Increasing Developer Productivity with Windows Azure

Slalom Consultant Joel Forman

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

For the past two and a half years I have been building solutions on the Windows Azure Platform.  It’s fun to reflect on how developing for Windows Azure has changed my day-to-day activities as a developer. One of the greatest areas of impact is how much less time I spend installing and configuring environments.  Amazing to think that now all of that time gets re-purposed into the application I am working on.

It wasn’t that long ago that at the start of a project I would be working on the following…

  • Determining a hosting provider; or establishing communication channels within IT of an organization
  • Determining and communicating our infrastructure and software requirements for the project
  • Determining storage capacity requirements
  • Waiting on allocation of infrastructure and/or means of access
  • Installing and configuring software, from IIS and the .NET Framework to SQL Server and other dependencies
  • Determining and creating service accounts to be used
  • Determining public and private IPs, ports and firewall rules, and other networking requirements to enable connectivity

At this point I might be able to deploy something (manually) by copying over the files (manually) and access the solution from the internet.  Yes!  Then I would start to think about a number of other concerns…

  • Documenting the installation and configuration process of environments for the next time
  • Building out of additional environments that would be needed (TEST, UAT, PROD, etc.)
  • The needs and associated tasks around implementing SQL Server replication
  • How we will automate the deployment process or work with existing groups with their existing deployment processes
  • Thinking ahead to additional capacity needs and capacity planning

All of these tasks are vital, but take time and resources away from building the solution itself.  Isn’t there an easier way?

Over the past two and a half years working with solutions targeting the Windows Azure Platform I have not had to spend my time in these areas.  If you told me that I was starting on a new project right now, I could probably have all of this done within the hour.  Windows Azure is ready when you are — no waiting.  Once you have signed up for a Windows Azure subscription, it becomes a matter of clicking buttons in a Management Portal to provision new environments for services, new SQL Azure databases, new Windows Azure Storage accounts.  In addition, the deployment process has been automated for me.  I now have the capability to build my solution (from Visual Studio or a Build Server) into a package file, and Azure (or more specifically, the Fabric Controller) can take this package and its configuration and give me back fresh a VM instance (or instances!) with my application installed, configured and running.

What will I do will all this extra time?  Guess I will just deliver more features in our solution and more value back to our clients.  Do I miss not being able to have access to the underlying infrastructure?  Not one bit.

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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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