Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Windows Azure Bootstrapper

One of the common patterns I have noticed across many customers is the desire to download a resource from the web and execute it as part of the bootup process for a Windows Azure web or worker role.  The resource could be any number of things (e.g. exe, zip, msi, cmd, etc.), but typically is something that the customer does not want to package directly in the deployment package (cspkg) for size or update/maintainability reasons.

While the pattern is pretty common, the ways to approach the problem can certainly vary.  A more complete solution will need to deal with the following issues:

  • Downloading from arbitrary http(s) sources or Windows Azure blob storage
  • Logging
  • Parsing configuration from the RoleEnvironment or app.config
  • Interacting with the RoleEnvironment to get ports, DIP addresses, and Local Resource paths
  • Unzipping resources
  • Launching processes
  • Ensuring that resources are only installed once (or downloaded and unzipped once)

With these goals in mind, we built the Windows Azure Bootstrapper.  It is a pretty simple tool to use and requires only packaging of the .exe and the .config file itself in your role.  With these two items in place, you can then script out fairly complicated installations.  For example, you could prepare your roles with MVC3 using a command like this:

bootstrapper.exe -get http://download.microsoft.com/download/F/3/1/F31EF055-3C46-4E35-AB7B-3261A303A3B6/AspNetMVC3ToolsUpdateSetup.exe -lr $lr(temp) -run $lr(temp)\AspNetMVC3ToolsUpdateSetup.exe -args /q

Check out the project page for more examples, but the possibilities are pretty endless here.  One customer uses the Bootstrapper to download agents and drivers from their blob storage account to install at startup for their web and worker roles.  Other folks use it to simply copy files out of blob storage and lay them out correctly on disk.

Of course, none of this would be available in the community if not for the great guys working at National Instruments.  They allowed us to take this code written for them and turn it over to the community.

Enjoy and let us know your feedback or any bugs you find.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

A new Career Path

As some of you may know, I recently left Microsoft after almost 4 years.  It was a wonderful experience and I met and worked with some truly great people there.  I was lucky enough to join at the time when the cloud was just getting started at Microsoft.  Code words like CloudDB, Strata, Sitka, Red Dog, and others I won't mention here flew around like crazy.

I started as the SQL Server Data Services (SSDS) evangelist and later became the Windows Azure Evangelist (after SSDS eventually became SQL Azure).  For the last 2 years, Windows Azure has been my life and it was great seeing a technology very rapidly grow from CTP to a full featured platform in such a short time.

Well, I am not moving far from Windows Azure - I still strongly believe in what Microsoft has done here.  I recently joined Cumulux as Director of Cloud Services.  I will be driving product strategy, some key customer engagements, and take part in the leadership team there.  Cumulux is a close Microsoft partner with a Windows Azure focus, so it is a great fit for me for both personal as well as professional reasons.

While I will miss the great folks I got to work with at Microsoft and being in the thick of everything, I am very excited to begin this new career path with Cumulux.