One-cloud solution takes a media company to new heights

Art Fort

Art Fort

For the past year, I’ve been working with a media and entertainment client on a SaaS application. Hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the application provides creative professionals with a “one-cloud” solution for media and content collection, collaboration, production, and transcoding of high-value, high-definition content.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of this project from the beginning—starting with some small proof of concepts, to doing a cloud migration assessment of their on-premise technologies, and ultimately contributing to application architecture, development, and deployment onto AWS. For me, two things set this project apart: the team and the technology. Read more of this post

Webinar: Accelerating SharePoint for Mobile Solutions on the AWS Cloud

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

I wanted to take the opportunity to post about an exciting upcoming live webinar that is being co-delivered by Slalom Consulting and Amazon Web Services entitled Accelerating SharePoint for Mobile Solutions on the AWS Cloud.

On Wednesday, August 15th at 10:00 AM PST, we will bring several emerging topics together around mobility and the cloud. You will have the opportunity to learn more about how to make SharePoint applications available to your mobile users using the AWS cloud directly from an AWS Solution Architect. Then, we will demonstrate how they can quickly and securely mobilize SharePoint content with our SharePoint Mobile Accelerator. The Accelerator is a framework that can target both on-premise and cloud SharePoint implementations, and allows for rapid development of custom iPhone & iPad applications to enable your growing mobile workforce while maintaining corporate security standards.

Here are the individuals that will be presenting during this live session: Read more of this post

Your Future in the Clouds: How Cloud Computing is Transforming the IT Landscape

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

Since 2008, I have been working on building applications on the cloud.  Over the past four years, I have seen terms such as “platform-as-a-service”, “multi-tenancy”, “elastic compute”, and “hybrid-cloud” become part of my everyday vocabulary. Sometimes I lose sight of the fact that the cloud itself is still an emerging space. There are many companies today who have yet to explore the opportunities that may exist for their organization in the way of cloud services. And there are many more individuals who hear the buzzwords are not quite sure what they mean and why they should care about them.

Dan Maycock, fellow Slalom consultant and national lead for technology strategy, and I recently took a step back and published a white paper entitled Your Future in the Clouds: How Cloud Computing is Transforming the IT Landscape. Geared towards the cloud newbie, the paper talks about cloud computing, some of its key concepts and benefits, and highlights a few of the projects Slalom has recently completed in the space. We try to provide a simple perspective on topics such as Computing Models, Storage, Security, and countless others.

Recently our paper has been featured on CIO.com! We look forward to helping you navigate the cloud and realize the opportunities that exist in your organization.

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

Building and Deploying Windows Azure Projects using MSBuild and TFS 2010

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

Windows Azure tools for Visual Studio makes it very easy for a developer to build and deploy Windows Azure projects directly from within Visual Studio. This works fine for a single developer working independently. But for developers working on projects as part of a development team, there is the need to integrate the ability to build and deploy the project from source control via a central build process.

There are some good resources out there today that talk about how to approach this. Tom Hollander has a great blog post on Using MSBuild to deploy to multiple Windows Azure environments, which leverages an approach that Alex Lambert blogged about regarding how to handle the ServiceConfiguration file for different environments. However, the new Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 1.4 introduced some changes into this process that will now have to be accounted for, such as a separate Windows Azure targets file, and the concept of a Cloud configuration setting. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to dive into updating our build process for Windows Azure projects to be in line with these changes. The following post will cover configurations in Visual Studio, packaging from Visual Studio and the command line, packaging on a build server, and finally deploying from a build server.

Before I dug in, I came up with some goals for my Windows Azure build process. Here is what was at the top of my list: Read more of this post

Windows Azure Platform: August 3rd Links

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

It has been a few weeks since my last post in my link-listing series regarding Windows Azure, but there have been several things that have caught my eye in that period.  Happy to share with other Azure enthusiasts…

There have been some announcements regarding toolkits for Windows Azure:

  • Update for Windows Azure Toolkit for iOS: The toolkit for iOS now supports several new features such as integration with the Access Control Service.  I see this as a great enabler for building federated authentication capabilities to AD, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Live ID, other Open ID providers directly into native iPhone and iPad applications.
  • Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games:  A new toolkit to enable game development on Windows Azure.  Complete source code from an example game, Tankster, is available.
  • Architecture of Tankster: Nathan Totten describes the architecture of the social game Tankster, built on Windows Azure, in a couple nice posts.

Here are a few recent posts from Cory Fowler, Windows Azure MVP,  that I think are pretty useful: Read more of this post

Windows Azure Fundamentals: Where To Begin

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

A self guided half-day introduction

There is a ton of information available today about Windows Azure.  The sources are endless: MSDN, TechNet, Channel9, CodePlex, Blogs, Tweets, WhitePapers, Labs, Kits, SDKs, etc.  The question of where to start gets more and more relevant with the amount of information out there.  Therefore, I have provided some of the materials I think are worthy of the first look.

These recommendations are based upon one goal: learn as much about Windows Azure as possible in a half day’s time across articles, whitepapers, videos, and labs.  There are extensive learning opportunities beyond these, but hopefully this provides a good place to start.

Preparation

The Windows Azure Platform Training Kit has some nice material for Read more of this post

Geo-Distributed Services and Other Examples with the Windows Azure Traffic Manager

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

In April, Microsoft introduced a new component to the Windows Azure platform called Windows Azure Traffic Manager.  Traffic Manager, falling under the Windows Azure Virtual Network, allows for the ability to control how traffic is distributed to multiple hosted services in Windows Azure.  These services (i.e. web site, web application, or web services) can be in the same data center or in different data centers across the globe.

You may be wondering how this is different from the load-balancing provided by Windows Azure for your hosted service.  Windows Azure provides load-balancing across all of the instances you have running in a single Windows Azure service.  The big difference here is that Traffic Manager is not custom load-balancing for a single service but for multiple services.  This means that I can deploy my service several times (even to different regions), have my end-users hitting a single address, and control how those end-users are routed to those difference services.  Really cool.

How Traffic Manager Works

One of the great things about Traffic Manager is that it Read more of this post

Windows Azure Platform: May 22nd Links

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

I have been doing these posts for several months now.  Basically, I keep a running list of interesting links related to the Windows Azure Platform.  When that list gets long enough, I turn it into a post like you below, and repeat the process.  Here are the latest links I think are worth sharing from the past few weeks:

In addition, here are a couple good reads that are industry-related…
Slalom Consulting's Seattle Office Slalom Consulting Cloud
More about Slalom Consulting’s Seattle office. More about Slalom Consulting’s Cloud focus.

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