Day 7 - Windows Azure Platform - SQL Azure Reporting

by Kev Ritchie 7. December 2010 00:00


On the 7th day of Windows Azure Platform Christmas my true love gave to me SQL Azure Reporting.

Well, not quite yet Wink SQL Azure Reporting isn’t available commercially, but you can register to be invited to the CTP Enjoy!

But what is SQL Azure Reporting?

SQL Azure Reporting is the Cloud-based version of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and provides almost all the same features that you’re used to; with the exception of scheduled delivery, subscriptions and developer extensibility, but it does however, provide a central, highly available, fault tolerant reporting system to you and your customers.

So, what are the key benefits to you?

Well, first and foremost, less work and cost Smile.  The infrastructure for delivering your reports is all ready there, which allows you to just get on and create the reports you need.

For all you security bods out there, SQL Azure Reporting includes a rich authentication/authorisation model which gives you reliable and secure access to your reports and the underlying data of the reports.  So there’s no need to worry what’s happening when you let your reports fly into the ether.

That’s all great, but I missed one point.  Any reports you create and upload to SQL Azure Reporting can be directly accessed within your Windows Azure or on-site application, through your favourite browser (in my case IE9 beta) or through the SQL Azure portal.  Brilliant, hardly any work for you; well if you don’t include building the report and an application that accesses your reports Wink

So with a small investment in the building or even migrating of your reports to SQL Azure Reporting, you get an infrastructure that opens the way for you to deliver your reports robustly and securely to your customers or even the world!

Tomorrow installment: SQL Azure – Data Sync 

P.S. If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions to make please let me know.

Day 6 - Windows Azure Platform - SQL Azure Database

by Kev Ritchie 6. December 2010 00:05


On the 6th day of Windows Azure Platform Christmas my true love gave to me the SQL Azure Database.

What is the SQL Azure Database?

The SQL Azure Database is a Windows Azure platform relational database system based on SQL Server technology and because of this provides a very familiar development model.  So; as developers, you can still use familiar connection protocols like; ADO.NET, ODBC and the Entity Framework to name a few.

You can also use the standard SQL tools that you’re used to like Management Studio, Integration Services, Analysis Services and BCP.  So, if you want to manage or move an existing database in the Cloud, it should be very simple.

But that’s not the only benefit of using a Cloud-based relational database system, there are more.

Let’s imagine that your server suddenly comes under some heavy workload; not to worry.  SQL Azure replicates multiple redundant copies of your data to multiple physical servers to maintain data availability. But what if my server fails?  Simple; SQL Azure provides automatic failover.  All this without you having to manage a single thing Smile

You can also scale up and scale down the service as your data grows or reduces and with the use of a “pay-as-you-grow” pricing model, this makes sure that you only pay for what you store.

I’ve only touched on a few benefits here, but what I wanted to show was the familiarity and ease with which you can store, manage and access data in the Cloud.

Tomorrow installment: SQL Azure - Reporting

P.S. If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions to make please let me know.

Day 5 - Windows Azure Platform - Connect

by Kev Ritchie 5. December 2010 00:22


On the 5th day of Windows Azure Platform Christmas my true love gave to me Connect.

What is Windows Azure Connect?

Connect is a component of Windows Azure; that, well allows you to connect things. Doesn’t sound amazing, does it? Well, let’s have a closer look. If you’re a Network Administrator or a Dev, you’ll love this.

Windows Azure Connect allows you to connect (using IPSec protected connections) computers/servers in your network to roles in Windows Azure and the best bit; the roles take on IP addresses as if they were resources in your network.

NOTE: It doesn’t create a VPN connection

So, for example, you could have a web application running on Windows Azure that has a back-end database to store; for instance, customer information. But, what if you don’t want to store the database in Azure, well you don’t have to. With Connect, you can leave the database on your network; Connect will do the rest. Well, obviously after some human intervention Wink

Also after Connect is configured, you have the ability to use existing methods for domain authentication and name resolution. You can remotely debug Windows Azure role instances and you can also use existing management tools to work with roles in the Azure Platform e.g. PowerShell.

Connectivity between different networks and applications isn’t a new concept by any means, but what Connect provides, is a simple, secure, non-nonsense, no VPN way of bridging the gap between your network and The Cloud.

Tomorrow’s installment: SQL Azure - Database

P.S. If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions to make please let me know.

Day 4 - Windows Azure Platform - Content Delivery Network

by Kev Ritchie 4. December 2010 00:21


On the 4th day of Windows Azure Platform Christmas my true love gave to me the Content Delivery Network.

What is the Content Delivery Network?

The Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) caches Windows Azure Blobs (discussed on day two), at locations closer to where the content is being requested, this way bandwidth is maximised and content is delivered faster.

For example, say you have a website that delivers video content to millions of users around the world, that’s a lot of locations Wink It would be terribly inefficient to serve up content from just one location.  Allowing the video content to be cached in several locations, some being closer to the requesting source allows for the video to streamed/downloaded quicker.

There’s only one requirement to make a blob (your data) available to the CDN and it’s very simple, mark the container the blob resides in as public.  To do this, you need to enable CDN access to your Storage Account.

Enabling CDN access to a Storage Account is done through the Management Portal (briefly mentioned on day two).  When CDN access has been enabled the portal will provide you with a CDN domain name in the following URL format: http://<identifier>

NOTE:  It takes around 60 minutes for the registration of the domain name to propagate round the CDN.

With a CDN domain name and a public container with blobs in, you now have the ability to serve up Windows Azure hosted content; strategically, to the world Smile

Tomorrow’s installment:  Connect

P.S. If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions to make please let me know.

Day 2 - Windows Azure Platform - Storage Service

by Kev Ritchie 2. December 2010 00:05


On the second day of Windows Azure Platform Christmas my true love gave to me the Storage Service.

What is the Storage Service?

Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin.  The Storage Service provides a way of storing simple Blobs (Binary Large Objects) to a more structured table, as well as providing a way for services in the Windows Azure environment to communicate with each other.  You might be wondering why something like communication is banded in this group, the answer is simple, messages need to be stored somewhere Smile

NOTE: To access the Storage Service and all its innards, you need to have a Storage Service Account (Storage Account), which you can sign up for through the Management Portal (

Blob Service

The Blob Service is used for storing text and binary data and is Windows Azure’s simplest form of data storage.

Accessed via a Storage Account, you can create multiple containers with one or more Blobs.  Blobs can store a large amount of data, which can be subdivided if necessary to improve data transmission integrity.  They can also have associated metadata, for example storing author information about a particular document, file, .mp3 etc.

Table Service

The Table Service is used, if you require a more structured storage solution that can be queried.

Not to be confused with relational tables; like in SQL, Azure tables are actually entities with properties and no schema.  These properties can have types such as, string, double, int or DateTime.  So you’re wondering how to access data from your application.  Well, by using a simple query language defined by OData of course Wink More detail on OData can be found here

Queue Service

The Queue Service provides persistent and reliable messaging between other services in the Windows Azure Platform.

One of the main uses for the Queue Service is to provide communication between a Web Role instance and a Worker Role instance; both of which were discussed in Day 1 of Windows Azure Platform Christmas.

An example of this would be a user submitting a compute-intensive task via a website implemented by a Web Role.  The Web Role takes the task and puts it into the Queue Service, describing what needs to be done.  The Worker Role comes along, picks the task up, processes it and returns the result via another queue or is handled in some other way.

One of the amazing things about the Storage Service is that you can access the data in Azure Storage with an application that might be in your network or somewhere completely different.  All that is required is that you access the data in a RESTful way.  More detail on the RESTful style can be found here

I hope this has given you a quick insight into the workings of the Storage Service.

Tomorrow’s installment: Fabric Controller

P.S. If you have any questions, corrections or suggestions to make please let me know.

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