BUILD 2012 – Not just for Windows anymore

Last week marked the second BUILD conference. In 2011, BUILD replaced the Microsoft PDC conference in an event that was so heavily Windows 8 focused that it was even host at While the URL didn’t change for 2012, the focus sure did as this event also marked the latest round of big release news for Windows Azure. In this post (which I’m publishing directly from MS Word 2013 btw), I’m going to give a quick rundown of the Windows Azure related announcements. Think of this as your Cliff Notes version of the conference.

Windows Azure Service Bus for Windows Server – V1 Released

Previously released as a beta/preview back in June, this on-premise flavor of the Windows Azure Service bus is now fully released and available for download. Admittedly, it’s strictly for brokered messaging for now. But it’s still a substantial step towards providing feature parity between public and private cloud solutions. Now we just need to hope that shops that opt to run this will run it as internal SaaS and not set up multiple silos. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to know we have the flexibility to do silos, but I’m hoping we learn from what we’ve seen in the public cloud and don’t fall back to old patterns.

One thing to keep in mind with this… It’s now possible for multiple versions of the Service Bus API to be running within an organization. To date, the public service has only had two major API versions. But going forward, we may need to be able to juggle even more. And while there will be a push to keep the hosted and on-premises versions at similar versions, there’s nothing requiring someone hosting it on-premises to always upgrade to the latest version. So as solution developers/architects, we’ll want to be prepared for be accommodating here.

Windows Azure Mobile Services – Windows Phone 8 Support

With Windows Phone 8 being formally launched the day before the BUILD conference, it only makes sense that we’d seen related announcements. And a key one of those was the addition of Windows Phone 8 support to Windows Azure Mobile Services. This announcement makes Windows Phone 8, the 3rd supported platform (Windows Store & iOS apps) for Mobile Services. This added to an announcement earlier in the month which expanded support for items like sending email, and different identity providers. So the Mobile Services team is definitely burning the midnight oil to get new features out to this great platform.

New Windows Azure Storage Scalability Targets

New scale targets have been announced for storage accounts created after June 7th 2012. This change has been enabled by the new “flat network” topology that’s being deployed into the Windows Azure Datacenters. In a nutshell, it allows the tps scale targets to be increased by 4x and the upper limit of a storage account to be raised to 200tb (2x). This new topology will continue to be rolled out through the end of the year but will only affect storage accounts created after the 07/12/2012 as mentioned above. These scale target improvements (which BTW are separate from the published Azure Storage SLA) will really help reduce the amount of ‘sharding’ that needs to be done for those with higher throughput requirements.

New 1.8 SDK – Windows Server 2012, .NET 4.5, and new Storage Client

BUILD also marked the launch of the new 1.8 Windows Azure SDK. This release is IMHO the most significant update to the SDK since the 1.3 version was launched almost 2 years ago. You could write a blog post any one of the key features, but since they are all so closely related and this is supposed to be a highlight post, I’m going to bundle it up.

The new SDK introduces the new “OS Family 3” to Windows Azure Cloud Services giving us support for Windows Server 2012. Now when you combine this with the added support for .NET 4.5 and IIS 8, we can start taking advantage of technology like Web Sockets. Unfortunately Web Sockets are not enabled by default so there is some work you’ll need to do to take advantage of it. You may also need to tweak the internal Windows Firewall. A few older Guest OS’s were also depreciated so you may want to refer to the latest update of the compatibility matrix.

The single biggest, and subsequently most confusing piece of this release has to do with the new 2.0 Storage Client. Now this update includes some great features including support for a preview release of the storage client toolkit for Windows Runtime (Windows Store) apps. However, there are some SIGNIFICANT changes to the client, so I’d recommend you review the list of Breaking Changes and Known Issues before you decide to start converting over. Fortunately, all the new features are in a new set of namespaces (Windows.AzureStorage.StorageClient has become simply Windows.Azurestorage.Storage). So this does allow you to mix and match old functionality with the new. But forewarned is forearmed as they say. So read up before you just dive into the new client headlong.

For more details on some of the known issues with this SDK and the workarounds, refer to the October 2012 release notes and you can learn about all the changes to the Visual Studio tools by checking out “What’s New in the Windows Azure Tools“.

HDInsight – Hadoop on Windows Azure

Technically, this was released the week before BUILD, but I’m going to touch on it none the less. A preview of HDInsight has been launched that allows you to help test out the new Apache™ Hadoop® on Windows Azure service. This will feature support for common frameworks such as Pig and Hive and it also includes a local developer installation of the HDInsight Server and SDK for writing jobs with .NET and Visual Studio.

It’s exciting to see Microsoft embracing these highly popular open source initiatives. So if you’d doing anything with big data, you may want to run over and check out the blog post for additional details.

Windows Azure – coming to China

Doug Hauger also announced that Microsoft has reached an agreement (Memorandum of Understanding, aka an agreement to start negotiations) which will license Windows Azure technologies to 21Vianet. This will in turn allow them to offer Windows Azure in China from local datacenters. While not yet a fully “done deal”, it’s a significant first step. So here’s hoping the discussions are concluded quickly and that this is just the first of many such deals we’ll see struck in the coming year. So all you Aussies, hold out hope! J

Other news

This was just the beginning. The Windows Azure team ran down a slew of other slightly less high-profile but equally important announcements on the team blog. Items like a preview of the Windows Azure Store, GA (general availability) for the Windows Azure dedicated, distributed in-memory cache feature launched back in June with the 1.7 SDK, and finally the launch of the Visual Studio Team Foundation Service which has been in preview for the last year.

In closing…

All in all, it was a GREAT week in the cloud. Or as James Staten put it on ZDNet, “You’re running out of excuses to not try Microsoft Windows Azure“. And this has just been the highlights. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend you run over and check out the session recordings from BUILD 2012 or talk to your local Microsoft representative.

PS – Don’t forget to snag your own copy of the great new Windows Azure poster!


4 Responses to BUILD 2012 – Not just for Windows anymore

  1. Pingback: Windows Azure

  2. Pingback: Web and Cloud

  3. Pingback: Windows Azure Community News Roundup (Edition #44) - Windows Azure Blog

  4. Pingback: Windows Azure Community News Roundup (Edition #44) - Platform as a Service Magazine

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