Book Review: Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook

Cloud computing is certainly one of the hot topics in today’s technology landscape. As such, more and more books on the topic are starting to emerge. There are books on cloud computing in general. There are books providing an overview, as well as specifics, on major cloud platforms such as Windows Azure and Amazon AWS. But there are very few that provide quick, bite sized solutions to real-world situations. Neil Mackenzie’s Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook is that book. The book contains over 80 recipes which are applicable in many Windows Azure projects. There are recipes on nearly all aspects of the Windows Azure platform – Windows Azure storage services, diagnostics, management, security, SQL Azure, Windows Azure AppFabric, and much, much more.

Let’s say you need to control access to some files you’re storing in blob storage. One way to do that is via a Shared Access Signature. Sure, you can look up information on blobs and containers on MSDN, and try to piece together what is needed to create and use a Shared Access Signature. Or, you can open up the “Creating a Shared Access Signature for a container or blob” recipe in this book and have all the information, including a clean, reusable code example, at your fingertips. I don’t know about you, but I find the latter a much easier, and faster, way to get what is needed.

Recently I was working on a project where I needed to use the Windows Azure Service Management API. The Windows Azure Service Management API, like many of the APIs for the Windows Azure platform, is based on a RESTful interface. While this has many wonderful benefits, writing terse code is not one of them. Currently there isn’t a nice .NET wrapper library to make a developer’s life easy. I recalled from my reading of Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook that there was a recipe for retrieving the properties of a Windows Azure hosted service. In fact, there’s a whole chapter of recipes for working with the Windows Azure Service Management API! I quickly turned to the recipe I needed, found the information (including a great little code sample to make working with the API easier), and was on my way.

You don’t have to read this entire book, although I would encourage you to do so, to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth. The recipe’s that Neil has put together are simple enough that they stand on their own, and yet complete enough that you understand what you’re doing and why. Each recipe begins with a brief overview of the situation, proceeds in to a section on how to accomplish the goal, and then wraps up with brief discussion on how it all works. Where applicable, the recipe will also include nuggets of information providing insight into problems you may encounter and tips on solving them, along with references to allow you to learn more about the topic at hand.

Like any good cookbook, Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook is chock-full of tasty recipes that are easy to understand, fun to try, and leave you satisfied . . . and maybe even wanting a little more! I have a lot of technical reference books in my collection. However, there are very few that I keep within arm’s reach. Neil Mackenzie’s Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook is an easily referenced book that is always within arms’ reach for me, as it should be for anyone working with the Windows Azure platform.

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