Many New Windows Azure Platform Features – Part 1

There have been quite a few recent updates to the Windows Azure Platform.  This post is partially to serve as a reminder to me of some of the new areas of the platform I need to dive into, and partially to help spread the word about many of the new innovations available today.  This is the first of probably several posts this week.  BUILD is going on now.  I’m sure there will be lots of exciting things to talk about after the magic and mystery is unveiled shortly.

SQL Azure Updates

Microsoft recently completed a rollout of an update to SQL Azure that will bring several new features and improvements to SQL Azure. I would encourage you to check out the two-part announcement post at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windowsazure/archive/2011/09/08/sql-azure-q2-2011-service-release-now-deployed-across-all-data-centers-part-i-of-ii.aspx for the full details.  Below I’ll take a quick look at the new SQL Azure Management Portal.

When logging into the new SQL Azure Management Portal, you may be presented with an error related to your firewall rules.  If so, just click the “There was an error connecting to the server” link below the Password textbox to view the error details. Verify the error was related to the SQL Azure firewall rules, update your rules, and try to log in again.

There are lots of really nice new features and UI enhancements in the updated SQL Azure Management Portal.  For instance, there is a new Summary page that provides a very nice rundown of the database you’re working with.

The new Tables page provides an easy to view listing of all the tables in the selected tables.  You can quickly select a table and decide if you’d like to view the data in that table or adjust the schema.  The icons for those actions are easy to recognize – very Metro UI like.

Windows Azure Autoscaling Application Block

One of the most common questions I get asked about Windows Azure is “does Windows Azure automatically scale my application”.  My answer so far has always been along the lines of automatically scaling an application is often not a trivial operation, and that there are lots of things to consider when scaling (elasticity – both in and out, cost implications, what metrics to use for scaling, etc.)  If you wanted some autoscaling features, you were often left with either writing a solution yourself or working with a provider such as Paraleap and their AzureWatch service.

That story looks like it is about to change.  Earlier this week Microsoft released a preview of a new library from the Patterns & Practices team that promises to help with scaling your Windows Azure applications.  The Windows Azure Autoscaling Application Block (WASABi) is a library that allows you to set rules for how your application should scale.

Look here for a future post soon demonstrating some of the features of the Windows Azure Autoscaling Application Block.

More details on the features enabled in the preview, and items planned for future releases, can be found at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/agile/archive/2011/08/23/autoscaling-windows-azure-applications.aspx.

Sync Framework v4

Another common ask when speaking with people about Windows Azure and SQL Azure is related to how to synchronize their data.  One possible solution for SQL Azure and/or SQL Server 2008 synchronization is the SQL Azure Data Sync CTP. This will allow you to sync SQL Azure with SQL Azure, or SQL Azure with SQL Server (on-premises).  But what if the need is not to sync data between servers/services, but between the cloud and any number of devices such as Windows Phone 7, an iPad, HTML5 applications, or other portable devices?  The newly released Microsoft Sync Framework v4 looks to help solve this problem.  Read more about the Sync Framework Toolkit at http://robtiffany.com/sync-framework/sync-framework-v4-is-now-open-source-and-ready-to-connect-any-device-to-sql-server-and-sql-azure.

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