Remote Desktop in Windows Azure

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

Another handy new feature enabled with the 1.3 release of the Windows Azure SDK is the ability to use remote desktop to access your Windows Azure Role instances.

There is an important concept to keep in mind when it comes to this feature, and how Windows Azure operates as a Platform-as-a-Service offering:  look but don’t touch.  What I mean is, remote desktop can be used to get visibility into your role instances, but you should not abuse this capability by making any changes.  The Windows Azure Fabric Controller still controls your role instance, and any changes you make will be lost the next time your role is swapped out for a new instance.  Any changes you want to make need to be scripted out and incorporated into Windows Azure Startup Tasks.

Looking inside is very powerful troubleshooting tool now available to developers.  You can bring up Event Viewer, IIS Manager, and Performance Monitor.  You can view IIS Logs and Failed Request Logs.  You can access a log file that your application may be writing to.  Remote Desktop capabilities probably make the migration case easier to Windows Azure.  If you were used to troubleshooting in this manner, you can now do so.

Developers should not, however, rely solely on this means for troubleshooting.  If you scale your application, and lets say you now have 10 web role instances running, it is not going to be feasible to rely on using Remote Desktop for each instance to troubleshoot an issue.  Developers should look at features such as Windows Azure Diagnostics to collect diagnostics for all running instances.

Enabling Remote Desktop for your service can be done via Visual Studio.  For more information, visit http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg443832.aspx.

– Joel

Follow Joel on Twitter: @seattlejoel.

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About Joel Forman
Joel Forman is a Solution Architect at Slalom Consulting and specializes in cloud computing and the Windows Azure Platform.

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