Windows Azure Renewed!

Since last week Thursday (June 7 2012) is the new HTML portal of Windows Azure live and available for everyone. This new portal is a relief compared to the Silverlight one. And that was really better then this predecessor.

Remember? http://marcelmeijer.net/blogs/marcel/archive/2010/11/30/windows-azure-1-3.aspx

The first portal gave the feeling to paint your hallway through the letterbox slot in the door. There was not much to manage.

But that is the past, what is new on the Windows Azure Management Portal.

He is now available through the https://manage.windowsazure.com. And like I said before no more Silverlight, but pure HTML. The consequence of that is, you can manage your Cloud Services from an i-Pad or non Microsoft mobile device. Keep in mind that it still is a preview (fully functional though), but not all the functionalities from the ‘old’ portal are rebuild and moved.

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At the left side you see all the old and new things you can manage via the portal. The once we know from the ‘old’ portal: Cloud Services, SQL Databases, Storage and Networks. These are the new names for Hosted Services, Storage Accounts & CDN, Databases and Virtual Network.

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Websites and Virtual Machines are new additions. In another Blog post I will come back to them, they deserve a post on their own. To go short Websites are websites like you know with current hosting providers. Virtual Machines (no, no equal to the old VM role) are now real persistent Virtual Machines. These are even NOT limited to the Microsoft OS-en, you can choice for some Linux distributions. It is now also possible to run your own SQL Server in de Cloud without a migration to SQL Database on Windows Azure. This makes Windows Azure much more mature as a Cloud supplier and covers the complete spectrum (IAAS and PAAS). Microsoft is already know for the SAAS products (Office 365, Hotmail, Bing etc).

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(Special thankts to David Pallman who made this picture)

The portal is divided in three parts. A header at the top, where the functies are to get qucik to www.windowsazure.comand your account data. This header drop down when clicking on the arrow and hides when it loses focus. In the middle there is the important part of the portal. Almost every sub page uses a grid in some way. Unfortunately you can not change the width of the columns, but sorting can be done by clicking on the header of a column. At the bottom there is the action bar. With the big plus sign to go quickly to the wanted functionality (new Cloud Service etc. ) and to the right the info part. This bar needs to be clicked away with the cross or arrow.

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The Storage menu item for instance, there is more than we had before. We see all our storage accounts. We can zoom in to a storage account. In the monitoring chart we see the performance of our storage. Remember, this performance monitoring will cost transactions and therefore money, so use it wisely. If you switch between the different sub pages, you will see the action bar changing and icons being added/removed. I personally miss small tools to manage Tables, queues or blob containers. For a quick action on an i-Pad during a major incident, I do not need or have other tools.

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On the Cloud Services tab we see a list of our services. Nicely and clean. By clicking on a service you will see the details of it. Again first thing you notice is the performance counter. This is very handy. There are many submenus and subpages, I pick a few. See the TFS publishing link? You are able to deploy your Cloud Service from TFS preview. On the monitor tab metrics can be added to gain more insight to the performance of your application.

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But as we go to the Configure tab, there are changes which make us happy! If you wanted to change a setting in your ServiceConfiguration.cscfg then you had to added the XML, with all the errors and mistakes possible. Now there are real input fields. Ok, they could have been little bigger, but that will come I am sure. You want more instances? Go to the scale tab and with the slider decrease or increase the number of instances. How cool!

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On the instances tab you also find tasks to connect to an instance or reimage etc.

On the SQL Databases tab we find what we need to manage a database. If you click on the action bar on manage, you will be redirected to the Silverlight site (previous Project Houston). This will also move to HTML in the future I assume.

New is; when creating a database, you can now select the collation of your database. The federation possibilities are missing in this preview.

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The new portal is much nicer and cleaner qua design. Also there is better logic in the way things are placed. The product is really growing and getting more mature.

If you thought Windows Azure could not be used by you as a solution, perhaps it is now time to rethink this again. Probably some objections are gone.

With all of this belongs a new version of the .NET SDK, namely 1.7. This SDK makes it possible to use multiple SDK next to each other. I will get back to that too!.

In the mean time if you have question, please contact me!

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