Monday, June 1, 2009

Windows Azure June Round-up

Ahh, it is the start of a glorious June and here in Washington the weather is starting to really get nice.  The previous cold and rainy spring must have made the product group more productive as Windows Azure has continued adding features since the last major update at MIX.

Given that Windows Azure is a service and not a boxed product, you can expect updates and features to roll-out over the coming months.  In this round-up, we have a number of features that have gone live in the last month or two.

New Feature: Geo-Location support


Starting in May, a new option was added to the portal to support geo-locating your code and data. In order to use this most effectively, the idea of an 'Affinity Group' was created. This allows you to associate various services under an umbrella label for the location.

Read more about this feature here and see a complete provisioning walk-through.

New Feature: Storage API updates

I briefly mentioned this last week, but on Thursday (5/28), new features were released to the cloud for Windows Azure storage. The long awaited batch transaction capability for tables as well as a new blob copying capability were released. Additionally, the GetBlockList API was updated to return both committed and uncommitted blocks in blob storage.

One more significant change of note is that a new versioning mechanism has been added. New features will be versioned by a new header ("x-ms-version"). This versioning header must be present to opt-in to new features. This mechanism is in place to prevent breaking changes from impacting existing clients in the future. It is recommended that you start including this header in all authenticated API calls.

Rounding out these updates were some changes to how property names are stored in table storage as well as the size for Partition and Row keys. Unicode chars and up to 1K key size are supported, respectively. Finally, the timeout values for various storage operations were updated as well.

For more details, please read the announcement.

Please note: There currently is no SDK support for these new storage features. The local developer fabric does NOT currently support these features and the StorageClient SDK sample has not been updated yet. At this point, you need to use the samples provided on Steve Marx's blog. A later SDK update will add these features officially.

Windows Azure SDK Update

The May CTP SDK update has been released to the download center. While this release does NOT support the new storage features, it does add a few new capabilities that will be of interest to the Visual Studio 2010 beta testers. Specifically:

  • Support for Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 (templates, local dev fabric, etc.)
  • Updated support for Visual Studio 2008 - you can now configure settings through the UI instead of munging XML files.
  • Improved reliability of the local dev fabric for debugging
  • Enhanced robustness and stability (aka bug fixes).

Download the Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio (includes both SDK and tools).

New Windows Azure Applications and Demos

Windows Azure Management Tool (MMC)

The Windows Azure Management Tool was created to manage your storage accounts in Windows Azure. Developed as a managed MMC, the tool allows you to create and manage both blobs and queues. Easily create and manage containers, blobs, and permissions. Add and remove queues, inspect or add messages or empty queues as well.

Bid Now Sample

Bid Now is an online auction site designed to demonstrate how you can build highly scalable consumer applications. This sample is built using Windows Azure and uses Windows Azure Storage. Auctions are processed using Windows Azure Queues and Worker Roles. Authentication is provided via Live Id.

If you know of new and interesting Windows Azure content that would be of broad interest, please let me know and I will feature it in later updates.

Relevant Blog Postings