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Programming Windows Azure: Book Review

What’s common between Pink Poodle, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek, inscriptions on a granite stone, traffic in India and Cloud Computing? Well, you got to read Programming Windows Azure to figure that out!

Programming Windows Azure

Almost a year ago, I got the opportunity to be the technical reviewer for Programming Windows Azure by Sriram Krishnan published by O’reilly. As a reviewer, I must say that I was pretty impressed by the technical content even in its early days.

I know Sriram from his college days and saw him as a passionate kid who would make things happen. He contributed to various articles on MSDN even before he stepped out of his student life. I have noticed that writing and public speaking are almost mutually exclusive skills. Many great authors are not the best speakers in town. But Sriram is a gifted technologist who manages to do both with great élan! When he told me that he would be writing a book, I was excited and knew that it is going to be a top seller in its segment and let me admit, I am not disappointed a bit. What I found unique in this book is the way each chapter starts. You suddenly feel that you are introduced to an event in history or a planetary phenomenon that is not remotely connected to Cloud Computing and then you are taken into the thick of action related to Windows Azure. This transition is very natural, smooth and turns reading this highly technical piece of work enjoyable and fun.

The very first chapter of the book starts with the right tone and sets the context for rest of the chapters. This demystifies the terminology and taxonomy used in the Cloud Computing domain. As one of the first team members of Project “Red Dog” (code name for Windows Azure in its early days), Sriram gives an insight into the evolution of Windows Azure. The trivia that he shares makes it an interesting read all through. By end of this, you would appreciate the concept of Cloud and walk away with clear understanding of why Azure was conceptualized.

The second chapter is a gem! You wouldn’t find the information shared in this elsewhere. This exposes the internals of Windows Azure and dives deep into the Datacenters, Hypervisor, Fabric Controller and the VM architecture. This is a great reference for anyone who wants to go beyond the basics and get a sense of what goes behind the scenes.

The third chapter is where you would fire up Visual Studio and write your first Cloud application. This provides the essential information to successfully create your Hello World app on Azure. The author has taken care not to overwhelm the readers with unwanted complexity when encountering the platform for the first time.

The next few chapters take off from the last chapter and goes deep into the Service Model, Service Runtime, Role Life Cycle and Service Management API. Again, these chapters offer valuable insights into the platform in a lucid form.

Chapter 6 is about treating Windows Azure as a generic compute platform. Concepts like Native Code Execution, FastCGI and running PHP apps are covered in this chapter. You can safely skip this chapter if you are a hardcore Microsoft developer focused on ASP.NET. However, you may want to return to this when you want to extract the best out of the Worker Roles and make them execute tasks in a generic mode.

Chapter 7 to 11 deals with Azure Storage and provides a very comprehensive coverage of Tables, Blobs and Queues. You will understand the concepts of REST access and the way the storage is designed for scalability. Some of the practical scenarios like using LINQ to enumerate Azure Tables are also covered in these chapters. Chapter 11 is especially useful as it provides real world scenarios of using Azure Storage. This puts the concepts in a perspective and offer guidance around common Cloud storage scenarios.

Chapter 12, which is the last but one addresses the security concerns around moving to the Cloud. This chapter uses backup as a scenario to explore the Windows Azure security concepts. I found it useful to have serious discussions around Cloud data security with my customers when designing enterprise Cloud migration scenarios.

The last chapter introduces SQL Azure as the relational database on the Cloud. Since this book focuses on the Windows Azure component, this, by no means is a comprehensive guide to SQL Azure. But it does touch upon the key differences between SQL Server and SQL Azure and the tips and tricks to migrate data to SQL Azure.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a thorough understanding of Windows Azure.

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Janakiram MSV heads the Cloud Infrastructure Services at Aditi Technologies. He was the founder and CTO of Get Cloud Ready Consulting, a niche Cloud Migration and Cloud Operations firm that recently got acquired by Aditi Technologies. In his current role, he leads a highly talented engineering team that focuses on migrating and managing applications deployed on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure Infrastructure Services.
Janakiram is an industry analyst with deep understanding of Cloud services. Through his speaking, writing and analysis, he helps businesses take advantage of the emerging technologies. He leverages his experience of engaging with the industry in developing informative and practical research, analysis and authoritative content to inform, influence and guide decision makers. He analyzes market trends, new products / features, announcements, industry happenings and the impact of executive transitions.
Janakiram is one of the first few Microsoft Certified Professionals on Windows Azure in India. Demystifying The Cloud, an eBook authored by Janakiram is downloaded more than 100,000 times within the first few months. He is the Chief Editor of a popular portal on Cloud called www.CloudStory.in that covers the latest trends in Cloud Computing. Janakiram is an analyst with the GigaOM Pro analyst network where he analyzes the Cloud Services landscape. He is a guest faculty at the International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad (IIIT-H) where he teaches Big Data and Cloud Computing to students enrolled for the Masters course. As a passionate speaker, he has chaired the Cloud Computing track at premier events in India.
He has been the keynote speaker at many premier conferences, and his seminars are attended by thousands of architects, developers and IT professionals. His sessions are rated among the best in every conference he participates.
Janakiram has worked at the world-class product companies including Microsoft Corporation, Amazon Web Services and Alcatel-Lucent. Joining as the first employee of Amazon Web Services in India, he was the AWS Technology Evangelist. Prior to that, Janakiram spent 10 years at Microsoft Corporation where he was involved in selling, marketing and evangelizing the Microsoft Application Platform and Tools.