Ramping Up on the Windows Azure Platform: 200 Level

I was recently asked to put together some material for consultants with the goal of getting to a “200 Level” of knowledge on the Windows Azure Platform and its breadth of capabilities. I thought this would be an opportune time to revamp a previous “getting started” post that I did with some updated content. Below is a 10-hour self-paced training plan, design for bringing someone up to that 200 level…

Read: Understanding the Different Platform Components (~1 hour)

Take a few minutes to read a brief overview of some of the different features of the Windows Azure Platform. Think of these as building blocks. They can be used individually or together to solve problems and build applications. Read more of this post

Recent Windows Azure Project Highlights: Media, WS-Fed and More…

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman specializes in cloud computing and the Windows Azure Platform.

I haven’t been blogging as much in the past few months, but I have a good excuse. I have been heads down over the last few months working with several clients on different, innovative projects that leverage the Windows Azure Platform. From media processing to federated authentication to scalable services and database, Slalom Consulting has been doing great work in the cloud.

Project Highlight: Cloud-based Tax Form Application
Slalom has engaged with an existing tax and accounting firm to build a web-based tax form application that leverages several features of the Windows Azure Platform. The application is an ASP.NET MVC3 application running in Windows Azure compute as a Web Role. Information collected by the application is stored in a SQL Azure relational database. Asynchronous operations, such as data imports and exports, are executed in Windows Azure Compute as Worker Roles, and those operations are triggered by messages stored in Windows Azure Queues. Furthermore, documents related to the tax collection process are securely stored as BLOBs in BLOB Storage.

The web application is configured against the Access Control Service to allow users to authenticate via 2 identity providers. Employees of the firm, who manage their tax clients, authenticate with their corporate credentials via Active Directory Federation Services. Clients themselves authenticate via custom client identities. The client identity store sits behind a custom STS (security token service), also an ASP.NET MVC3 application leveraging Windows Identity Foundation, and running in Windows Azure compute. Read more of this post

Demo: Authentication and Authorization with the Azure Access Control Service

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman specializes in cloud computing and the Windows Azure Platform.

One of my favorite Windows Azure building blocks is the AppFabric’s Access Control Service. It is a great solution for outsourcing authentication and authorization for my website or service. I like that I can code and configure my site in a consistent claims-aware way, leveraging Windows Identity Foundation, regardless of Identity Provider. I like how I only need to worry about my application’s personas (Admins, Members, etc.) and have an interface outside of my application to manage mappings of users to those personas.

One hands-on lab that I have been talking up for a while is one found in the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit, entitled “Introduction to the AppFabric Access Control Service V2″. This uses V2 of the Access Control Service, which is set to publicly release soon as announced at MIX 2011 this week.  I recently sat down and recorded a demo of this lab, with a few extensions:

  • Demonstrating iterating through claims for the current IClaimsPrincipal
  • Configuring the NameClaimType and RoleClaimType in WIF portions of the web.config to facilitate using User.IsInRole(“RoleName”) and the authorization section of the web.config.
  • Demonstrating restricting a section of your website to a role via web.config.

Here is the demo, which is about 20 minutes in length:

I hope you can see how easy it can be to leverage the ACS in a ASP.NET website.  It is a great feature that can be leveraged both in sites running in Windows Azure or outside the cloud.

Follow Joel on Twitter: @seattlejoel.


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