Recent Windows Azure Project Highlights: Media, WS-Fed and More…
May 4, 2012 1 Comment
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.
Project Highlight: Image and Video Processing in the Cloud
Slalom engaged with a Media and Entertainment company to conduct a pilot around media processing in the cloud. A cloud-based image and video processing solution was developed as part of this engagement. The basic workflow around the solution is as follows:
- The user uploads an asset via a web user interface running in Windows Azure.
- The web site, running as a web role, stores the asset in BLOB storage and writes a message to a Windows Azure Queue indicating the type of transcoding to perform.
- The web site records a job submission to Windows Azure Table Storage for tracking.
- From that point, a series of worker roles poll the transcoding queues for work requests to perform different actions on the asset. There is a worker role for image processing, a worker role for video processing, a worker role for video thumbnail processing, and a worker role for performing encryption tasks.
- Upon completion of the work, the worker roles places the completed asset back into a blob storage account for access and generates a shared access signature which limits access to the final asset.
In addition, an auto-scaling solution was deployed, running in a separate Worker Role using Windows Azure Autoscaling Application Block. This provided the ability to scale up and down the number of worker roles based on the backlog in the queue.
Finally, as part of this engagement, Slalom worked with Microsoft to expose the client to Windows Azure Media Services, Microsoft’s future cloud-based media processing platform. This pilot could easily be ported to leverage Windows Azure Media Services for many of these different media workflow tasks.
Project Highlight: Federated Authentication for a Cloud-hosted Web Application
Slalom engaged with a Fortune 500 company to deliver a cloud-hosted secure web application to an approved set of employees and partners. The application runs in Windows Azure compute as a Web Role and leverages Windows Identity Foundation. Using the supported WS-Federation protocol, end users are required to authenticate with the enterprise’s existing identity management system. This existing on-premise system already managed identities of employees and partners. Through this solution, the company was able to realize the benefits of deploying this solution on Windows Azure, such as cost, time to market, and scalability, while still meeting security requirements.
These are just some of the innovating cloud projects Slalom has been delivering so far in 2012. Stay tuned for more highlights throughout the rest of the year!