App Development

Azure Preview Features Presentation

Azure Preview Features Presentation

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The developer experience developing & hosting applications on Azure Web Sites has been significantly improved. Scott Guthrie, who moved from DevDiv to Azure about a year ago, has clearly been working hard on making this better, and it’s starting to pay off. We fervently hope this focus continues and the rest of Azure becomes as simple and developer-friendly as the web site hosting.


A few examples of the ways in which Web Sites are easier:

  • No custom project types (.ccproj) or RoleEntryPoint subclasses – a standard web application solution with no Azure-specific runtime library references will work perfectly.
  • Web.config can be used for configuration (with runtime AppSettings parameter injection, if necessary) – no more .cscfg and Azure-specific configuration settings code.
  • Basic monitoring is available out of the box, without configuring Trace Listeners or Diagnostics transfers to Azure storage, or buying a third-party utility to query Table Storage.
  • FAST deployment. Web Sites are deployed to a running server, so no more waiting for a new VM to be provisioned.
  • Standard deployment mechanisms – FTP, MSDeploy and git deployment are available and existing deployment scripts should able to be reconfigured to work with Azure.

The Web Site offering, in particular the dependency-free runtime code and git deployment, is very reminiscent of AppHarbor/Heroku, and the pricing model has also been clearly influenced by these services (developers can host up to 10 web sites on shared infrastucture for free). Where they differ is the hosting model – below are some diagrams from Sam’s slideshow:

The ‘Heroku model’

The Azure Web Site model

Once you upgrade to ‘reserved’ instances, all web sites within your subscription (in a given region) share your virtual infrastructure. This does mean that one application could bring down all the others, but if you have a reasonable number of low-to-moderate traffic sites, it’s likely to be considerably cheaper to host in a multi-instance (ie production quality) configuration than on AppHarbor. Our view is that this is better suited to web & application development shops that want to offer hosting, or in-house teams that want to move some of their suite of applications to the public cloud. The ‘Heroku model’ will likely remain a more attractive option for startups/entrepreneurs & product companies, who are more likely to focus on one or two potentially high-traffic applications.

Another point Sam stressed was that the multi-language support (in particular, PHP and mySQL available out of the box), is likely to appeal to organisations looking to move/consolidate their web hosting from ‘traditional’ web hosts or ISPs. This support, combined with the standard web deployment approaches, means that Azure is competing as much (if not more) with low-cost shared Linux hosting providers as it is with AppHarbor and other PAAS specialists.

Overall, we’re pretty excited to be working on Microsoft’s cloud platform and we’re keen to see the platform improvements continue. The main components we’re hoping for are simplified, git-deployable workers, and better support for third-perty hosted services like document DBs (perhaps the Azure Marketplace will grow to fill this need)?

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