Category Archives: Not Your Father’s Cloud

Not Your Father’s Cloud: Microsoft Azure Traffic Manager Explained

If you need to understand the format of this post, take a look at my introduction to the series.

Like A Boss

Traffic Manager is the grand-pappy of load balancing in Microsoft Azure (though strictly speaking it is not actually a load balancing solution).  Unlike the transparent load balancing built into Cloud Services which provide intra-Region (i.e. Japan) balancing, Traffic Manager allows you to route traffic across Regions (i.e. Japan and US) depending on service availability.  Traffic Manager also has least-latency routing support so that you can deploy your application in multiple Regions and provide great user experiences by routing a user to their nearest instance.

Goes Well With

  • Applications with a global deployment footprint where consumers can be routed to a nearby instance for better performance.
  • Applications that require load balancing beyond simple Round Robin.
  • Would be familiar to advanced load balancing used in many hosting facilities.

Open Other End

  • Simple intra-Region services that can leverage standard Cloud Service load balancing don’t really need to use Traffic Manager.
  • Split services where you are running a hybrid setup of some privately-hosted and some cloud-hosted endpoints aren’t supported.

Contents May Be Hot

  • Traffic Manager utilises only HTTP probes for health checks of balanced applications.  If you need UDP it won’t work.
  • Your application has to return a 200 HTTP response code to be considered healthy.  Anything else will not work.

Don’t Take My Word For It

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Not Your Father’s Cloud: Microsoft Azure Service Bus Explained

If you need to understand the format of this post, take a look at my introduction to the series.

Like A Boss

Microsoft Azure Service Bus is a PaaS offering that allows application developers to connect components of larger systems to one another in a loosely coupled fashion. Loose coupling facilitates scalability of systems through asynchronous messaging (send a message, don’t wait, receive a response at a later time) and Service Bus’ messaging architecture also enables scalability via publish/subscribe messaging (send one message, lots of subscribers can receive it).  Through use of Service Bus Relay it is also possible to integrate on-premise systems with Microsoft Azure without the need to create Virtual Private Networking (VPN) connections.  The most recent addition, Notification Hubs, allows push notifications to large numbers of mobiles devices to be sent by way of a single call.  As with many other Microsoft Azure services there are SDKs in a range of languages including .Net, Java, Node.js, PHP, Python and Ruby.

Goes Well With

  • Custom-built Cloud applications that require inter-component messaging.
  • Integration of on-premise applications with Cloud applications (Service Bus Relay).
  • Mobile solutions that could target large subscriber bases (you know, like the Olympics!):

Open Other End

  • Legacy systems that do not support an asynchronous integration pattern.
  • Off-the-shelf software that has an API that cannot be modified or proxied to support Service Bus Relay.
  • If you’re likely to have a queue exceeding 5GB you will need to use Queue Storage Service instead.

Contents May Be Hot

  • Quotas on some aspects of Service Bus may mean you need to solve larger scale-out scenarios with multiple queues, topics or subscriptions.
  • Make sure you design your solutions well.  Null messages to empty queues or subscriptions still incur a cost.

Don’t Take My Word For It

Let the man behind the service, Clemens Vasters, give you an introduction to Service Bus.

http://media.ch9.ms/ch9/d6f6/400b7766-2ff8-4bcc-bfe1-9371f1a9d6f6/GettingStartedWithSBPart1.wmv

(originally from: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/documentation/services/service-bus/)

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Not Your Father’s Cloud: Microsoft Azure HDInsights Explained

If you need to understand the format of this post, take a look at my introduction to the series.

Like A Boss

HDInsights is designed to help tame the Big Data beast by providing an on-demand Apache Hadoop solution hosted on Azure.  You can create a Cluster of between 1 and 32 Nodes and use standard Hadoop tools like Pig and Hive as well extensions in your favourite tool Excel.  Note, however, that HDInsights isn’t a service you can just rock up and use – you’ll either need to be planning to (or already) be doing some serious number crunching and have people who are familiar working with Hadoop to gain any value out of it.

Goes Well With

  • Transformation and Analysis of large unstructured datasets which can be transported to or accessed by Azure.
  • SQL Server BI tooling – connect your SQL Server BI, Analytics and Reporting to Hive.

Open Other End

  • Not a replacement for High Performance Computing (HPC) solutions.
  • Structured data analysis may be better suited to SQL Server depending on dataset size.

Contents May Be Hot

  • Azure Blob Storage works out cheaper in the longer term than using HDFS for data storage.
  • Not all the Hadoop tooling will work exactly as you expect.

Don’t Take My Word For It

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Not Your Father’s Cloud: Microsoft Azure Web Sites Explained

If you need to understand the format of this post, take a look at my introduction to the series.

Like A Boss

Microsoft Azure Web Sites (MAWS) provides an experience that is familiar to many developers or businesses as it resembles traditional shared web hosting. MAWS provides a simpler deployment and management experience than either PaaS Web Roles or IaaS Virtual Machines. Deployments are “black box” and developers have no remote desktop access to the infrastructue hosting Web Sites.  As well as allowing custom-developed web applications written in ASP (yes you read that right), .Net, Node.js, PHP and Python, WAWS also has access to a gallery of existing applications such as WordPress or Umbraco which can be deployed on demand.

Offered in three tiers:

  • Free (up to 10 sites, 165MB data a day);
  • Shared (up to 100 sites, no data limit);
  • Standard (up to 500 sites, no data limit).

Goes Well With

  • Quick deploy and tear-down web applications (temporary Facebook Apps for example) with an optional small back-end database (up to 20MB free)
  • Multi-site web hosting in a single scalable instance (100 sites on Shared, 500 sites on Standard) – if you host a bunch of stuff for others this is going to help you (including with SSL on Standard)
  • Websites with a relatively low level of external code or custom dependencies (if it can be defined in the web.config and deployed in the package you should be good to go)
  • Web APIs.

Open Other End

  • Complex web applications (new or legacy) where a range of third party or external software is required on the web host at runtime
  • Large scale application with high load where the scale size may exceed the maximum limit of Web Sites (10 instances)
  • Any web application that is required to be on a Windows machine that is joined to a Windows Domain
  • Web applications that require either Linux or Java.

Contents May Be Hot

  • Free is great, but extremely limited (no custom domain, no scale, no SSL and limited daily data).  If you need a site up 100% of the time don’t use this tier
  • More expensive that the equivalent sized PaaS Web Role
  • Monthly SLA of 99.9% only applies to Standard Tier (Shared in Preview as of Feb 2014).

Don’t Take My Word For It

Let Mark Brown from the Azure team give you the guided tour and show you how to deploy code from Visual Studio.

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Not Your Father’s Cloud: Windows Azure Services Explained (Intro)

There’s a lot to Microsoft Azure. Your Dad would be amazed. Most likely your Dad struggles to turn on the TV but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s at least go the fundamentals right (like *not* thinking RAM refers to something best left in a field with the other sheep).

In the upcoming series of posts I’m going to do a high level introduction to each Microsoft Azure Service in the format:

  • “Like A Boss” – a summary statement that describes what the Service is.
  • “Goes Well With” – the scenarios the Service is best suited to.
  • “Open Other End” – the Service is not best suited to these uses.
  • “Contents May Be Hot” – things to watch out for when using the Service.
  • “Don’t Take My Word For It” – a range of useful on-line resources that provide further in-depth information.

I’m  inspired to do this by the bite-size information I’m seeing right now in the form of Windows Azure Friday with Scott Hanselman and the Five Minute Friday videos for Office 365.

I hope you’ll find these posts useful when talking about Microsoft Azure with your Dad or your boss (maybe he’s both?!)

While I’m at it, I’m going to tip my hat to Troy Hunt for planting the phrase “not your father” into my brain from his excellent recent post on Azure Web Sites monitoring.  I only realised this when I went to re-read his blog on the topic!

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