to announce that we just released a new set of VM sizes for Microsoft Azure. These VM sizes are now available to be used immediately by every Azure customer.

The new D-Series of VMs can be used with both Azure Virtual Machines and Azure Cloud Services.  In addition to offering faster vCPUs (approximately 60% faster than our A series) and more memory (up to 112 GB), the new VM sizes also all have a local SSD disk (up to 800 GB) to enable much faster IO reads and writes.

The new VM sizes available today include the following:

General Purpose D-Series VMs

Name vCores Memory (GB) Local SSD Disk (GB) Standard_D1 1 3.5 50 Standard_D2 2 7 100 Standard_D3 4 14 200 Standard_D4 8 28 400

 

High Memory D-Series VMs

Name vCores Memory (GB) Local SSD Disk (GB) Standard_D11 2 14 100 Standard_D12 4 28 200 Standard_D13 8 56 400 Standard_D14 16 112 800

For pricing information, please see Virtual Machine Pricing Details.

Local SSD Disk and SQL Server Buffer Pool Extensions

A temporary drive on the VMs (D:\ on Windows, /mnt or /mnt/resource on Linux) is mapped to the local SSDs exposed on the D-Service VMs, and provides a really good option for replicated storage workloads, like MongoDB, or for significantly increasing the performance of SQL Server 2014 by enabling its unique Buffer Pool Extensions (BPE) feature.

SQL Server 2014’s Buffer Pool Extensions allows you to extend the SQL Engine Buffer Pool with the memory of local SSD disks to significantly improve the performance of SQL workloads. The Buffer Pool is a global memory resource used to cache data pages for much faster read operations.  Without any code changes in your application, you can enable the buffer pool support with the SSDs of the D-Series VMs using a simple T-SQL query with just four lines:

ALTER SERVER CONFIGURATION
SET BUFFER POOL EXTENSION ON
SIZE = <size> [ KB | MB | GB ]
FILENAME = 'D:\SSDCACHE\EXAMPLE.BPE'

No code changes are required in your application, and all write operations will continue to be durably persisted in VM drives persisted in Azure Storage. More details on configuring and using BPE can be found here.

Start Using the D-Series VMs Today

You can start using the new D-Series VM sizes immediately.  They can be easily created and used via both the current Azure Management Portal as well as Preview Portal, as well as from the Azure management command-line/scripts/APIs.

To learn more about the D-Series please read this post which has even more details about them, as well as check out the Azure documentation center.

Hope this helps,

Scott

omni
Categories: Architecture, Programming

Azure: SQL Databases, API Management, Media Services, Websites, Role Based Access Control and More

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 07:14

This week we released a major set of updates to Microsoft Azure. This week’s updates include:

  • SQL Databases: General Availability of Azure SQL Database Service Tiers
  • API Management: General Availability of our API Management Service
  • Media Services: Live Streaming, Content Protection, Faster and Cost Effective Encoding, and Media Indexer
  • Web Sites: Virtual Network integration, new scalable CMS with WordPress and updates to Web Site Backup in the Preview Portal
  • Role-based Access Control: Preview release of role-based access control for Azure Management operations
  • Alerting: General Availability of Azure Alerting and new alerts on events

All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note that some features are still in preview).  Below are more details about them:   SQL Databases: General Availability of Azure SQL Database Service Tiers

I’m happy to announce the General Availability of our new Azure SQL Database service tiers - Basic, Standard, and Premium.  The SQL Database service within Azure provides a compelling database-as-a-service offering that enables you to quickly innovate & stand up and run SQL databases without having to manage or operate VMs or infrastructure.

Today’s SQL Database Service Tiers all come with a 99.99% SLA, and databases can now grow up to 500GB in size.

Each SQL Database tier now guarantees a consistent performance level that you can depend on within your applications – avoiding the need to worry about “noisy neighbors” who might impact your performance from time to time.

Built-in point-in-time restore support now provides you with the ability to automatically re-create databases at a certain point of time (giving you much more backup flexibility and allowing you to restore to exactly the point before you accidentally did something bad to your data).

Built-in auditing support enables you to gain insight into events and changes that occur with the databases you host.

Built-in active geo-replication support, available with the premium tier, enables you to create up to 4 readable, secondary, databases in any Azure region.  When active geo-replication is enabled, we will ensure that all transactions committed to the database in your primary region are continuously replicated to the databases in the other regions as well:

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One of the primary benefits of active geo-replication is that it provides application control over disaster recovery at a database level.  Having cross-region redundancy enables your applications to recover in the event of a disaster (e.g. a natural disaster, etc).  The new active geo-replication support enables you to initiate/control any failovers – allowing you to shift the primary database to any of your secondary regions:

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This provides a robust business continuity offering, and enables you to run mission critical solutions in the cloud with confidence.  More Flexible Pricing

SQL Databases are now billed on a per-hour basis – allowing you to quickly create and tear down databases, and dynamically scale up or down databases even more cost effectively.

Basic Tier databases support databases up to 2GB in size and cost $4.99 for a full month of use.  Standard Tier databases support 250GB databases and now start at $15/month (there are also higher performance standard tiers at $30/month and $75/month). Premium Tier databases support 500GB databases as well as the active geo-replication feature and now start at $465/month.

The below table provides a quick look at the different tiers and functionality:

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This page provides more details on how to think about DTU performance with each of the above tiers, and provides benchmark details on the number of transactions supported by each of the above service tiers and performance levels.

During the preview, we’ve heard from some ISVs, which have a large number of databases with variable performance demands, that they need the flexibility to share DTU performance resources across multiple databases as opposed to managing tiers for databases individually.  For example, some SaaS ISVs may have a separate SQL database for each customer and as the activity of each database varies, they want to manage a pool of resources with a defined budget across these customer databases.  We are working to enable this scenario within the new service tiers in a future service update. If you are an ISV with a similar scenario, please click here to sign up to learn more.

Learn more about SQL Databases on Azure here. API Management Service: General Availability Release

I’m excited to announce the General Availability of the Azure API Management Service.

In my last post I discussed how API Management enables customers to securely publish APIs to developers and accelerate partner adoption.  These APIs can be used from mobile and client applications (on any device) as well as other cloud and service based applications.

The API management service supports the ability to take any APIs you already have (either in the cloud or on-premises) and publish them for others to use.  The API Management service enables you to:

  • Throttle, rate limit and quota your APIs
  • Gain analytic insights on how your APIs are being used and by whom
  • Secure your APIs using OAuth or key-based access
  • Track the health of your APIs and quickly identify errors
  • Easily expose a developer portal for your APIs that provides documentation and test experiences to developers who want to use your APIs

Today’s General Availability provides a formal SLA for Standard tier services.  We also have a developer tier of the service that you can use, starting at just $49 per month. OAuth support in the Developer Portal

The API Management service provides a developer console that enables a great on-boarding and interactive learning experience for developers who want to use your APIs.  The developer console enables you to easily expose documentation as well enable developers to try/test your APIs.

With this week’s GA release we are also adding support that enables API publishers to register their OAuth Authorization Servers for use in the console, which in turn allows developers to sign in with their own login credentials when interacting with your API - a critical feature for any API that supports OAuth. All normative authorization grant types are supported plus scopes and default scopes.

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For more details on how to enable OAuth 2 support with API Management and integration in the new developer portal, check out this tutorial.

Click here to learn more about the API Management service and try it out for free. Media Services: Live Streaming, DRM, Faster Cost Effective Encoding, and Media Indexer

This week we are excited to announce the public preview of Live Streaming and Content Protection support with Azure Media Services.

The same Internet scale streaming solution that leading international broadcasters used to live stream the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and 2014 FIFA World Cup to tens of millions of customers globally is now available in public preview to all Azure customers. This means you can now stream live events of any size with the same level of scalability, uptime, and reliability that was available to the Olympics and World Cup. DRM Content Protection

This week Azure Media Services is also introducing a new Content Protection offering which features both static and dynamic encryption with first party PlayReady license delivery and an AES 128-bit key delivery service.  This makes it easy to DRM protect both your live and pre-recorded video assets – and have them be available for users to easily watch them on any device or platform (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more). Faster and More Cost Effective Media Encoding

This week, we are also introducing faster media encoding speeds and more cost-effective billing. Our enhanced Azure Media Encoder is designed for premium media encoding and is billed based on output GBs. Our previous encoder was billed on both input + output GBs, so the shift to output only billing will result in a substantial price reduction for all of our customers.

To help you further optimize your encoding workflows, we’re introducing Basic, Standard, and Premium Encoding Reserved units, which give you more flexibility and allow you to tailor the encoding capability you pay for to the needs of your specific workflows. Media Indexer

Additionally, I’m happy to announce the General Availability of Azure Media Indexer, a powerful, market differentiated content extraction service which can be used to enhance the searchability of audio and video files.  With Media Indexer you can automatically analyze your media files and index the audio and video content in them. You can learn more about it here. More Media Partners

I’m also pleased to announce the addition this week of several media workflow partners and client players to our existing large set of media partners:

  • Azure Media Services and Telestream’s Wirecast are now fully integrated, including a built-in destination that makes its quick and easy to send content from Wirecast’s live streaming production software to Azure.
  • Similarly, Newtek’s Tricaster has also been integrated into the Azure platform, enabling customers to combine the high production value of Tricaster with the scalability and reliability of Azure Media Services.
  • Cires21 and Azure Media have paired up to help make monitoring the health of your live channels simple and easy, and the widely-used JW player is now fully integrated with Azure to enable you to quickly build video playback experiences across virtually all platforms.
Learn More

Visit the Azure Media Services site for more information and to get started for free. Websites: Virtual Network Integration, new Scalable CMS with WordPress

This week we’ve also released a number of great updates to our Azure Websites service.

Virtual Network Integration

Starting this week you can now integrate your Azure Websites with Azure Virtual Networks. This support enables your Websites to access resources attached to your virtual networks.  For example: this means you can now have a Website directly connect to a database hosted in a non-public VM on a virtual network.  If your Virtual Network is connected to your on-premises network (using a Site-to-Site software VPN or ExpressRoute dedicated fiber VPN) you can also now have your Website connect to resources in your on-premises network as well.

The new Virtual Network support enables both TCP and UDP protocols and will work with your VNET DNS. Hybrid Connections and Virtual Network are compatible such that you can also mix both in the same Website.  The new virtual network support for Web Sites is being released this week in preview.  Standard web hosting plans can have up to 5 virtual networks enabled. A website can only be connected to one virtual network at a time but there is no restriction on the number of websites that can be connected to a virtual network.

You can configure a Website to use a Virtual Network using the new Preview Azure Portal (http://portal.azure.com).  Click the “Virtual Network” tile in your web-site to bring up a virtual network blade that you can use to either create a new virtual network or attach to an existing one you already have:

image

Note that an Azure Website requires that your Virtual Network has a configured gateway and Point-to-Site enabled. It will remained grayed out in the UI above until you have enabled this. Scalable CMS with WordPress

This week we also released support for a Scalable CMS solution with WordPress running on Azure Websites.  Scalable CMS with WordPress provides the fastest way to build an optimized and hassle free WordPress Website. It is architected so that your WordPress site loads fast and can support millions of page views a month, and you can easily scale up or scale out as your traffic increases.

It is pre-configured to use Azure Storage, which can be used to store your site’s media library content, and can be easily configured to use the Azure CDN.  Every Scalable CMS site comes with auto-scale, staged publishing, SSL, custom domains, Webjobs, and backup and restore features of Azure Websites enabled. Scalable WordPress also allows you to use Jetpack to supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features available to WordPress.com users.

You can now easily deploy Scalable CMS with WordPress solutions on Azure via the Azure Gallery integrated within the new Azure Preview Portal (http://portal.azure.com).  When you select it within the portal it will walk you through automatically setting up and deploying a complete solution on Azure:

image

Scalable WordPress is ideal for Web developers, creative agencies, businesses and enterprises wanting a turn-key solution that maximizes performance of running WordPress on Azure Websites.  It’s fast, simple and secure WordPress hosting on Azure Websites. Updates to Website Backup

This week we also updated our built-in Backup feature within Azure Websites with a number of nice enhancements.  Starting today, you can now:

  • Choose the exact destination of your backups, including the specific Storage account and blob container you wish to store your backups within.
  • Choose to backup SQL databases or MySQL databases that are declared in the connection strings of the website.
  • On the restore side, you can now restore to both a new site, and to a deployment slot on a site. This makes it possible to verify your backup before you make it live.

These new capabilities make it easier than ever to have a full history of your website and its associated data. Security: Role Based Access Control for Management of Azure

As organizations move more and more of their workloads to Azure, one of the most requested features has been the ability to control which cloud resources different employees can access and what actions they can perform on those resources.

Today, I’m excited to announce the preview release of Role Based Access Control (RBAC) support in the Azure platform. RBAC is now available in the Azure preview portal and can be used to control access in the portal or access to the Azure Resource Manager APIs. You can use this support to limit the access of users and groups by assigning them roles on Azure resources. Highlights include:

  • A subscription is no longer the access management boundary in Azure. In April, we introduced Resource Groups, a container to group resources that share lifecycle. Now, you can grant users access on a resource group as well as on individual resources like specific Websites or VMs.
  • You can now grant access to both users groups. RBAC is based on Azure Active Directory, so if your organization already uses groups in Azure Active Directory or Windows Server Active Directory for access management, you will be able to manage access to Azure the same way.

Below are some more details on how this works and can be enabled.

Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory is our directory service in the cloud.  You can create organizational tenants within Azure Active Directory and define users and groups within it – without having to have any existing Active Directory setup on-premises.

Alternatively, you can also sync (or federate) users and groups from your existing on-premises Active Directory to Azure Active Directory, and have your existing users and groups automatically be available for use in the cloud with Azure, Office 365, as well as over 2000 other SaaS based applications:

image

All users that access your Azure subscriptions, are now present in the Azure Active Directory, to which the subscription is associated. This enables you to manage what they can do as well as revoke their access to all Azure subscriptions by disabling their account in the directory. Role Permissions

In this first preview we are pre-defining three built-in Azure roles that give you a choice of granting restricted access:

  • A Owner can perform all management operations for a resource and its child resources including access management.
  • A Contributor can perform all management operations for a resource including create and delete resources. A contributor cannot grant access to others.
  • A Reader has read-only access to a resource and its child resources. A Reader cannot read secrets.

In the RBAC model, users who have been configured to be the service administrator and co-administrators of an Azure subscription are mapped as belonging to the Owners role of the subscription. Their access to both the current and preview management portals remains unchanged.

Additional users and groups that you then assign to the new RBAC roles will only have those permissions, and also will only be able to manage Azure resources using the new Azure preview portal and Azure Resource Manager APIs.  RBAC is not supported in the current Azure management portal or via older management APIs (since neither of these were built with the concept of role based security built-in).

Restricting Access based on Role Based Permissions

Let’s assume that your team is using Azure for development, as well as to host the production instance of your application. When doing this you might want to separate the resources employed in development and testing from the production resources using Resource Groups.

You might want to allow everyone in your team to have a read-only view of all resources in your Azure subscription – including the ability to read and review production analytics data. You might then want to only allow certain users to have write/contributor access to the production resources.  Let’s look at how to set this up:

Step 1: Setting up Roles at the Subscription Level

We’ll begin by mapping some users to roles at the subscription level.  These will then by default be inherited by all resources and resource groups within our Azure subscription.

To set this up, open the Billing blade within the Preview Azure Portal (http://portal.azure.com), and within the Billing blade select the Azure subscription that you wish to setup roles for: 

image

Then scroll down within the blade of subscription you opened, and locate the Roles tile within it:

image

Clicking the Roles title will bring up a blade that lists the pre-defined roles we provide by default (Owner, Contributor, Reader).  You can click any of the roles to bring up a list of the users assigned to the role.  Clicking the Add button will then allow you to search your Azure Active Directory and add either a user or group to that role. 

Below I’ve opened up the default Reader role and added David and Fred to it:

image

Once we do this, David and Fred will be able to log into the Preview Azure Portal and will have read-only access to the resources contained within our subscription.  They will not be able to edit any changes, though, nor be able to see secrets (passwords, etc).

Note that in addition to adding users and groups from within your directory, you can also use the Invite button above to invite users who are not currently part of your directory, but who have a Microsoft Account (e.g. scott@outlook.com), to also be mapped into a role.

Step 2: Setting up Roles at the Resource Level

Once you’ve defined the default role mappings at the subscription level, they will by default apply to all resources and resource groups contained within it. 

If you wish to scope permissions even further at just an individual resource (e.g. a VM or Website or Database) or at a resource group level (e.g. an entire application and all resources within it), you can also open up the individual resource/resource-group blade and use the Roles tile within it to further specify permissions.

For example, earlier we granted David reader role access to all resources within our Azure subscription.  Let’s now grant him contributor role access to just an individual VM within the subscription.  Once we do this he’ll be able to stop/start the VM as well as make changes to it.

To enable this, I’ve opened up the blade for the VM below.  I’ve then scrolled down the blade and found the Roles tile within the VM.  Clicking the contributor role within the Roles tile will then bring up a blade that allows me to configure which users will be contributors (meaning have read and modify permissions) for this particular VM.  Notice below how I’ve added David to this:

image

Using this resource/resource-group level approach enables you to have really fine-grained access control permissions on your resources. Command Line and API Access for Azure Role Based Access Control

The enforcement of the access policies that you configure using RBAC is done by the Azure Resource Manager APIs.  Both the Azure preview portal as well as the command line tools we ship use the Resource Manager APIs to execute management operations. This ensures that access is consistently enforced regardless of what tools are used to manage Azure resources.

With this week’s release we’ve included a number of new Powershell APIs that enable you to automate setting up as well as controlling role based access. Learn More about Role Based Access

Today’s Role Based Access Control Preview provides a lot more flexibility in how you manage the security of your Azure resources.  It is easy to setup and configure.  And because it integrates with Azure Active Directory, you can easily sync/federate it to also integrate with the existing Active Directory configuration you might already have in your on-premises environment.

Getting started with the new Azure Role Based Access Control support is as simple as assigning the appropriate users and groups to roles on your Azure subscription or individual resources. You can read more detailed information on the concepts and capabilities of RBAC here. Your feedback on the preview features is critical for all improvements and new capabilities coming in this space, so please try out the new features and provide us your feedback. Alerts: General Availability of Azure Alerting and new Alerts on Events support

I’m excited to announce the release of Azure Alerting to General Availability. Azure alerts supports the ability to create alert thresholds on metrics that you are interested in, and then have Azure automatically send an email notification when that threshold is crossed. As part of the general availability release, we are removing the 10 alert rule cap per subscription.

Alerts are available in the full azure portal by clicking Management Services in the left navigation bar:

image

Also, alerting is available on most of the resources in the Azure preview portal:

image

You can create alerts on metrics from 8 different services today (and we are adding more all the time):

  • Cloud Services
  • Virtual Machines
  • Websites
  • Web hosting plans
  • Storage accounts
  • SQL databases
  • Redis Cache
  • DocumentDB accounts

In addition to general availability for alerts on metrics, we are also previewing the ability to create alerts on operational events. This means you can get an email if someone stops your website, if your virtual machines are deleted, or if your Azure Resource Manager template deployment failed. Like alerts on metrics, you can route these alerts to the service and co-administrators, or, to a custom email address you provide.  You can configure these events on a resource in the Azure Preview Portal.  We have enabled this within the Portal for Websites – we’ll be extending it to all resources in the future.

Summary

Today’s Microsoft Azure release enables a ton of great new scenarios, and makes building applications hosted in the cloud even easier.

If you don’t already have a Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using all of the above features today.  Then visit the Microsoft Azure Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with it.

Hope this helps,

Scott

P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at: twitter.com/scottgu

omni
Categories: Architecture, Programming

Azure: New DocumentDB NoSQL Service, New Search Service, New SQL AlwaysOn VM Template, and more

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 21:39

Today we released a major set of updates to Microsoft Azure. Today’s updates include:

  • DocumentDB: Preview of a New NoSQL Document Service for Azure
  • Search: Preview of a New Search-as-a-Service offering for Azure
  • Virtual Machines: Portal support for SQL Server AlwaysOn + community-driven VMs
  • Web Sites: Support for Web Jobs and Web Site processes in the Preview Portal
  • Azure Insights: General Availability of Microsoft Azure Monitoring Services Management Library
  • API Management: Support for API Management REST APIs

All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note that some features are still in preview).  Below are more details about them: DocumentDB: Announcing a New NoSQL Document Service for Azure

I’m excited to announce the preview of our new DocumentDB service - a NoSQL document database service designed for scalable and high performance modern applications.  DocumentDB is delivered as a fully managed service (meaning you don’t have to manage any infrastructure or VMs yourself) with an enterprise grade SLA.

As a NoSQL store, DocumentDB is truly schema-free. It allows you to store and query any JSON document, regardless of schema. The service provides built-in automatic indexing support – which means you can write JSON documents to the store and immediately query them using a familiar document oriented SQL query grammar. You can optionally extend the query grammar to perform service side evaluation of user defined functions (UDFs) written in server-side JavaScript as well. 

DocumentDB is designed to linearly scale to meet the needs of your application. The DocumentDB service is purchased in capacity units, each offering a reservation of high performance storage and dedicated performance throughput. Capacity units can be easily added or removed via the Azure portal or REST based management API based on your scale needs. This allows you to elastically scale databases in fine grained increments with predictable performance and no application downtime simply by increasing or decreasing capacity units.

Over the last year, we have used DocumentDB internally within Microsoft for several high-profile services.  We now have DocumentDB databases that are each 100s of TBs in size, each processing millions of complex DocumentDB queries per day, with predictable performance of low single digit ms latency.  DocumentDB provides a great way to scale applications and solutions like this to an incredible size.

DocumentDB also enables you to tune performance further by customizing the index policies and consistency levels you want for a particular application or scenario, making it an incredibly flexible and powerful data service for your applications.   For queries and read operations, DocumentDB offers four distinct consistency levels - Strong, Bounded Staleness, Session, and Eventual. These consistency levels allow you to make sound tradeoffs between consistency and performance. Each consistency level is backed by a predictable performance level ensuring you can achieve reliable results for your application.

DocumentDB has made a significant bet on ubiquitous formats like JSON, HTTP and REST – which makes it easy to start taking advantage of from any Web or Mobile applications.  With today’s release we are also distributing .NET, Node.js, JavaScript and Python SDKs.  The service can also be accessed through RESTful HTTP interfaces and is simple to manage through the Azure preview portal. Provisioning a DocumentDB account

To get started with DocumentDB you provision a new database account. To do this, use the new Azure Preview Portal (http://portal.azure.com), click the Azure gallery and select the Data, storage, cache + backup category, and locate the DocumentDB gallery item.

image

Once you select the DocumentDB item, choose the Create command to bring up the Create blade for it.

In the create blade, specify the name of the service you wish to create, the amount of capacity you wish to scale your DocumentDB instance to, and the location around the world that you want to deploy it (e.g. the West US Azure region):

image

Once provisioning is complete, you can start to manage your DocumentDB account by clicking the new instance icon on your Azure portal dashboard. 

image

The keys tile can be used to retrieve the security keys to use to access the DocumentDB service programmatically. Developing with DocumentDB

DocumentDB provides a number of different ways to program against it. You can use the REST API directly over HTTPS, or you can choose from either the .NET, Node.js, JavaScript or Python client SDKs.

The JSON data I am going to use for this example are two families:

// AndersonFamily.json file

{<?xml:namespace prefix = "o" />

    "id": "AndersenFamily",

    "lastName": "Andersen",

    "parents": [

        { "firstName": "Thomas" },

        { "firstName": "Mary Kay" }

    ],

    "children": [

        { "firstName": "John", "gender": "male", "grade": 7 }

    ],

    "pets": [

        { "givenName": "Fluffy" }

    ],

    "address": { "country": "USA", "state": "WA", "city": "Seattle" }

}

and

// WakefieldFamily.json file

{

    "id": "WakefieldFamily",

    "parents": [

        { "familyName": "Wakefield", "givenName": "Robin" },

        { "familyName": "Miller", "givenName": "Ben" }

    ],

    "children": [

        {

            "familyName": "Wakefield",

            "givenName": "Jesse",

            "gender": "female",

            "grade": 1

        },

        {

            "familyName": "Miller",

            "givenName": "Lisa",

            "gender": "female",

            "grade": 8

        }

    ],

    "pets": [

        { "givenName": "Goofy" },

        { "givenName": "Shadow" }

    ],

    "address": { "country": "USA", "state": "NY", "county": "Manhattan", "city": "NY" }

}

Using the NuGet package manager in Visual Studio, I can search for and install the DocumentDB .NET package into any .NET application. With the URI and Authentication Keys for the DocumentDB service that I retrieved earlier from the Azure Management portal, I can then connect to the DocumentDB service I just provisioned, create a Database, create a Collection, Insert some JSON documents and immediately start querying for them:

using (client = new DocumentClient(new Uri(endpoint), authKey))

{

    var database = new Database { Id = "ScottsDemoDB" };

    database = await client.CreateDatabaseAsync(database);

 

    var collection = new DocumentCollection { Id = "Families" };

    collection = await client.CreateDocumentCollectionAsync(database.SelfLink, collection);

 

    //DocumentDB supports strongly typed POCO objects and also dynamic objects

    dynamic andersonFamily =  JsonConvert.DeserializeObject(File.ReadAllText(@".\Data\AndersonFamily.json"));

    dynamic wakefieldFamily = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject(File.ReadAllText(@".\Data\WakefieldFamily.json"));

 

    //persist the documents in DocumentDB

    await client.CreateDocumentAsync(collection.SelfLink, andersonFamily);

    await client.CreateDocumentAsync(collection.SelfLink, wakefieldFamily);

 

    //very simple query returning the full JSON document matching a simple WHERE clause

    var query = client.CreateDocumentQuery(collection.SelfLink, "SELECT * FROM Families f WHERE f.id = 'AndersenFamily'");

    var family = query.AsEnumerable().FirstOrDefault();

 

    Console.WriteLine("The Anderson family have the following pets:");              

    foreach (var pet in family.pets)

    {

        Console.WriteLine(pet.givenName);

    }

 

    //select JUST the child record out of the Family record where the child's gender is male

    query = client.CreateDocumentQuery(collection.DocumentsLink, "SELECT * FROM c IN Families.children WHERE c.gender='male'");

    var child = query.AsEnumerable().FirstOrDefault();

 

    Console.WriteLine("The Andersons have a son named {0} in grade {1} ", child.firstName, child.grade);

 

    //cleanup test database

    await client.DeleteDatabaseAsync(database.SelfLink);

}

As you can see above – the .NET API for DocumentDB fully supports the .NET async pattern, which makes it ideal for use with applications you want to scale well. 

Server-side JavaScript Stored Procedures

If I wanted to perform some updates affecting multiple documents within a transaction, I can define a stored procedure using JavaScript that swapped pets between families. In this scenario it would be important to ensure that one family didn’t end up with all the pets and another ended up with none due to something unexpected happening. Therefore if an error occurred during the swap process, it would be crucial that the database rollback the transaction and leave things in a consistent state.  I can do this with the following stored procedure that I run within the DocumentDB service:

function SwapPets(family1Id, family2Id) {

    var context = getContext();

    var collection = context.getCollection();

    var response = context.getResponse();

 

    collection.queryDocuments(collection.getSelfLink(), 'SELECT * FROM Families f where f.id  = "' + family1Id + '"', {},

    function (err, documents, responseOptions) {

        var family1 = documents[0];

 

        collection.queryDocuments(collection.getSelfLink(), 'SELECT * FROM Families f where f.id = "' + family2Id + '"', {},

        function (err2, documents2, responseOptions2) {

            var family2 = documents2[0];

                   

            var itemSave = family1.pets;

            family1.pets = family2.pets;

            family2.pets = itemSave;

 

            collection.replaceDocument(family1._self, family1,

                function (err, docReplaced) {

                    collection.replaceDocument(family2._self, family2, {});

                });

 

            response.setBody(true);

        });

    });

}

 

If an exception is thrown in the JavaScript function due to for instance a concurrency violation when updating a record, the transaction is reversed and system is returned to the state it was in before the function began.

It’s easy to register the stored procedure in code like below (for example: in a deployment script or app startup code):

    //register a stored procedure

    StoredProcedure storedProcedure = new StoredProcedure

    {

        Id = "SwapPets",

        Body = File.ReadAllText(@".\JS\SwapPets.js")

    };

               

    storedProcedure = await client.CreateStoredProcedureAsync(collection.SelfLink, storedProcedure);

 

And just as easy to execute the stored procedure from within your application:

    //execute stored procedure passing in the two family documents involved in the pet swap              

    dynamic result = await client.ExecuteStoredProcedureAsync<dynamic>(storedProcedure.SelfLink, "AndersenFamily", "WakefieldFamily");

If we checked the pets now linked to the Anderson Family we’d see they have been swapped. Learning More

It’s really easy to get started with DocumentDB and create a simple working application in a couple of minutes.  The above was but one simple example of how to start using it.  Because DocumentDB is schema-less you can use it with literally any JSON document.  Because it performs automatic indexing on every JSON document stored within it, you get screaming performance when querying those JSON documents later. Because it scales linearly with consistent performance, it is ideal for applications you think might get large.

You can learn more about DocumentDB from the new DocumentDB development center here.

Search: Announcing preview of new Search as a Service for Azure

I’m excited to announce the preview of our new Azure Search service.  Azure Search makes it easy for developers to add great search experiences to any web or mobile application.   

Azure Search provides developers with all of the features needed to build out their search experience without having to deal with the typical complexities that come with managing, tuning and scaling a real-world search service.  It is delivered as a fully managed service with an enterprise grade SLA.  We also are releasing a Free tier of the service today that enables you to use it with small-scale solutions on Azure at no cost. Provisioning a Search Service

To get started, let’s create a new search service.  In the Azure Preview Portal (http://portal.azure.com), navigate to the Azure Gallery, and choose the Data storage, cache + backup category, and locate the Azure Search gallery item.

image

Locate the “Search” service icon and select Create to create an instance of the service:

image

You can choose from two Pricing Tier options: Standard which provides dedicated capacity for your search service, and a Free option that allows every Azure subscription to get a free small search service in a shared environment.

The standard tier can be easily scaled up or down and provides dedicated capacity guarantees to ensure that search performance is predictable for your application.  It also supports the ability to index 10s of millions of documents with lots of indexes.

The free tier is limited to 10,000 documents, up to 3 indexes and has no dedicated capacity guarantees. However it is also totally free, and also provides a great way to learn and experiment with all of the features of Azure Search. Managing your Azure Search service

After provisioning your Search service, you will land in the Search blade within the portal - which allows you to manage the service, view usage data and tune the performance of the service:

image

I can click on the Scale tile above to bring up the details of the number of resources allocated to my search service. If I had created a Standard search service, I could use this to increase the number of replicas allocated to my service to support more searches per second (or to provide higher availability) and the number of partitions to give me support for higher numbers of documents within my search service. Creating a Search Index

Now that the search service is created, I need to create a search index that will hold the documents (data) that will be searched. To get started, I need two pieces of information from the Azure Portal, the service URL to access my Azure Search service (accessed via the Properties tile) and the Admin Key to authenticate against the service (accessed via the Keys title).

image

Using this search service URL and admin key, I can start using the search service APIs to create an index and later upload data and issue search requests. I will be sending HTTP requests against the API using that key, so I’ll setup a .NET HttpClient object to do this as follows:

HttpClient client = new HttpClient();

client.DefaultRequestHeaders.Add("api-key", "19F1BACDCD154F4D3918504CBF24CA1F");

I’ll start by creating the search index. In this case I want an index I can use to search for contacts in my dataset, so I want searchable fields for their names and tags; I also want to track the last contact date (so I can filter or sort on that later on) and their address as a lat/long location so I can use it in filters as well. To make things easy I will be using JSON.NET (to do this, add the NuGet package to your VS project) to serialize objects to JSON.

var index = new

{

    name = "contacts",

    fields = new[]

    {

        new { name = "id", type = "Edm.String", key = true },

        new { name = "fullname", type = "Edm.String", key = false },

        new { name = "tags", type = "Collection(Edm.String)", key = false },

        new { name = "lastcontacted", type = "Edm.DateTimeOffset", key = false },

        new { name = "worklocation", type = "Edm.GeographyPoint", key = false },

    }

};

 

var response = client.PostAsync("https://scottgu-dev.search.windows.net/indexes/?api-version=2014-07-31-Preview",

                                new StringContent(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(index), Encoding.UTF8, "application/json")).Result;

response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();

You can run this code as part of your deployment code or as part of application initialization. Populating a Search Index

Azure Search uses a push API for indexing data. You can call this API with batches of up to 1000 documents to be indexed at a time. Since it’s your code that pushes data into the index, the original data may be anywhere: in a SQL Database in Azure, DocumentDb database, blob/table storage, etc.  You can even populate it with data stored on-premises or in a non-Azure cloud provider.

Note that indexing is rarely a one-time operation. You will probably have an initial set of data to load from your data source, but then you will want to push new documents as well as update and delete existing ones. If you use Azure Websites, this is a natural scenario for Webjobs that can run your indexing code regularly in the background.

Regardless of where you host it, the code to index data needs to pull data from the source and push it into Azure Search. In the example below I’m just making up data, but you can see how I could be using the result of a SQL or LINQ query or anything that produces a set of objects that match the index fields we identified above.

var batch = new

{

    value = new[]

    {

        new

        {

            id = "221",

            fullname = "Jay Adams",

            tags = new string[] { "work" },

            lastcontacted = DateTimeOffset.UtcNow,

            worklocation = new

            {

                type = "Point",

                coordinates = new [] { -122.131577, 47.678581 }

            }

        },

        new

        {

            id = "714",

            fullname = "Catherine Abel",

            tags = new string[] { "work", "personal" },

            lastcontacted = DateTimeOffset.UtcNow,

            worklocation = new

            {

                type = "Point",

                coordinates = new [] { -121.825579, 47.1419814}

            }

        }

    }

};

 

var response = client.PostAsync("https://scottgu-dev.search.windows.net/indexes/contacts/docs/index?api-version=2014-07-31-Preview",

                                new StringContent(JsonConvert.SerializeObject(batch), Encoding.UTF8, "application/json")).Result;

response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();

Searching an Index

After creating an index and populating it with data, I can now issue search requests against the index. Searches are simple HTTP GET requests against the index, and responses contain the data we originally uploaded as well as accompanying scoring information.

I can do a simple search by executing the code below, where searchText is a string containing the user input, something like abel work for example:

var response = client.GetAsync("https://scottgu-dev.search.windows.net/indexes/contacts/docs?api-version=2014-07-31-Preview&search=" + Uri.EscapeDataString(searchText)).Result;

response.EnsureSuccessStatusCode();

 

dynamic results = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject(response.Content.ReadAsStringAsync().Result);

 

foreach (var result in results.value)

{

    Console.WriteLine("FullName:" + result.fullname + " score:" + (double)result["@search.score"]);

}

Learning More

The above is just a simple scenario of what you can do.  There are a lot of other things we could do with searches. For example, I can use query string options to filter, sort, project and page over the results. I can use hit-highlighting and faceting to create a richer way to navigate results and suggestions to implement auto-complete within my web or mobile UI.

In this example, I used the default ranking model, which uses statistics of the indexed text and search string to compute scores. You can also author your own scoring profiles that model scores in ways that match the needs of your application.

Check out the Azure Search documentation for more details on how to get started, and some of the more advanced use-cases you can take advantage of.  With the free tier now available at no cost to every Azure subscriber, there is no longer any reason not to have Search fully integrated within your applications. Virtual Machines: Support for SQL Server AlwaysOn, VM Depot images

Last month we added support for managing VMs within the Azure Preview Portal (http://portal.azure.com).  We also released built-in portal support that enables you to easily create multi-VM SharePoint Server Farms as well as a slew of additional Azure Certified VM images.  You can learn more about these updates in my last blog post.

Today, I’m excited to announce new support for automatically deploying SQL Server VMs with AlwaysOn configured, as well as integrated portal support for community supported VM Depot images. SQL Server AlwaysOn Template

AlwaysOn Availability Groups, released in SQL Server 2012 and enhanced in SQL Server 2014, guarantee high availability for mission-critical workloads. Last year we started supporting SQL Availability Groups on Azure Infrastructure Services. In such a configuration, two SQL replicas (primary and secondary), each in its own Azure VM, are configured for automatic failover, and a listener (DNS name) is configured for client connectivity. Other components required are a file share witness to guarantee quorum in the configuration to avoid “split brain” scenarios, and a domain controller to join all VMs to the same domain. The SQL as well as the domain controller replicas are each deployed to an availability set to ensure they are in different Azure failure and upgrade domains.

Prior to today’s release, setting up the Availability Group configuration could be tedious and time consuming. We have dramatically simplified this experience through a new SQL Server AlwaysOn template in the Azure Gallery. This template fully automates the configuration of a highly available SQL Server deployment on Azure Infrastructure Services using an Availability Group.

You can find the template by navigating to the Azure Gallery within the Azure Preview Portal (http://portal.azure.com), selecting the Virtual Machine category on the left and selecting the SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn gallery item. In the gallery details page, select Create. All you need is to provide some basic configuration information such as the administrator credentials for the VMs and the rest of the settings are defaulted for you. You may consider changing the defaults for Listener name as this is what your applications will use to connect to SQL Server.

image

Upon creation, 5 VMs are created in the resource group: 2 VMs for the SQL Server replicas, 2 VMs for the Domain Controller replicas, and 1 VM for the file share witness.

Once created, you can RDP to one of the SQL Server VMs to see the Availability Group configuration as depicted below:

image

Try out the SQL Server AlwaysOn template in the Azure Preview Portal today and give us your feedback! VM Depot in Azure Gallery

Community-driven VM Depot images have been supported on the Azure platform for a couple of years now. But prior to today’s release they weren’t fully integrated into the mainline user experience.

Today, I’m excited to announce that we have integrated community VMs  into the Azure Preview Portal and the Azure gallery. With this release, you will find close to 300 pre-configured Virtual Machine images for Microsoft Azure.

Using these images, fully functional Virtual Machines can be deployed in the Preview Portal in minutes and customized for specific use cases. Starting from base operating system distributions (such as Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Suse and FreeBSD) through developer stacks (such as LAMP, Ruby on Rails, Node and Django), to complete applications (such as Wordpress, Drupal and Apache Solr), there is something for everyone in VM Depot.

Try out the VM Depot images in the Azure gallery from within the Virtual Machine category. image Web Sites: WebJobs and Process Management in the Preview Portal

Starting with today’s Azure release, Web Site WebJobs are now supported in the Azure Preview Portal.  You can also now drill into your Web Sites and monitor the health of any processes running within them (both to host your web code as well as your web jobs). Web Site WebJobs

Using WebJobs, you can now now run any code within your Azure Web Sites – and do so in a way that is readily parallelizable, globally scalable, and complete with remote debugging, full VS support and an optional SDK to facilitate authoring. For more information about the power of WebJobs, visit Azure WebJobs recommended resources.

With today’s Azure release, we now support two types of Webjobs: on Demand and Continuous.  To use WebJobs in the preview portal, navigate to your web site and select the WebJobs tile within the Web Site blade. Notice that the part also now shows the count of WebJobs available.

image

By drilling into the title, you can view existing WebJobs as well as create new OnDemand or Continuous WebJobs. Scheduled WebJobs are not yet supported in the preview portal, but expect to see this in the near future. Web Site Processes

I’m excited to announce a new feature in the Azure Web Sites experience in the Preview Portal - Websites Processes. Using Websites Process you can enumerate the different instances of your site, browse through the different processes on each instance, and even drill down to the handles and modules associated with each process. You can then check for detailed information like version, language and more.

image

In addition, you also get rich monitoring for CPU, Working Set and Thread count at the process level.  Just like with Task Manager for Windows, data collection begins when you open the Websites Processes blade, and stops when you close it.

image

This feature is especially useful when your site has been scaled out and is misbehaving in some specific instances but not in others. You can quickly identify runaway processes, find open file handles, and even kill a specific process instance. Monitoring and Management SDK: Programmatic Access to Monitoring Data

The Azure Management Portal provides built-in monitoring and management support that makes it easy for you to track the health of your applications and solutions deployed within Azure.

If you want to programmatically access monitoring and management features in Azure, you can also now use our .NET SDK from Nuget. We are releasing this SDK to general availability today, so you can now use it for your production services!

For example, if you want to build your own custom dashboard that shows metric data from across your services, you can get that metric data via the SDK:

// Create the metrics client by obtain the certificate with the specified thumbprint.

MetricsClient metricsClient = new MetricsClient(new CertificateCloudCredentials(SubscriptionId, GetStoreCertificate(Thumbprint)));

 

// Build the resource ID string.

string resourceId = ResourceIdBuilder.BuildWebSiteResourceId("webtest-group-WestUSwebspace", "webtests-site");

 

// Get the metric definitions.

MetricDefinitionCollection metricDefinitions = metricsClient.MetricDefinitions.List(resourceId, null, null).MetricDefinitionCollection;

 

// Display the available metric definitions.

Console.WriteLine("Choose metrics (comma separated) to list:");

int count = 0;

foreach (MetricDefinition metricDefinition in metricDefinitions.Value)

{

    Console.WriteLine(count + ":" + metricDefinition.DisplayName);

    count++;

}

 

// Ask the user which metrics they are interested in.

var desiredMetrics = Console.ReadLine().Split(',').Select(x =>  metricDefinitions.Value.ToArray()[Convert.ToInt32(x.Trim())]);

 

// Get the metric values for the last 20 minutes.

MetricValueSetCollection values = metricsClient.MetricValues.List(

    resourceId,

    desiredMetrics.Select(x => x.Name).ToList(),

    "",

    desiredMetrics.First().MetricAvailabilities.Select(x => x.TimeGrain).Min(),

    DateTime.UtcNow - TimeSpan.FromMinutes(20),

    DateTime.UtcNow

).MetricValueSetCollection;

 

// Display the metric values to the user.

foreach (MetricValueSet valueSet in values.Value )

{

    Console.WriteLine(valueSet.DisplayName + " for the past 20 minutes:");

    foreach (MetricValue metricValue in valueSet.MetricValues)

    {

        Console.WriteLine(metricValue.Timestamp + "\t" + metricValue.Average);

    }

}

 

Console.Write("Press any key to continue:");

Console.ReadKey();

We support metrics for a variety of services with the monitoring SDK:

Service

Typical metrics

Frequencies

Cloud services

CPU, Network, Disk

5 min, 1 hr, 12 hrs

Virtual machines

CPU, Network, Disk

5 min, 1 hr, 12 hrs

Websites

Requests, Errors, Memory, Response time, Data out

1 min, 1 hr

Mobile Services

API Calls, Data Out, SQL performance

1 hr

Storage

Requests, Success rate, End2End latency

1 min, 1 hr

Service Bus

Messages, Errors, Queue length, Requests

5 min

HDInsight

Containers, Apps running

15 min

If you’d like to manage advanced autoscale settings that aren’t possible to do in the Portal, you can also do that via the SDK. For example, you can construct autoscale based on custom metrics – you can autoscale by anything that is returned from MetricDefinitions.

All of the documentation on the SDK is available on MSDN. API Management: Support for Services REST API

We launched the Azure API Management service into preview in May of this year.  The API Management service enables  customers to quickly and securely publish APIs to partners, the public development community, and even internal developers.

Today, I’m excited to announce the availability of the API Management REST API which opens up a large number of new scenarios. It can be used to manage APIs, products, subscriptions, users and groups in addition to accessing your API analytics. In fact, virtually any management operation available in the Management API Portal is now accessible programmatically - opening up a host of integration and automation scenarios, including directly monetizing an API with your commerce provider of choice, taking over user or subscription management, automating API deployments and more.

We've even provided an additional SAS (Shared Access Signature) security option. An integrated experience in the publisher portal allows you to generate SAS tokens - so securely calling your API service couldn’t be easier. In just three easy steps:

  1. Enable the API on the System Settings page on the Publisher Portal
  2. Acquire a time-limited access token either manually or programmatically
  3. Start sending requests to the API, providing the token with every request

image 

See the REST API reference for full details. Delegation of user registration and product subscription

The new API Management REST API makes it easy to automate and integrate other processes with API management. Many customers integrating in this way already have a user account system and would prefer to use this existing resource, instead of the built-in functionality provided by the Developer Portal. This feature, called Delegation, enables your existing website or backend to own the user data, manage subscriptions and seamlessly integrate with API Management's dynamically generated API documentation.

image

It's easy to enable Delegation: in the Publisher Portal navigate to the Delegation section and enable Delegated Sign-in and Sign up, provide the endpoint URL and validation key and you're good to go. For more details, check out the how-to guide. Summary

Today’s Microsoft Azure release enables a ton of great new scenarios, and makes building applications hosted in the cloud even easier.

If you don’t already have a Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using all of the above features today.  Then visit the Microsoft Azure Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with it.

Hope this helps,

Scott

P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at:twitter.com/scottgu omni

Categories: Architecture, Programming

Azure: Virtual Machine, Machine Learning, IoT Event Ingestion, Mobile, SQL, Redis, SDK Improvements

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 07:28

This past month we’ve released a number of great enhancements to Microsoft Azure.  These include:

  • Virtual Machines: Preview Portal Support as well as SharePoint Farm Creation
  • Machine Learning: Public preview of the new Azure Machine Learning service
  • Event Hub: Public preview of new Azure Event Ingestion Service
  • Mobile Services: General Availability of .NET support, SignalR support
  • Notification Hubs: Price Reductions and New Features
  • SQL Database: New Geo-Restore, Geo-Replication and Auditing support
  • Redis Cache: Larger Cache Sizes
  • Storage: Support for Zone Redundant Storage
  • SDK: Tons of great VS and SDK improvements

All of these improvements are now available to use immediately (note that some features are still in preview).  Below are more details about them: Virtual Machines: Support in the new Azure Preview portal

We previewed the new Azure Preview Portal at the //Build conference earlier this year.  It brings together all of your Azure resources in a single management portal, and makes it easy to build cloud applications on the Azure platform using our new Azure Resource Manager (which enables you to manage multiple Azure resources as a single application).  The initial preview of the portal supported Web Sites, SQL Databases, Storage, and Visual Studio Online resources.

This past month we’ve extended the preview portal to also now support Virtual Machines.  You can create standalone VMs using the portal, or group multiple VMs (and PaaS services) together into a Resource Group and manage them as a single logical entity. You can use the preview portal to get deep insights into billing and monitoring of these resources, and customize the portal to view the data however you want.  If you are an existing Azure customer you can start using the new portal today: http://portal.azure.com.

Below is a screen-shot of the new portal in action.  The service dashboard showing service/region health can be seen in the top-left of the portal, along with billing data about my subscriptions – both make it really easy for you to see the health and usage of your services in Azure.  In the screen-shot below I have a single VM running named “scottguvstest” – and clicking the tile for it displays a “blade” of additional details about it to the right – including integrated performance monitoring usage data:

image

The initial “blade” for a VM provides a summary view of common metrics about it.  You can click any of the titles to get even more detailed information as well. 

For example, below I’ve clicked the CPU monitoring title in my VM, which brought up a Metric blade with even more details about CPU utilization over the last few days.  I’ve then clicked the “Add Alert” command within it to setup an automatic alert that will trigger (and send an email to me) any time the CPU of the VM goes above 95%:

image

In the screen-shot below, I’ve clicked the “Usage” tile within the VM blade, which displays details about the different VM sizes available – and what each VM size provides in terms of CPU, memory, disk IOPS and other capabilities.  Changing the size of the VM being used is as simple as clicking another of the pricing tiles within the portal – no redeployment of the VM required:

image

SharePoint Farm support via the Azure Gallery

Built-into the Azure Preview Portal is a new “Azure Gallery” that provides an easy way to deploy a wide variety of VM images and online services.  VM images in the Azure Gallery include Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Ubuntu, Oracle, Baracuda images. 

Last month, we also enabled a new “SharePoint Server Farm” gallery item.  It enables you to easily configure and deploy a highly-available SharePoint Server Farm consisting of multiple VM images (databases, web servers, domain controllers, etc) in only minutes.  It provides the easiest way to create and configure SharePoint farms anywhere:

image

Over the next few months you’ll see even more items show up in the gallery – enabling a variety of additional new scenarios.  Try out the ones in the gallery today by visiting the new Azure portal: http://portal.azure.com/

Machine Learning: Preview of new Machine Learning Service for Azure

Last month we delivered the public preview of our new Microsoft Azure Machine Learning service, a game changing service that enables your applications and systems to significantly improve your organization’s understanding across vast amounts of data. Azure Machine Learning (Azure ML) is a fully managed cloud service with no software to install, no hardware to manage, and no OS versions or development environments to grapple with. Armed with nothing but a browser, data scientists can log into Azure and start developing Machine Learning models from any location, and from any device.

ML Studio, an integrated development environment for Machine Learning, lets you set up experiments as simple data flow graphs, with an easy to use drag, drop and connect paradigm. Data scientists can use it to avoid programming a large number of common tasks, allowing them to focus on experiment design and iteration. A collection of best of breed algorithms developed by Microsoft Research comes built-in, as is support for custom R code – and over 350 open source R packages can be used securely within Azure ML today.

image

Azure ML also makes it simple to create production deployments at scale in the cloud. Pre-trained Machine Learning models can be incorporated into a scoring workflow and, with a few clicks, a new cloud-hosted REST API can be created.

Azure ML makes the incredible potential of Machine Learning accessible both to startups and large enterprises. Startups are now able to immediately apply machine learning to their applications. Larger enterprises are able to unleash the latent value in their big data to generate significantly more revenue and efficiencies. Above all, the speed of iteration and experimentation that is now possible will allow for rapid innovation and pave the way for intelligence in cloud-connected devices all around us. Getting Started

Getting started with the Azure Machine Learning Service is easy.  Within the current Azure Portal simply choose New->Data Services->Machine Learning to create your first ML service today:

image

Subscribe to the Machine Learning Team Blog to learn more about the Azure Machine Learning service.  And visit our Azure Machine Learning documentation center to watch videos and explore tutorials on how to get started immediately.

Event Hub: Preview of new Azure Event Ingestion Service

Today’s connected world is defined by big data.  Big data may originate from connected cars and thermostats that produce telemetry data every few minutes, application performance counters that generate events every second or mobile apps that capture telemetry for every user’s individual action. The rapid proliferation of connected devices raises challenges due to the variety of platforms and protocols involved.  Connecting these disparate data sources while handling the scale of the aggregate stream is a significant challenge. 

I’m happy to announce the public preview of a significant new Azure service: Event Hub. Event Hub is a highly scalable pub-sub ingestor capable of elastic scale to handle millions of events per second from millions of connected devices so that you can process and analyze the massive amounts of data produced by your connected devices and applications. With this new service, we now provide an easy way for you to provision capacity for ingesting events from a variety of sources, and over a variety of protocols in a secure manner. Event Hub supports a variety of partitioning modes to enable parallelism and scale in your downstream processing tier while preserving the order of events on a per device basis. Creating an Event Hub

You can easily create a new instance of Event Hub from the Azure Management Portal by clicking New->App Services->Service Bus->Event Hub. During the Preview, Event Hub service is available in a limited number of regions (East US 2, West Europe, Southeast Asia) and requires that you first create a new Service Bus Namespace:

image Learn More

Try out the new Event Hub service and give us your feedback! For more information, visit the links below:

Mobile Services: General Availability of .NET Support, SignalR and Offline Sync

A few months ago I announced a preview of Mobile Services with .NET backend support. Today I am excited to announce the general availability of the Mobile Services .NET offering, which makes it an incredibly attractive choice for developers building mobile facing backend APIs using .NET.  Using Mobile Services you can now:

  • Quickly add a fully featured backend to your iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone, HTML or cross-platform Xamarin, Sencha, or PhoneGap app, leveraging ASP.NET Web API, Mobile Services, and corresponding Mobile Services client SDKs.
  • Publish any existing ASP.NET Web API to Azure and have Mobile Services monitor and manage your Web API controllers for you.
  • Take advantage of built-in mobile capabilities like push notifications, real-time notifications with SignalR, enterprise sign-on with Azure Active Directory, social auth, offline data sync for occasionally connected scenariosYou can also take full advantage of Web API features like OData controllers, and 3rd party Web API-based frameworks like Breeze.
  • Have your mobile app’s users login via Azure Active Directory and securely access enterprise assets such as SharePoint and Office 365. In addition, we've also enabled seamless connectivity to on-premises assets, so you can reach databases and web services that are not exposed to the Internet and behind your company’s firewall.
  • Build, test, and debug your Mobile Services .NET backend using Visual Studio running locally on your machine or remotely in Azure.

You can learn more about Mobile Services .NET from this blog post, and the Mobile Services documentation center. Real-time Push with Mobile Services and SignalR

We recently released an update to our Mobile Services .NET backend support which enables you to use ASP.NET SignalR for real-time, bi-directional communications with your mobile applications. SignalR will use WebSockets under the covers when it's available, and fallback to other “techniques” (i.e. HTTP hacks) when it isn't. Regardless of the mode, your application code stays the same.

The SignalR integration with Azure Mobile Services includes:

  • Turnkey Web API Integration: Send messages to your connected SignalR applications from any Web API controller or scheduled job – we automatically give you access to SignalR Hubs from the ApiServices context.
  • Unified Authentication: Protect your SignalR Hubs the same way you protect any of your Mobile Service Web API controllers using a simple AuthorizeLevel attribute.
  • Automatic Scale-out: When scaling out your Azure Mobile Service using multiple front-ends, we automatically scale out SignalR using Azure Service Bus as the backplane for sync’ing between the front-ends. You don’t need to do anything to scale your SignalR Hubs.

Learn more about the SignalR capability in Mobile Services from Henrik’s blog. Mobile Services Offline Sync support for Xamarin and native iOS apps

I've blogged earlier about the new Offline Sync feature in Mobile Services, which provides a lightweight, cross-platform way for applications to work with data even when they are offline / disconnected from the network. At that time we released Offline Sync support for Windows Phone and Windows Store apps.

Today we are also introducing a preview of Mobile Services Offline Sync for native iOS apps, as well as Xamarin.iOS, and Xamarin.Android. Mobile Services Accelerators

I’m pleased to also introduce our new Mobile Services Accelerators, which are feature complete sample apps that demonstrate how to leverage the new enterprise features of the Mobile Services platform in an end-to-end scenario. We will have two accelerator apps for you today, available as a source code, as well as published in the app store.

These apps leverage the Mobile Services .NET backend support to handle authenticating employees with Azure Active Directory, store data securely, working with data offline, as well as get reminders via push notifications. We hope you will find these apps useful for your teams as a reference material. Stay tuned, as more accelerators are coming! Notification Hubs: Price reductions and new features

The Azure Notification Hubs service enables large scale cross platform push notifications from any server backend running on-premise or in the cloud.  It supports a variety of mobile devices including iOS, Android, Windows, Kindle Fire, and Nokia X. I am excited to announce several great updates to Azure Notification Hubs today:

  • Price reduction. We are reducing the Notification Hubs price by up to 40x to accommodate a wider range of customer scenarios. With the new price (effective September 1st), customers can send 1 million mobile push notifications per month for free, and pay $1 per additional million pushes using our new Basic tier. Visit the Notification Hubs pricing page for more details.
  • Scheduled Push. You can now use Notification Hubs to schedule individual and broadcast push notifications at certain times of the day. For example, you can use this feature to schedule announcements to be delivered in the morning to your customers.  We include support to enable this no matter which time zone your customers are in.
  • Bulk Registration management. You can now send bulk jobs to create, update or export millions of mobile device registrations at a time with a single API call. This is useful if you are moving from an old push notification system to Notification Hubs, or to import user segments from a 3rd party analytics system.

You can learn more about Azure Notification Hubs at the developer center.

SQL Databases: New Geo-Restore, Geo-Replication and Auditing support

In April 2014, we first previewed our new SQL Database service tiers: Basic, Standard, and Premium. Today, I’m excited to announce the addition of more features to the preview:

  • Geo-restore: Designed for emergency data recovery when you need it most, geo-restore allows you to recover a database to any Azure region. Geo-restore uses geo-redundant Azure blob storage for automatic database backups and is available for Basic, Standard, and Premium databases in the Windows Azure Management Portal and REST APIs.
  • Geo-replication: You can now configure your SQL Databases to use our built-in geo-replication support that enables you to setup an asynchronously replicated secondary SQL Database that can be failed over to in the event of disaster.  Geo-replication is available for Standard and Premium databases, and can be configured via the Windows Azure Management portal and REST APIs. You can get more information about Azure SQL Database Business Continuity and geo-replication here and here.
  • Auditing: Our new auditing capability tracks and logs events that occur in your database and provides dashboard views and reports that enables you to get insights into these events. You can use auditing to streamline compliance-related activities, gain knowledge about what is happening in your database, and to identify trends, discrepancies and anomalies. Audit events are also written to an audit log which is stored in a user-designated Azure storage account.  Auditing is now available for all Basic, Standard, and Premium databases.

You can learn even more about these new features here.

Redis Cache: Large Cache Sizes, Six New Regions, Redis MaxMemory Policy Support

This past May, we launched the public preview of the new Azure Redis Cache service. This cache service gives you the ability to use a secure, dedicated Redis cache, managed as a service by Microsoft. Using the new Cache service, you get to leverage the rich feature set and ecosystem provided by Redis, and reliable hosting and monitoring from Microsoft.

Last month we updated the service with the following features:

  • Support for larger cache sizes. We now support the following sizes: 250 MB, 1 GB, 2.5 GB, 6 GB, 13 GB and 26 GB. 
  • Support for six new Azure Regions. The full list of supported regions can be found in the Azure Regions page.
  • Support for configuring Redis MaxMemory policy

For more information on the Azure Redis Cache, check out this blog post: Lap around Azure Redis Cache. Storage: Support for Zone Redundant Storage

We are happy to introduce a new Azure Storage account offering: Zone Redundant Storage (ZRS).

ZRS replicates your data across 2 to 3 facilities either within a single Azure region or across two Azure regions. If your storage account has ZRS enabled, then your data is durable even in the case where one of the datacenter facilities hosting your data suffers a catastrophic issue. ZRS is also more cost efficient than the existing Global Redundant Storage (GRS) offering we have today.

You can create a ZRS storage account by simply choosing the ZRS option under the replication dropdown in the Azure Management Portal.

image

You can find more information on pricing for ZRS at http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/storage/. Azure SDK: WebSites, Mobile, Virtual Machines, Storage and Cloud Service Enhancements

Earlier today we released the Update 3 release of Visual Studio 2013 as well as the new Azure SDK 2.4 release.  These updates contain a ton of great new features that make it even easier to build solutions in the cloud using Azure.  Today’s updates include:

Visual Studio Update 3

  • Websites: Publish WebJobs from Console or Web projects.
  • Mobile Services: Create a Dev/Test environment in the cloud when creating Mobile Services projects. Use the Push Notification Wizard with .NET Mobile Services.
  • Notification Hubs: View and manage device registrations.

Azure SDK 2.4

  • Virtual Machines: Remote debug 32-bit Virtual Machines. Configure Virtual Machines, including installation & configuration of dynamic extensions (e.g. anti-malware, Puppet, Chef and custom script). Create Virtual Machine snapshots of the disk state.
  • Storage: View Storage activity logs for diagnostics. Provision Read-Access Geo-redundant Storage from Visual Studio.
  • Cloud Services: Emulator Express is the default option for new projects (Full Emulator is deprecated). Configure new networking capabilities in the service model.

You can learn all about the updates from the Azure team’s SDK announcement blog post.

Summary

This most recent release of Azure includes a bunch of great features that enable you to build even better cloud solutions.  If you don’t already have a Azure account, you can sign-up for a free trial and start using all of the above features today.  Then visit the Azure Developer Center to learn more about how to build apps with it.

Hope this helps,

Scott

P.S. In addition to blogging, I am also now using Twitter for quick updates and to share links. Follow me at: twitter.com/scottgu

omni
Categories: Architecture, Programming

Free ebook: Building Cloud Apps with Microsoft Azure

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 03:20

9780735695658f Last week MS Press published a free ebook based on the Building Real-World Apps using Azure talks I gave at the NDC and TechEd conferences.  The talks + book walks through a patterns-based approach to building real world cloud solutions, and help make it easier to understand how to be successful with cloud development. Videos of the Talks You can watch a video recording of the talks I gave here:

 Part 1: Building Real World Cloud Apps with Azure

 Part 2: Building Real World Cloud Apps with Azure

eBook Downloads

You can now download a completely free PDF, Mobi or ePub version of the ebook based on the talks using the links below:

Download the PDF (6.35 MB)  

Download the EPUB file (12.3 MB)  

Download the Mobi for Kindle file (22.7 MB)

Hope this helps,

Scott

omni
Categories: Architecture, Programming