Saturday, June 16, 2012

Microsoft TechEd North America 2012-Day 4

So this post is a little delayed due to all of the excitement around the BizTalk sessions.  However the sessions were that good that I wanted to still publish the post.

Azure Service Bus Solution Patterns  -Clemens Vasters and Abhishek Lal

Another session by Clemens and Abhishek.  This time around it was a very practical session based upon some Customer Use Cases and how to implement some popular integration design patterns based upon the “Integration Bible” - Enterprise Integration Patterns.  To view the actual session on Channel9, click here.

Some of the Use Cases included:

  • Web Services For Retailers
    • Company from Italy
    • Provide SAAS solution for Retail Stores
    • Seed local retail outlets with Catalogue and Pricing information
    • Push out to retail stores
      • Use Topics to distribute information to each retail store
  • SaaS with Dynamic Compute Workload
    • High Performance Computing (HPC) scenario
    • Command and Control messages sent in from Service Bus
    • ISV specialized dynamic compute capacity provider
  • Consumer Web Site
    • Web site that searches for data about people – credit check, criminal check etc.
    • Their challenge was back end data co-ordination
    • Different profiles for users who have different access to to back end services
    • Queues for decoupling the web layer from middle-tier services


Scaling things out

Next Clemens walked us through a scenario that Microsoft has been working on with a particular customer.  The solution was related to remote controlling air conditioners.  The idea is that a consumer would have the ability to manually control it but also power providers could *potentially* control it to prevent rolling brown-outs from occurring.  Instead of instituting  wide spread rolling brown-outs, each customer could alter their consumption. Collectively these savings add up and prevent demand from exceeding supply.  I am a little skeptical about a power company(I work for one) controlling someone’s air conditioner but in theory it makes a lot of sense.

The requirements for this solution includes:

  • Pair devices, such as air conditioner, to local Wi-Fi connection
  • Users need the ability control the device
    • Control requests could be made from back yard or across the world
    • Service Bus makes these control requests possible from anywhere that has an internet connection.
  • Devices will then send consumption data to Azure where the data can be viewed on a mobile device. This data will make its way to Azure via Service Bus.  The premise behind this is if customers are more aware of their consumption patterns, then they may try to alter them.  This is something that my organization has also been investigating.

So a question remains, these types of consumer devices will not have the .Net Service Bus bindings installed so how will they actually communicate?  The answer is really HTTP.  You can send HTTP requests to the Service Bus and in this case Clemens introduced a concept that he likes to call “N-HTTP”.  It is a similar to the “NoSQL” movement but in this case is related to HTTP.  HTTP in many cases includes HTTP Headers but also an entity body.  The entity body could include JSON content, XML content etc.  The challenge with entity bodies is that you need a parser to package the information up in requests or un-package it when receiving responses.  This would further complicate things as these parsers would need to be loaded into these consumer devices.  What’s interesting is HTTP Headers is they are well understood, across devices, systems, technology stacks etc,  and do not require parsers.  So if you can get away with sending key/value pairs when sending or receiving messages then this solution should work for you.

Receiving messages from Service Bus generally includes using ‘long polling’ when waiting for messages.  Using  long polling sockets isn’t a great use of power resources for devices that do not have permanent power sources (devices that rely on batteries).  With this in mind, Microsoft has been working with other industry leaders on the AMQP (Advanced Message Queuing Protocol).  AMQP is a popular queuing technology that is used in financial brokerage settings.  Another benefit of using AMQP is that it has a quieter socket profile which results in lower battery consumption.  So this is an area that Microsoft is investing in that will have wide spread benefits….Cool Stuff!!!


Message Channel Patterns

Abhishek was back on point and walked us through some popular messaging patterns including:

  • Pub-Sub
    • Accomplished via Topics
  • Content Based Router
    • Using Topics based upon a Subscription Rule
  • Recipient List
    • Sender wants to send the message to a list of recipients
    • Common use-cases
      • Order processing systems – route to specific vendors/departments
      • “Address LIKE ‘%First%’
  • Message Routing
    • Session re-sequencer – receiving messages out of order and then using the defer method to postpone processing the next message until you receive the next message that is “in order”

I must admit, when I learn more about the Service Bus I do get a little giddy.  I just see it as such an enabling technology.  It facilities building applications that just wouldn’t be possible or cost prohibitive in years gone by.  Whether it is submitting SAP  timesheets remotely or reporting customer power outages it is an amazing technology the opportunities are endless when it comes to bridging data center boundaries.


Mobile + Cloud: Building Mobile Applications with Windows Azure – Wade Wagner

Wade Wagner, a former Microsoft Azure Evangelist, put together a pretty interesting session related to Windows Phone and Azure.  To watch this session on Channel 9 click here.  In the past I have followed some of the work he did with the Mobile toolkits for the different mobile platforms, but just haven’t had the time to take a closer look.

This session focused primarily on Windows Phone 7 and how it interacts with some of the Azure services (Storage, SQL Azure, Tables, ACS).  Personally, I think these technologies complement each other very well.  Especially in the area of bridging mobile devices with on-premise LOB solutions and leveraging the Access Control Service (ACS) for authentication.

Three reasons for Device + Cloud

  • Allows for new application scenarios
  • The cloud levels the playing field
  • The cloud provides a way to reach across device platforms and a larger pool of resources from which to pull

Why Azure?

  • PaaS you build it, Windows Azure runs it
  • Automatic O/S patching
  • Elasticity and Scale
  • Utility Billing
  • Higher-level services
  • ACS, Caching, CDN (cache static content), Traffic Manager (route traffic across Azure datacenters based on locale)

Wade then demonstrated a scenario really lends itself well to this technology.  A mobile application that will take advantage of Social Identity providers(Windows Live, Google, Yahoo) for authentication via the Access Control Service.  Wade demonstrated that this isn’t as complicated as it sounds.  With the help of a Nuget package and adding a STS reference we can get this working in the matter of a minutes.  Wade then added some additional functionality to consume a ASP.Net Web API.  Most presenters would have left their demo there.  Giving people the information to build the services but then leaving out some “real world” gaps around security.  Wade did take his demo one step further and then showed we can use the ACS service to authorize user requests as well.  Before the ASP.Net WebAPI method is called, we can intercept this request and validate that the token that has been included as part of the HTTP Request is a valid ACS token.  Provide the token is valid, the appropriate data will be returned.

Wade then wrapped up his session demonstrating how we can use the Azure Push Notification service to serve up “toast notifications”.  Another set of useful information that I hope to play with soon. 

If you are into mobile apps, you definitely owe it to you to watch this session so you can learn about all of the Azure services that you and your customers can benefit from.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Building Integration Solutions Using Microsoft BizTalk On-Premises and on Windows Azure - Javed Sikander and Rajesh Ramamirtham

Update:  This session has now been posted to Channel 9 and you can view the video here.  Feel free to post any comments at the bottom of this post.


This was a follow up session to the Application Integration Futures – The Road Map and what's next on Windows Azure  session that was discussed here.  The primary focus of this session was to demonstrate some of the new capabilities of BizTalk On-Premises, BizTalk IaaS and BizTalk PaaS. 

During the presentation there were many questions as to what the differences between the On-Premises version and the IaaS version would exist.  After many questions about a particular feature (BAM, ESB Portal etc) Bala  stepped in and declared that all features that exist in the On-Premises version will exist in the IaaS version.  After a further discussion after the session, it looks like there is a little more work to do in the area of clustered host instances but otherwise we can expect symmetry between these two versions.

Since BizTalk Next (aka “R2”) will be released as part of the latest Microsoft platform offering (Windows Server, SQL Server, Visual Studio), all BizTalk projects will target the .Net 4.5 platform.

The primary purpose of this session was to demonstrate some of these new features lets get into some of the scenarios/demos that were discussed.

BizTalk Consuming REST services

In the first example, the team demonstrated BizTalk consuming a REST feed from the Azure Data Market.  Specifically, the feed was related to flight delays.  BizTalk connected using the new WCF-WebHttpBinding and performed a GET operation against this particular feed.  Since the foundation for authentication when communicating with Azure is the Access Control Service (ACS), Rajesh demonstrated the out of box ACS authentication configuration.

BizTalk consuming over REST API

Once again BizTalk was configured to consume a REST service.  In this case it was a SalesForce customer feed.  Within the Send Port, the “SOAP Action Header” was populated and once again included the GET operation.  A custom transport behavior was used to provide the appropriate credentials. When executed, a list of customers was returned from SalesForce.

Next, the URI in the SOAP Action header was modified and a hard coded id was provided for a particular customer.  In this case only this particular customer was returned.  Both myself and Bill Chestnut were thinking “great, but how do we inject a dynamic customer id to this GET request”?  Once again the BizTalk team had an answer for this and it came in the form of a new Variable Mapping button.  When clicked an interface that will allow us to specify the name of a context/promoted property.  Bottom line is that we can drive this dynamic value from message payload or context.

Finally, the last SalesForce demo included a POST, where they were able how to demonstrate how to update a customer record in 


BizTalk PaaS: Azure EAI Services

The team then switched gears and started talking about BizTalk PaaS: Azure EAI Services.  I have no idea as to whether this will be the official name.  This is what the title of their slide included so I am using it here.  I do like it.  I do like that BizTalk is still associated with this type of functionality.  I must caution that the product team did indicate not to look too much into naming/branding at this point.

Some of the functionality(some new, some old) that we can expect in the PaaS solution includes:

  • Sequence of activities to perform impedance mismatch
  • Flat file disassembly
  • Message validation
  • Transforms
  • Content based routing
    • XPath, FTP properties, Lookup (against SQL Azure), Http properties, SOAP
  • Hosting custom code
  • Scripting functoid to host .Net Code
  • XSLT support
  • New Service Bus Connect Wizard
  • BizTalk connectivity to Azure Artifacts (Service Bus Queues, Topics, XML bridges)

EDI Portal

  • Metro UI for managing trading partners
  • Manage and monitor AS2, X12 agreements
  • View resources like Transforms, Schemas, Certificates

EDI Bridge

  • Archiving
  • Batching
  • Tracking


  • IaaS will be a public TAP
  • Other BizTalk releases(On-Premises/PaaS) will be “regular” TAP
  • On a lighter side, I did ask if we can expect a Metro version of the BizTalk Admin Console.  Don’t expect it any time soon Smile.  Basically any new UIs that need to be created will follow the Metro styling but other than that don’t expect many updates to previous tools.


This was a great session that included many demos and really proved that what the Product team was speaking to in the previous session wasn’t just lip service.  Having been at the MVP Summit, I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of functionality that they have been working on.  Once again, I love the direction that they are heading in.  It has an updated feature set that should please customers no matter what their ideal deployment model is (On-Premises, IaaS, or PaaS).  You can also tell that they are serious about symmetry although it may take a while for PaaS to be closer aligned to On-Premises/IaaS but I think they are headed in the right direction.

Application Integration Futures – The Road Map and what's next on Windows Azure

This presentation has hosted by Bala Sriram and Rajesh Ramamirtham


Blog Update: I have added a conclusion where I have provided a summary and some of my thoughts on this release.  Also, this session has now been posted so feel free to take a look at it here.  You can also add any comments that you have regarding this session at the bottom of this post.

Key takeaway from Bala: We are innovating in BizTalk!

General Update

  • BizTalk Server “R2” release will be available around 6 months after Windows 8
  • CTP expect this summer
  • Commitment to releasing server for years to come. Publicly indicating there will be at least another release beyond “R2”
  • 12k+ BizTalk customers
  • 81% of Fortune Global 100 use BizTalk
  • 79% of customers are using BizTalk 2010
  • CU delivered every quarter with product enhancements
  • Best NSAT in the industry
  • 6 of 8 largest US Pharmaceutical Companies use BizTalk
  • Continue to bet on BizTalk – We will take your investments forward!
  • Enabling new Azure based BizTalk scenarios for EAI & EDI
    • Bringing together BizTalk on-premises and in Azure

What customers are telling us?

    • Keep me current with platform, standards and LOB changes
    • Reduce time and cost of developing of Integration solutions
    • Let me focus on business challenges, not technology infrastructure
    • Cloud advantages
      • Cost-effective, scalable infrastructure for easy deployment
      • Some scenarios like b2b are amenable to cloud
    • Cloud Challenges
      • Data privacy, isolation , control more integration
      • LOB assets will continue to be on-premise
    • Phased cloud adoption on my terms
      • One size does not fit all

How BizTalk will meet these requirements?

  • Upgrade to latest MS platform
  • Improved reach for B2B customers
  • Better performance and manageability
  • BizTalk on Azure IaaS
    • Eliminate HW procurement lead times
    • Reduce time and cost to setup and maintain BizTalk environments
  • BizTalk on Azure PaaS for EAI and EDI
    • Reduce partner onboarding and management cost
    • Leverage existing BizTalk artifacts
    • Rapid configuration-driven development for common integration patterns
  • All of these working together seamlessly as one BizTalk
    • Trying to work under “one umbrella” but no naming can be implied at this time

BizTalk Server On-Premise Update

    • Platform Update
      • Support for:
        • VS 2012,
        • Window 8 Server
        • SQL Server 2012
        • Office 15
        • System Center 2012
    • B2B enhancements:
      • EDI
      • HL7 2.5.1, 2.6
      • SWIFT 2012 Message Pack
    • Better Performance
      • In Order Delivery process
        • Serialization created delays
      • Improved dynamic send ports and ESB via host handler association of Send ports
        • Can configure a dynamic send port host handler in Admin Console
      • MLLP adapter performance
      • HIS DB2 client transaction load balancing, client bulk insert (15 times faster)
    • Better manageability
      • Visualize BizTalk artifact dependencies in BizTalk admin console
      • ESB toolkit as core part of BizTalk setup and product
      • HIS Administration using Config files with application metadata stored in XML
    • Improved connectivity
      • Consume REST Services directly in BizTalk
        • WebHttpBinding will be used when calling REST Services
        • ACS support
      • Simplified SharePoint integration experience
        • No more adapter web service installs on SharePoint
      • Improvements to existing adapters (HIS, SMTP)
        • improved macros
      • Easy connectivity to Service Bus Relay, Queues and Topics
      • CICS http client connectivity to Windows

BizTalk running in Azure (IaaS)

  • Use case :

    • First step in the cloud adoption
      • Eliminate hardware procurement lead times
      • Reduce time and cost to setup and maintain BizTalk environments
      • Move applications from on premise and back
    • Create a virtual network in Azure and enable connectivity to on-premise network
      • User logs into Azure Portal
      • User creates a new VM and selects BizTalk stock image
      • User specifics BizTalk environment topology and adds them to existing virtual network
      • New VMs are provisioned for user in Azure IaaS
      • User logs into the provisioned VM which has BizTalk installed and configured and starts using it.
  • Targeting same Windows 8 timeframe
  • Microsoft will provide guidance on performance
  • MSDTC support in Azure?
    • It is supported now in IaaS and was brought in to support BizTalk
  • All features that work on premise will work in IaaS


  • Seamlessly connect with Azure artifacts
  • Enable hybrid applications that span Azure and on-premises
  • Expose LOB services both on Premise and to the cloud


Wow…that was a lot of content in a short 1:15 h session.  There was actually more information released related to EDI support in the EDI Services (PaaS) but I just couldn’t keep up between writing this blog and tweeting with the European BizTalk community.

What I liked:

  • REST support event if it is only Send
  • Cleaner integration with SharePoint.  A similar statement was made with BizTalk 2010 but talking with the product team members after the presentation I know that this is not lip service.  The Adapter Web Service is gone.  No more installs on SharePoint servers.  Also, no more consuming SharePoint’s legacy “Lists.asmx” web services.  Yay!
  • Ordered Delivery performance.  It will be nice to have some improved performance while maintaining sequential integrity.
  • First class ACS support in selected “cloud enabled” Adapters
  • BrokeredMessage property/BizTalk Context property support
  • BizTalk IaaS – should open new capabilities
  • I can see the symmetry between on-premises and PaaS starting to materialize

What I would love to see:

  • Exposing REST end points
  • Single Mapper/Transformation experience between On-Premises and PaaS offering
  • Support for other sterilizers than XML (JSON, C#)  - stay tuned?
  • Service Bus Connect – Receiving requests from LOB systems (SAP IDOCS)


Overall the tone was extremely encouraging.  Personally, I haven’t seen this much innovation come from the BizTalk team since BizTalk 2006 R2 when support WCF/WCF LOB adapters was introduced.  Yep..I said it.  The next release of BizTalk is no longer “just a platform update” .  In my opinion, this is a full release and should be named accordingly.  For those that think BizTalk is dead – better think again.  The operation was successful and the patient is still alive.

Microsoft TechEd North America 2012-Day 3


An Overview of Managing Applications, Services, and Virtual Machines in Windows Azure - Karandeep Anand

In this session Karandeep walked us through the new portal. The new portal does not include Service Bus endpoints like queues or topics and also does not include caching… yet.  I am told that Microsoft is hoping to have this functionality in the portal by end of the year.  However, they have enabled single sign on so you should be able to toggle back and forth between the old and new portals quite easily.

Within the portal we can get the state of:

  • Virtual Machine
  • Websites
  • Cloud Services (Web roles/Worker roles etc)
  • SQL Databases
  • Storage
  • Networks

Below I have taken a screenshot of the Azure portal.  I only have one SQL Database in the production portal but you can get a sense of the new look and feel.


You also have the ability to add new assets by clicking on the “+ New” link.


You can then specify the type of service that you would like to provision.  In the case of Virtual Machines, you need to sign up for the preview before you can actually provision a VM.



Scripting Management Support

Using the VM portal is not the only way to manipulate services in Azure.  There is first class support for scripting in Windows, MAC and Linux.  In the case of Windows admins will find comfort knowing that there is first class support for PowerShell.  These PowerShell command lets will take advantage of the same underlying REST APIs that the portal is using


High Availability and Service Level Agreements

Having a third party, such as Microsoft, host IT services for your organization may create some concerns within your organization.  What if your services go down?  What “skin” does Microsoft have in the game.  To put it bluntly, they have some skin in the game.  Perhaps not as much as some would like but Microsoft will be reimbursing organizations for their usage should they fail to live up to their commitments.

Here is a, very, loose break down of Microsoft’s SLA policy:

  • 99.95 uptime – monthly SLA
  • 4.38 hours of downtime per year for multiple role instances
  • 99.9 for single role instances
    • 8.75 hours per year
  • What’s included?
    • Compute Hardware failure (disk, CPU, memory)
  • Datacenter failures – network failure, power failure
  • Hardware upgrades, software maintenance – HOST OS updates
    • Planned downtime – 6 day notice, 6 hour window, 25 minute downtime

What is not included?

  • VM container crashes, Guest OS failures

Monitoring and Auto-Scaling applications

Now this was cool!  A company called AppDynamics demonstrated their monitoring solution for Azure.  Some of the features included:

  • Application performance management dashboard.  This included a graphical representation of your distributed solution and provided the latency that exists between each component.
  • You also had the ability to interrogate the stack level trace to get very granular
  • The tool also supported the ability to auto scale your application based upon different criteria sets including
    • CPU
    • Message through-put
    • errors
    • specific business hours
    • critical conditions

Since Azure supports a “Pay as you go” model I found this tool to be extremely intriguing.  Not only did it look nice, but it provides functionality can can allow you to reduce costs when your app is not very busy and also auto scale to ensure of a good user experience when your site is busy.  To read more about this company and their product for Azure, please read the following press release.


Building HTTP Services with ASP.Net Web API – Daniel Roth

The other session that I wanted to talk about was the Building HTTP Services with ASP.Net Web API.  For the past couple months I have been playing with MVC3, JQuery and AJAX so this session was rather timely.

What is Web API?

  • An Http Service
  • Designed for broad reach
    • browsers
    • phones
    • devices
    • set top boxes
  • Uses HTTP as an application protocol, not a transport protocol.  So what this really means is it takes advantage of existing verbs GET, POST, PUT, DELETE

Why build Web APIs?

  • Reach More Clients
  • Scale with Cloud
  • Embrace HTTP – simplify things
    • use existing verbs
  • Web API Requirements
    • Need a first class HTTP Programming model
    • Easily map resources to URIs and implement the uniform interface
    • Rich Support for formats and HTTP Content negotiation
    • separate out cross cutting concerns
    • Light weight
  • ASP.NET WebAPI is the end result

WebAPI description

If you like self documenting APIs, then WebAPI has some built in features to support this type of functionality.

  • Use the IApiExplorer Service to expose “contract”
  • Provides runtime description of WEB API
  • Renders content in a useful way
  • Shows request and response formats
    • XML, JSON, url-encoded


  • Many options – self host(console), IIS, Azure roles, other web servers
  • MSDN code gallery and NuGet Code packages are available


  • ASP.NET Web API is available as part of MVC4
  • Is part of the recent open source movement that Microsoft has been involved in
  • Product team accepts 3rd party contributions
  • Unprecedented transparency
    • When Microsoft  devs check in code, you have access to code through  GIT repository
  • mvc4 and web api is included in Visual Studio 2012 RC
  • WebAPI is now a Visual Studio project template
    • Can also create a unit test project
  • New  MVC like map route for WebAPI
    • api/{controller}/{id}
  • JSON, XML and form-url-encoded supported out of the box for HTTP Request
    • JSON and XML natively supported for HTTP Response
  • Validation is run on the data from every request
    • Check ModelState.IsValid to see if you have a valid request
  • Support for ODATA queries
    • return IQueryable<type> Get()
    • decorate method with QueryAble


I realize that the release of this technology has been highly contested.  There have been people using the WCF stack that are now in a tough spot to migrate away from this technology to WebAPI.  For me, as someone new to this space I really liked how you organize your project and have clean separation from controller to controller.  You can quickly expose services without the need for heavy WSDL type contracts.

I also like how most of Daniel’s presentation was run from Fiddler.  Like he mentioned several times, WebAPI at its root is really just HTTP.  So what better tool to craft requests than Fiddler.

In closing, I do a lot of System Integration.  Primarily with BizTalk and must admit, I like contract based development where you are defining a firm contract upfront.  I have never been a big fan of loosely based lightweight services as things can quickly to to hell when doing this type of stuff for EAI.  However, I have woken up and seen the light.  I really do feel there are good use cases for this type of technology for light weight application based services.  I don’t necessarily think that this technology is a great fit for EAI, but for applications that may be surfaced using a variety of clients (mobile, web) I think this is a great way to expose back end services to front end client.


Stay tuned for Day 4 as I expect to have some encouraging BizTalk news to report!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Microsoft TechEd North America–Day 2


Day 2 Keynote

Day 2 opened with another Keynote this time led by Antoine Leblond.  It did address some of my concerns with Day 1’s keynote.  This time the focus was on Windows 8 and they did demonstrate the OS running on a few different devices.  The demos were nice and relevant, however they did not demonstrate it on new hardware.  They used the Samsung Series 7 slate with the Samsung Series 9 laptop.  They also demonstrated Windows 8 on a Lenovo laptop(sorry nothing cool about a Lenovo).  If they wanted to generate some excitement, and didn’t want to pull out a shiny new beta Samsung,  they should have just bought a new MacBook Pro and run Windows 8 on it.  I think Microsoft missed another big opportunity but I digress.

Line of Business Apps

They did demonstrate some good looking Metro applications on the devices.  They did provide a quick overview of the Beer Ranger app that I mentioned in a previous post.  They also demonstrated a native SAP application that is part of their Sales Automation Pipeline lineup.  The application was a nice looking app, but much like many other SAP applications, I had no idea what it was suppose to do (opps did I say that out loud).


My primary personal (non-work) machine is a MacBook Air that runs Windows 7.  Many people ask why I do this and how I am missing out on all of these touch gestures.  For me I love my Microsoft Arc Touch mouse and quite frankly could care less about the gestures that you can use on a trackpad.  But for those of you who like using gestures on a trackpad there is some good news for you.  Windows 8 will support “Apple like” gestures including Semantic zoom and access to the new “App bar” to name a few.


Developing for Windows 8

Antoine provided us with a rundown of what is involved in building applications for Windows 8.  Here are some of the highlights.

  • Windows Runtime (WinRT)
    • New API set that allows you to build apps and games
    • Supports touch, keyboard and mouse
    • Support for “contracts” so that apps can leverage OS functions like “share”.  Much like you can Share “data’  on a Windows Phone 7, you will be able to perform a similar function with your own application but hooking into these contracts.
  • Tool Support
    • new release of Visual Studio (2012)
    • C++, C#, JavaScript, css, html are all supported technologies
  • Language and platform support for inline async calls. 
    • I really like this feature.  I was never a big fan of all of the delegate spaghetti code a person previously had to write to support async methods.  In a previous post, I had to write async REST methods to support calling REST based services from a Windows Phone 7 app.  I expect it to get much  simpler now.
  • Visual Studio Simulators
    • Can simulate different types of hardware(slates, desktops, large displays, small displays etc)
    • Rotate screen
    • Higher/lower resolutions
    • Touch gestures

ARM Support

This was interesting to see as I have heard a little bit about ARM support but just have not seen it in action. 

Some of the benefits of leveraging ARM based devices include:

  • Low power consumption
  • Long Battery life
  • Trusted boot
    • Validate all code in boot path before it runs
    • Device encryption is always on
  • App model
    • Geared at making apps that don’t alter the state of the machine (Security benefit)
  • Can use same Management infrastructure to manage devices
  • Metro apps work on WinRT as well
    • An RDP client does exist so that you can log into other Windows PCs/Servers
    • Apps must be signed by known trusted authority or have appropriate cert
    • Apps must must have been run through “WAC” approval application
      • used to honor design principals about not altering the state of the machine
  • Key office applications are available

Essential Tips for the Windows Azure Startup

This was a really interesting session.  Michele Leroux Bustamante is well known in the WCF and MVP community as a person with deep technical skills.  I have seen her speak before at a previous TechEd so I thought this would be a good session to attend.  Something that I appreciate about Michele’s presentation style is that she remains composed through out the entire presentation.  Even when she runs into some issues, such as a demo not quite working out, she is able to recover with a tremendous amount of poise. I believe she is Canadian, maybe this has something to do with it.  Smile

This time around she was giving guidance on developing a Startup based upon Windows Azure.  It was a very enlightening session and it was quite evident that she “gets it”.  She has acted as a consultant to many start-ups and provided the following tips when building applications for Start up companies.  Something to keep in mind is that these principles, while applicable to Startups, also just good practices to follow even if you are a well established brick and mortar company.

  • Startups need to show some traction early on
  • Go fast, maintain quality
  • Monitor status, analytics and adjust accordingly
  • watch for conversion rates
    • do visitors create accounts

10 Essential Tips

Here they are as they were presented to the audience:

1. Design for Role Scale out

    • Needs to happen up front.  By the time you need to scale it will probably be too late or more difficult to
    • Need to design for scale, may want to segregate or isolate controllers to allow to further scale out functions that may be more popular or have more access patterns (Mobile, API)
    • Domain Mapping
      • Create a CNAME or A Record for the IP address of your production deployment

2. Use an SMTP relay service

    • Most applications require some form of email communication
      • Can use System.Net.Mail.SMTPClient
    • Write email “messages” to a queue and then dequeue and send
    • Need to use a relay service so that your “From Email” address does not get blocked/spam
    • smtp4Dev is a great tool for use in Development
    • authsmtp is a production ready email relay service that may be beneficial

3. Configuration Profiles

    • Avoid web.config for
      • settings that vary between staging, production
      • settings that require experimentation for performance
      • settings that support diagnostics and test
    • Use the Azure Service config files instead
      • ServiceConfig.Local.cscfg
      • ServiceConfig.Cloud.cscfg

4. Don’t forget to Cache

    • You don’t realize how much latency that accessing frequent data creates
      • Co-locate Cache with across roles
      • Together produce distributed cache total
      • Any role can access
    • Be careful, Cache is not durable, may not live forever
    • Use for optimization
    • Performance increases are phenomenal

5. Watch your Queuing costs

    • Costs may escalate due to the amount of polling
    • If you are polling, you are paying
    • Understand the differences between Service Bus and Azure Storage Queues 
      • Message lifetime
      • Max message size
      • Max total storage
      • Duplicate detection
      • Order guarantees
      • Dead letter queue
      • Storage metrics
      • Purge capability
      • Long polling/manual back-off polling
    • Initial decisions are about cost and agility
      • consider Storage Queues due to back-off polling

6. Collect Diagnostics

    • When writing new project, there is a lot of hacking going on because you are trying to be fast
    • Difference between getting it done and getting it done properly
    • Create a diagnostic helper and establish patterns

7. Monitor from outside

    • Azure Ping free monitoring tools
      • Sends SMS or email when monitoring
        • Storage
        • SQL
        • Queues
        • Is site running?
    • Azure Watch
      • Monitoring and alerts

8. Don’t drink the no-SQL Kool-Aid

    • VCs love “NoSQL”
      • Can be pressure from VCs to use it
      • VCs think it is cheaper to manage because you don’t need a DBA
        • Asking for trouble if you don’t understand your relational data model
    • Need people who understand SQL to look into NOSQL and report back to the group on what the pitfalls are
    • Go to NoSQL for obvious stuff
      • search indexes
      • GEO data
      • profile data (coming from social media)
    • Keep core competencies in RDBMS
    • Then reach out to NoSQL  experts to help bridge the two worlds

9. Enable Social Logins and Simplify Sign Up

    • You want conversion rates – make it dead simple then!
      • ACS facilitates this – simple to use
        • Dirt cheap per transaction
    • The more you ask from a user to register, the less likely they are to sign up
    • Keep it simple you will get conversions
      • Pinterest – only email address to sign up?

10. Estimate your costs

    • Layers of cost
      • Storage
      • Storage Transactions
      • Bandwidth (# 1 thing if you have  a lot of media)
      • Cache
      • ServiceBus
      • SQL Azure
      • Bandwidth
    • Need to run estimates
      • scenario based
    • BizSpark may offer some cost savings for new startups

Service Bus Overview – Clemens Vasters and Abhishek Lal

As usual Clemens put on a good show. This time Abhishek joined him in this presentation and provided some solid demos.  The first half of the presentation was largely a review for me as Service Bus is an area that I try to stay up to speed on.  The second half of the presentation introduced some new tooling and features as part of the June 2012 release.  Selfishly, I don’t want to go into too many details here as I would like to actually play with some of these features and then provide a more complete blog post(s) in order to provide these subjects with some additional context.   Stay tuned!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Microsoft TechEd North America 2012–Day 1


The Keynote started off like a Keynote from another technology company.  A DJ was spinning tunes and also showed off his new ‘turntable’ that runs on Windows technology and is all the rage these days (so he says).




Post DJ dialog, Satya Nadella stepped up to the mic and provided some insight into the state of computing inside and outside of Microsoft.  He provided the following:

  • We are at the shift of a new paradigm.  Much like at the dawn of Client-Server, we find ourselves in a position where we need to re-invent ourselves by leveraging new technologies such as the cloud.
  • Microsoft is focused on providing Services at internet scale
    • Microsoft currently runs some of the worlds biggest apps (Xbox live, Bing, Exchange, CRM)
    • feedback loop
    • global scale, 24 x7
    • ultra-modularity.
    • 16 major Microsoft Data centers around the world
    • Bing 300 petabytes of data
    • Microsoft battle testing each piece of new technology released
    • Bing is running on top of the the Windows Server 2012 RC
      • You can’t “head fake” this type scale

Next up was Jason Zander and he was here to speak about some of the advancements in the Windows Server and System Center product space.  Jason added that datacenters, no matter on-premise or cloud, are required to be more responsive to ever changing business needs.  Much like everything, it seems, these days people want services cheaper, faster and delivered yesterday.  The advancements in Windows Server and System Center have been created to address these needs(well except the yesterday bit).

The Modern Datacenter needs to be:

  • Scalable and elastic
  • Always up, always on
  • Shared Resources
  • Automated and self service

Windows Server 2012

  • Windows Server 2012 has been designed to handle “workloads that can’t be virtualized”
    • unprecedented hardware configurations
    • 64 node clusters and 4000 VMs in a single cluster
    • If you own a SAN, using Windows Server 2012 is a no brainer
      • 10gb file copied in 10 seconds using ODX
    • 80 000 customers downloaded Windows Server RC in first week
    • ~150 TAP customers

Mark Russinovich was up next.  He wanted to discuss some of the advances that the Azure team has made in the area of supporting durable Virtual Machines in Azure.  One of the more humorous moments was when he referred to a slide that had a Linux logo on it: “no we didn’t get hacked, we do support Linux”.

Provisioning Cloud infrastructure

  • New Metro interfaces in portal
  • VMs now supported includes
    • OpenLogic
    • SUSE
    • Ubunto
    • Windows Server 2008 R2
    • Windows Server 2012 RC
  • We can deploy a new VM into a segregated “corporate network” in Azure (I assume this means what previously was known as Brooklyn")

The CIO from Aflac, an insurance company, who has deployed a SharePoint solution to Azure was brought on stage to share his experiences with Azure.  They have built a solution by provisioning VMs into Azure.  Aflac chose Azure based upon the agility and flexibility that it provides.

Cloud and Aflac (CIO)


  • Need Agility
  • Flexibility
    • Aflac may run promotions or have peak usage periods based upon customer policy expiration dates
  • Performance
    • They have many different locals and support offices in many different regions.  They need global scale to reduce latency
      • Japan is a heavy user of their services


  • SharePoint 2010
    • Built on VMs hosted on Azure
    • One use case is to schedule customer appointments  with a Customer Service representative
      • Capture this information in Azure and then bridge it back to On Premise using VPN (Azure Connect)
  • 12 VMs support solution including
    • SharePoint App Servers
    • SharePoint Web front ends
    • SQL Server cluster
    • AD cluster
    • SCOM
  • Use availability sets to further mitigate failure points
  • Looking to use Azure for extranet and customer scenarios

The Keynote then shifted towards the Developer experience including new Azure and Visual Studio 2012 functionality.

Inside the modern Application

  • Personal App experiences are now mandatory
  • Social is something that needs to be built into application and can’t be a “bolt” on
  • Build, Measure, Learn, Move

New Tools:

  • Visual Studio 2012


  • .Net 4.5

Comprehensive Runtime

  • Windows Server
  • Azure



    • Built in support for Mobile and Web Applications
    • pluggable emulators

HTML is now supported for LightSwitch

  • You can create a Mobile Client using HTML5/Jquery/Javascript/CSS)

Keynote Summary

Having the DJ out there at the beginning was a nice touch.  I am sure they wanted to pump up the crowd and generate some excitement.  I think they hit the mark here but slowly the energy started to drain.  There were several demos that didn’t work or required a second take for them to run.  This is a bit of a let down as an attendee.  Sure “stuff happens” but it seems like there could have been more rehearsing happening before hand.

I also felt Microsoft missed an opportunity to talk about Windows 8 and consumer devices.  Arguably this is not the right time or place to do this but everyone in the building uses a computer on a day to day basis as part of their job.  I would have loved to seen some demos of some slick new tablets or ultra books running the latest offerings.  Ironically I heard more people talking about the newly released MacBook Pro today than Windows 8 devices.  I see this as suitable evidence that they missed the mark considering the “pro” Microsoft audience at this conference.

Windows Azure Today and Tomorrow (Scott Guthrie)

If you have never seen Scott speak…you are missing out.  He has this uncanny ability to take an awkward situation and make people laugh.  He did this at Summit with his “Bob” Azure site and once again today with his “Dude” Azure site.  He is very engaging and enjoys ‘pop-star’ status amongst the Microsoft loyalists.

In his presentation, he elaborated on some of the recent news that he shared at the Meet Azure event.  More specifically he focused on the new durable VM support, Azure Websites and ServiceBus.  Surprisingly he even included “BizTalk” a couple times and  he did not include the words “death, dead, soon to be dead or shot dead” in the same sentence.

General Update

  • Azure is flexible, open and solid
  • Microsoft has opened their minds to new platforms and open source
    • Linux hosted on Azure
    • SDKs being opened and hosted on GitHub
  • 99.95% monthly SLA
  • Pay only for what you use
    • Scale your resources as you grow


Scott then reminded the attendees with MSDN that it includes Azure benefits

  • Benefits are based upon type of MSDN account (Pro/Premium/Ultimate)
  • Free trial
    • If you use MSDN your hours will be credited

Durable VMs

  • Create a new VM in seconds/minutes
  • Users have Full Admin on the provisioned server via RDP
  • Can install your own applications on the durable VMs including SQL, SharePoint and BizTalk (check out Steff-Jan’s BizTalk post here)
    • Storage is replicated to 3 locations
      • Seamless failover
    • Async  backup to another datacenter at least 500 miles away
      • Don’t have to do this if you don’t want to
  • Websites
    • Build with ASP.Net,  Node.js or PHP
    • Deploy in seconds with FTP, GIT or TFS
    • Start for free, scale up as your traffic grows
  • Shared Mode (Free)
    • 10 websites for free
    • other tenants co-hosted
  • Reserve Mode (Pay as you go)
    • Dedicated VMs
    • No other tenants
  • Charge for VMs on a per hour basis
  • Converting existing applications to cloud is easy
    • Right mouse click and select “Add Cloud Services Project”
    • Another Azure package will be added to solution
    • Create new roles
      • backend
      • front end
  • VMs are always being monitored and if a failure does exist, your application will be migrated to a new VM to ensure of business continuity
  • You have the granularity to spin up or down a particular worker role.
  • You can RDP into a Role instance as well
  • Cloud allows you to focus on apps and not infrastructure
  • Azure is great for the following scenarios:
    • Burst/bust scenarios
    • Seasonal events (tax, Christmas, Thanksgiving)
    • Dev/Test
    • Sales/Promotions
  • Many SDKs are supported
    • .net
    • java
    • python
    • php
    • node.js
  • SQL Database
    • Relational SQL Server Engine in the cloud
    • Clustered for HA
    • Fully managed service
      • backups
    • SQL Reporting support
    • Provisioned in seconds
    • Can scale to 150 gb in seconds
    • Can be accessed from ADO.Net
      • Can be accessed from on-premise/cloud, websites etc.
  • BLOB storage
    • HA, scalable and secure file system
    • Blobs can be exposed publically over http
    • Continuous geo-replication
  • Distributed Cache
    • low latency, in memory distributed cache
    • Dynamically grow and shrink cache size
    • ha support
    • memcached protocol support
    • Twitter demo went from 1.6 seconds to retrieve tweets from twitter down to .29 ms
  • ServiceBus
    • Secure messaging and relay capabilities
    • Easily build hybrid apps

Windows Azure Today and Tomorrow Summary

Overall it was a good session.  Like I mentioned before, Scott is a great speaker and I enjoyed listening to him.  Some of the content he provided I have seen at Summit, but I certainly can’t hold that against him.  I think this was a great introduction to Azure for people that have not seen it before or for those who took a look a few years back and are now interested in learning more about it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

BizTalk Book Release: Microsoft BizTalk Server 2010 (70-595) Certification Guide

I received word from Packt Publishing today that our book has officially been published.  This book has been around 10 months in the making so it is very rewarding to see this book released.

The intent of this book is to prepare experienced BizTalk developers and administrators with the tools that they need to write the exam.  It was an interesting project and different from my last book adventure. In the BizTalk LOB book we were really interested in addressing a few core concepts within a particular chapter.  For instance in the SAP chapter, I emphasized on how to send and receive IDOCs.  This time around in the MCTS book we needed to address the requirements of the exam to ensure that we provided proper coverage.  I definitely feel that we did hit the areas that we needed to hit.

Another interesting aspect of the MCTS book was our existing NDA as we all wrote (and passed) the exam before starting out on our journey.  This book is not a  cheat sheet.  You won’t find the exact questions and answers on the exam.  Overall the book is around 467 pages so there is a lot of content to cover.  If you invest the time in reading the book and working through the examples and practice tests, I am confident that you will do well on the exam.

It was a pleasure working with the other authors: Johan Hedberg and Morten la Cour.  Writing books is not always a smooth process and Johan, as the lead author, did a great job keeping the book moving.  I had not worked with Morten before the project and appreciated the professionalism that he brought to the project.

Creating a polished product like this book takes more than just talented authors.  There is a core team that is working behind the scenes that really make these projects successful.  With that said I would like to thank the Packt team for their determination in getting this project to the printers.  I would also like to thank the very talented reviewers who held us in check and increased the quality of the book.  These reviewers include:

The book is available for purchase from both Packt and Amazon websites.




What’s Next?

I have already been asked by a few people, what’s next?  Do you have another book coming out?  I do not have any immediate plans to write another book.  If a topic did come up that was extremely interesting I would consider it.    Writing is a very large time commitment and has been a very positive experience but I do want to spend some time reading(and learning new things)  instead of writing.