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Exploring Visual Studio 2010 Tools for Windows Azure: A Tutorial

, 21 Aug 2012
In this article, I will show you the tools and technologies, you can use to create,  test, and then publish a solution to the cloud.

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Windows Azure is Microsoft’s  cloud operating system. The tools integrated into Visual Studio make Windows Azure quick and easy for developers who are familiar with  .NET development to adopt. The tools provide a steamlined way to create, develop, and publish cloud projects, as well as view storage data.

First, you must have some version of SQLServer installed – this can be any flavor of SQLServer 2008, or SQLServer Express 2005. This is for emulating the cloud storage when you test your application locally. If you already have VS2010 installed, then SQLServer should`ve been installed automatically.

Next, you will need to download and install the Windows Azure Tools and SDK.  You can find the Windows Azure Tools & SDK here:  http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/getstarted/

Note: When you select File -> New Project below and start a cloud project, Visual Studio will download the latest Azure tools if they’re not currently installed.  See the below screen capture as an example of what it looks like when Azure tools are not installed.

VS2010-Azure/image001.jpg

The Tools for Visual Studio add the ability to create cloud projects that you can test locally and publish to Windows Azure. Let’s start by running Visual Studio in administrator mode.

Select File / New Project. Under either Visual Basic or Visual C#, you should now see a category for Cloud as illustrated in Figure 1. Click on it, fill in the information at the bottom and click OK.

VS2010-Azure/image002.png

Figure 1: Creating a cloud project in Visual Studio 2010.

Next you will be prompted for the type of role that you want to use. This will host the actual code. There are only two types of roles – web roles and worker roles. Web roles use IIS by default and worker roles do not. So if you are going to create a web application or WCF service, you will want to use a web role.

Worker roles are used more for processing. I’ve used them in cases where I used to have a Windows service running on a server. For example, if you are taking wav files and converting them to MP3 asynchronously, you could submit that to a worker role and let it do it for you.

Select an ASP.NET Web Role. On the right, if you hover over the first line, a pencil will appear on the right – click it in order to edit the name of the Web Role. I’m going to name my web role  “AwesomeWebApp” instead of “WebRole1”, as shown in Figure 2.

VS2010-Azure/image003.png

Figure 2: Adding a web role.

After clicking OK, you should have something similar to Figure 3.

VS2010-Azure/image004.png

Figure 3: New web application in a web role.

There are two projects. AwesomeWebApp is the web role. This is what will actually run in the instance on Windows Azure. The second one is the cloud project. This contains the role itself and the service configuration and service definition files. These apply to all of the instances of the role that are running. Let’s look at the service configuration first.

In Figure 4, I have changed two things. The osFamily value determines whether the instance runs Windows Server 2008 (osFamily = “1”) or Windows Server 2008 R2 (osFamily = “2”). I always want to run the most recent version, so I’ve changed this to the latter. I’ve also added some more settings. You will probably want to move some of your settings from your website’s web.config file to your service configuration, because you can modify your Service Configuration file while the instance is running, but you can’t modify the web.config file – you have to fully redeploy the application for changes to the web.config to take effect. For example, I put settings in my service configuration for the frequency of performance counter logging, so I can raise and lower it without needing to re-publish the entire project.

VS2010-Azure/image005.jpg

Figure 4: Service Configuration

The Service Definition is just a definition of what variables are in the Service Configuration file. Mine is displayed in Figure 5.

VS2010-Azure/image006.jpg

Figure 5: Service Definition.

You can also edit the values of the service configuration through the role properties. To see the role properties displayed in Figure 6, just double-click on the role in Solution Explorer.

VS2010-Azure/image007.png

Figure 6: Role Properties

Here you can set the basic properties of your role, including the number of instances and the size of the VM that you want to use. You can also specify a connection string for the Diagnostics, which are stored by default in Windows Azure Storage.  You can use the EndPoints tab to manage the endpoints for the application.

The Certificates tab is for specifying the SSL certificate used when you are using https endpoints and/or when you enable RDP access to the role instance. Local Storage is used to configure local file system storage resources for each instance, and whether to clear them when the role recycles.

Rather than edit the configuration settings in the XML, you can use the grid in the settings tab, displayed in Figure 7, to edit the values of the settings you have already defined, and to add new settings. If you add a new setting here, it automatically adds it to the service definition as well.

VS2010-Azure/image008.png

Figure 7: UI for editing settings.

Hit F5 in Visual Studio to run your Windows Azure instance just the way you would run any other application in Visual Studio. This runs the role instance(s) in the “development fabric”, which simulates running in production. Note that just because something works in the development fabric, it doesn’t mean you can be 100% certain it will run when you publish it to Windows Azure, but it will get you most of the way there and it doesn’t cost you anything to use it.

Your browser should open, showing your running web application.

You will see the Windows Azure icon in your system tray. If you right-cilck on it, you can view the Windows Azure Compute Emulator (where you can see your role running or not running, whichever the case may be). Mine is displayed in Figure 8.

VS2010-Azure/image009.png

Figure 8: Windows Azure Compute Emulator

From here, you can attach a debugger to an instance, view the logging from the startup of each instance, and manage the service in the development fabric (restart it, stop it, start it, etc.). You can also get the IP address for the service, in case you didn’t check the box in the role properties to have the http page start up automatically when the service started.

If you look at the Storage Emulator, you should see something similar to Figure 9.

VS2010-Azure/image010.png

Figure 9: Storage Emulator

This gives you then endpoints for storage if you need them, and enables you to manage the development table storage (click Reset to clear it out).

Let’s publish the application to the cloud. First go into Settings and set the connection string for Windows Azure Storage to point to your storage in Windows Azure. Then right-click on the cloud project and select Publish. You will get the dialog displayed in Figure 10.

VS2010-Azure/image011.png

Figure 10: Publish the project to Windows Azure

If your role targets the .NET 4 Framework and you are running Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, you will be able to enable Intellitrace for your role. If you do this, you can then see the Intellitrace output and use it to debug your role.

If you select the blue link that says “Configure Remote Desktop connections…”, you can configure the role to allow you to use Remote Desktop to connect and log into the instance after it has completed starting up. You will have to create a certificate and upload it to your hosted service before you can do this. I’m going to skip this for now and click on OK.

Visual Studio will build the solution, create a service package, upload it, create a new VM, and deploy the package to it. You can see it progress in the Windows Azure Activity Log in Visual Studio in Figure 11. When it has successfully completed, it will say “Complete”.

VS2010-Azure/image012.jpg

Figure 11: Windows Azure Activity Log displayed while publishing to the cloud.

You can also watch the progress in the Windows Azure Portal (http://windows.azure.com) as shown in Figure 12.

VS2010-Azure/image013.png

Figure 12: Viewing the status of the deployment in the portal.

The Portal can be used to manage all of your services and your storage accounts. You can also edit the service configuration of your deployment through the portal. If you have configured RDP, this is where you would connect to your instance.

After your role publishes successfully, you should be able to open the URL in the browser and see your web application running in the cloud. You can actually click on the link in the Windows Azure Activity Log once the role is complete, as seen in Figure 13.

VS2010-Azure/image014.jpg

Figure 13: Completed deployment.

You will also see the link that says “Open in Server Explorer”.  If you click on that link, Server Explorer will be displayed in Visual Studio, and you will be able to see your instance running, as displayed in Figure 14.

VS2010-Azure/image015.png

Figure 14: Server Explorer

You can also view your Windows Azure Storage in Server Explorer. You will probably have to add your storage account to the list – just right-click on Windows Azure Storage and select Add New Storage Account. You will be prompted for your credentials, and then you can view the content. The content is read-only. You can view the blobs and the rows in the tables.

In summary, Microsoft has provided a development environment that makes it easy for .NET Developers to develop for Windows Azure by integrating the tools into Visual Studio 2010. You can sign-up for a free trial today at www.microsoft.com/cloud/windowsazure.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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About the Author

Robin Shahan

United States United States
Robin Shahan has over 20 years of experience developing complex, business-critical applications for Fortune 100 companies such as Chevron and AT&T. She is currently the Director of Engineering for GoldMail, where she recently migrated their entire infrastructure to Microsoft Azure. Robin regularly speaks at various .NET User Group events on Microsoft Azure and her company’s migration experience. Robin has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Computer Science from Texas A&M University. She can be found on twitter as @RobinDotNet and you can read exciting and riveting articles about ClickOnce deployment and Microsoft Azure on her blog at http://robindotnet.wordpress.com
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QuestionVery Helpful Pinmemberjigneshprajapati17-Apr-12 22:53 

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