April, 2011

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    Moving Your Solution to the Cloud

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    Moving Your Application to the Cloud

    When considering Windows Azure and the Cloud, architects and developers are often discouraged, thinking that in order to move a solution to the Cloud it must be reengineered to support the Cloud. Fortunately, that is not the case as there are different ways that a solution can take advantage of the Cloud.

    Designed For Windows Azure – Consider this option if you are in the process of planning or developing the next release of your solution. When you design your solution for Windows Azure, you take advantage of the cloud-based services available with Windows Azure – commonly Blob Storage, Tables, Queues, and SQL Azure. Going a step further, you may leverage the programmatic scalability of Windows Azure to allow your solution to scale up and down as it needs in order to handle additional traffic or increased processing loads. The Windows Azure programming model is what enables this for your solution (and the application(s) with in it) and it is worth getting familiar with it in order to optimize how your solution can leverage the power of the Cloud. To learn more, you can download the Why Develop in the Cloud: The Windows Azure Programming Model whitepaper.

    Compatible with Windows Azure – if rewriting portions of your solution to use cloud-based services is not an option or is not on the product roadmap in the near future, it does not mean that you cannot leverage Windows Azure to realize the infrastructure and cost benefits that come with the Cloud. For non-complex solutions, within an hour, you can convert an existing web application or service project to a Cloud project, deploy your database to SQL Azure, connect the application or service to the SQL Azure database, deploy the Cloud package, and you are up and running (if you would like to see how this is done, try it yourself by following the steps in Deploying a Simple Cloud App). You do not have to use all of the additional services provided by Windows Azure. If and when your solution expands further, you can look at the additional services as available tools when you go to architect your new features.

    If you have a more complex solution, the parts of your solution may not necessarily work well in Web and Worker roles. With the Windows Azure VM role, you can run your solution in the Cloud without any modifications. Though you manage the VM completely and are required to maintain the VM (patches, fixes, etc.), you are still taking advantage of the Windows Azure environment: immediate scalability, in-place upgrades with no service downtown, and load-balanced traffic. This is a great option with which to get started on your journey to adopt the Cloud.

    Having said that, the best way to determine which areas of your solution can and cannot be modified easily to leverage Cloud services is to give it a try! Before you go ahead, make changes to your solution, and start testing those changes, you are going to want to:

    1. Make sure that you understand Windows Azure under the hood. To do that, take the Windows Azure Jump Start course.
    2. With the concepts understood, take a sample application, as in Deploying a Simple Cloud App, and migrate it to Windows Azure. This will give you an idea of the effort involved in moving an existing application to the Cloud and will allow you to extrapolate and plan migration efforts for your application.
    3. For more in-depth application of the concepts, go through the labs included in the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit. These labs will materialize those concepts for you at depth and make sure that you are ready to implement them in your application.

    When you are ready to leverage Cloud services in your solution, send me an email or a message on Twitter. I’d love to connect and see how I can help you and/or connect you with various local Windows Azure experts that can help you, and your organization, on your journey to the (Windows Azure) Cloud.

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    A Career in IT Requires more than Code, Prove you have the Skills for Free!

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    ICTC logoThe traditional view of the developer or system administrator is that of a nerd. A complete geek with no social skills whatsoever (Big Bang Theory anyone?) But those of you who have a successful career in IT understand that even though we work with technology, we also work with people. We have deadlines to meet, we have priorities to balance, we have new staff to train, we have users with requirements.

    I am a big believer in the value of certification. I think it is well worth the effort to become Microsoft certified in the technologies you use. But that is a blog for another day. Microsoft Certifications test your technical skills. If you are a hiring manager, you want to hire someone with a combination of technical and business or soft skills. This has generated demand from the industry for a certification that demonstrates business skills. How do you know an applicant has the necessary business skills for the role. Enter I-ADVANCE Certification! The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) has developed certifications that validate your business skills for different IT roles. There are six professional designations you can earn:

    • Business Management
    • Technical Leadership
    • Software
    • Infrastructure
    • Hardware
    • Quality Control

    In order to offer certification, you need some form of validation that an individual has the necessary skills. ICTC has developed a set of multiple choice exams for each designation with questions to test your knowledge of the competencies. Competencies might include decision making, risk management, business analysis, analytical thinking, or planning and organizing.

    Here’s the really good news! They are ready to beta test the I-ADVANCE certification exams and they are looking for subject matter experts (ie YOU!) to do the beta testing. The results of the beta testing will be used to establish the cut score for the exams. Beta testers will take an online exam for one of the six I-ADVANCE designations in order to test the test items difficulty and quality. The time commitment is two and a half hours. Based on the results of this exam, beta testers can receive one-year certification, once the cut-score has been determined and the I-ADVANCE program becomes operational. A great opportunity for you to help ensure the quality of this new certification and possibly earn a new certification in the process.

    To register contact Gesine Freund at i-advance@ictc-ctic.ca

    My 5

    5 non technical skills I think are important to succeed in IT

    1. The ability to evaluate a tool or technology– Users have problems that technology can help solve. As IT professionals it is up to us to determine which technology is best suited to solve each problem. We need to be able to answer questions like what services or parts of our services are right for the cloud? What should we continue to host ourselves? What do we gain by moving to Silverlight or IE9? Knowing how to evaluate a tool’s strengths and weaknesses so you can pick the right tool for the job is a skill every manager and stakeholder will appreciate.
    2. A desire to learn – One of the challenges of working with IT, is the technology we work with is always changing.  So the most successful IT professionals are those who are are curious about new technologies and make and effort to learn about them. Read a blog, attend a conference, listen to a podcast. See what you can find out about Office 365, or what new features will be offered with Windows Phone 7 Mango.
    3. Persistence – There will come that day when your code just doesn’t work! And you can’t figure out why! Never give up never surrender! Well almost never Smile there does come a point where the answer is, we can’t do it this way (refer to Number 1)
    4. Research skills – You can’t know everything. You need to know where to get resources on new technologies or new features, like say the Canadian Developers blog Winking smile
    5. Willingness to ask questions – Although researching yourself is important, if it takes you half a day to figure out something that someone else could have told you in 5 minutes, you are not using your time effectively. Sadly, on some teams, asking questions is seen as weakness. I believe it is a strength, as long as you have made *some* effort on your own before you ask.
  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    Azure At the Movies: Get In The Cloud

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    When was the last time you had a chance to go to the movie theatre during the day? More importantly, when was the last time you learned something new at the movie theatre? Well Azure at the Movies will not only get you out to the ScotiaBank Theatre on May 5, 2011 from 9 AM to noon, but it will also guarantee that you walk away having learned how to provide stability and elasticity for your web based solutions using Windows Azure.

    Join me and the gang from ObjectSharp, Barry Gervin, Cory Fowler, Dave Lloyd, Bruce Johnson, and Steve Syfuhs for a half day event in Toronto where we’ll explore how Silverlight, ASP.NET MVC, Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio, and Powershell all work together with Windows Azure to give you, the developer, the best development experience and your application the platform to reach infinite scale and success.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011
    Registration: 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
    Seminar: 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
    ScotiaBank Theatre, 259 Richmond Street West, Toronto

    Click here to register.

    I look forward to seeing you there and chatting about your journey to the Cloud and how I may be able to help.

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    AzureFest Makes A Surprise Visit to Calgary This Weekend

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    AzureFest is making a surprise visit to Calgary this weekend! If you haven’t yet heard of AzureFest, check out this post where AzureFest is described in full.

    Remember, AzureFest is a hands-on event. This means that you’ll be following along on your own laptop and actually deploying your solution during the event. In order to get the most out of the experience, make sure to bring your laptop, a power cable if you’re going to need to plug in your laptop, and a credit card. Don’t worry, nothing will be charged to your credit card during AzureFest. Your credit card is just required for activating your Windows Azure account.

    If you want to see for yourself how easy it is to move your existing application to the cloud, this is an event you don’t want to miss. Register early as space is limited.

    Calgary
    University of Calgary, Rm 121 ICT Building
    2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB
    Saturday, April 30, 2011
    Click here to register

    Have plans? No problem! A virtual AzureFest is coming your desktop in May – stay tuned.

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    AzureFest Meets the East Coast

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    East Coast, after many hours of logistics discussions and preparations, AzureFest is coming your way! If you haven’t yet heard of AzureFest, check out this post where AzureFest is described in full.

    Remember, AzureFest is a hands-on event. This means that you’ll be following along on your own laptop and actually deploying your solution during the event. In order to get the most out of the experience, make sure to bring your laptop, a power cable if you’re going to need to plug in your laptop, and a credit card. Don’t worry, nothing will be charged to your credit card during AzureFest. Your credit card is just required for activating your Windows Azure account.

    Here’s the information for the cities on the AzureFest East Coast Tour. If you want to see for yourself how easy it is to move your existing application to the cloud, this is an event you don’t want to miss. Register early as space is limited.

    Moncton
    Greater Moncton Chamber of Commerce Board Room – First Floor
    1273 Main Street, Suite 200, Moncton, NB
    Friday, May 6, 2011 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
    Click here to register

    Presenters: Cory Fowler (@SyntaxC4)

    Fredericton
    UNB Campus
    Room 317, ITC
    Saturday, May 7, 2011 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
    Click here to register

    Presenters: Cory Fowler (@SyntaxC4)

    Halifax
    The Hub
    1673 Barrington St., 2nd Floor, Halifax, NS
    Sunday, May 8, 2011 1:30 PM – 4:30 PM
    Click here to register

    Presenters: Cory Fowler (@SyntaxC4)

    We’re always looking to hear your thoughts and suggestions on the things that we do. If you have any feedback, we’d really appreciate it if you would share it with us here. We’re starting to think of the next wave of AzureFests – what would you like to see us cover in the next hands-on event? Post any and all suggestions you may have here. We’ll take everyone’s input and design AzureFest 2.0 accordingly. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Moncton, Halifax, and Fredericton developers, enjoy AzureFest!

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    Continue Your Cloud Development Learning

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    Windows Azure Jump StartIf you’ve recently joined us for AzureFest in Toronto and Mississauga, thank you for coming out! I hope the session was a worthwhile experience for you and that you were able to see how your existing knowledge and skills with .NET and Visual Studio can be leveraged to develop applications for the Cloud.

    If you’re going to be joining us in another Canadian city, that’s great! I look forward to seeing you there!

    Either way, now you’ve taken the first step and have started working with Windows Azure, why not continue and explore concepts that we didn’t cover at AzureFest?

    Windows Azure Jump Start Videos

    We’ve put together an excellent video series for you called Windows Azure Jump Start. It’s perfect for watching during a lunch break or in the evening when you need or want to think about something other than work. Each video is about 45-50 minutes and focuses on the different areas of Windows Azure: the Windows Azure environment, application lifecycle, storage, diagnostics, security, and scalability.

    Here are the links to the videos, slides, and source code:

    Session 1: Windows Azure Overview

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 2: Introduction to Compute

    Video

    Slides

    Session 3: Windows Azure Lifecycle, Part 1

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 4: Windows Azure Lifecycle, Part 2

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 5: Windows Azure Storage, Part 1

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 6: Windows Azure Storage, Part 2

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 7: Introduction to SQL Azure

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 8: Windows Azure Diagnostics

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 9: Windows Azure Security, Part 1

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 10: Windows Azure Security, Part 2

    Video

    Slides

    Code

    Session 11: Scalability, Caching, & Elasticity, Part 1

    Video

    Slides

    Session 12: Scalability, Caching & Elasticity, Part 2 and Q&A

    Video

    Slides

    But before you get started, I’d like to review with you these three things:

    Windows Azure Subscription

    Do you have a Windows Azure subscription yet? If not, there are three ways to get started:

    MSDN Subscription Benefits: If you have MSDN Premium, MSDN Ultimate, or BizSpark, you have complimentary monthly Windows Azure benefits that you can unlock for learning and testing. For more information on your benefits, check out my blog post, Ramp Up on Windows Azure MSDN Benefits, and activate your benefits today.

    Windows Azure Introductory Special: This one is for you if you’d like to take your time as you go through your learning and testing journey. With the Windows Azure Introductory special, you get Windows Azure hours for free each month. The Introductory special does require a credit card, but as long as you stay within the included hours and resources, you will not be charged for anything. Go ahead and activate your Introductory Special.

    Windows AzureWindows Azure Pass: If you’re a fast learner or need a forcing function to make sure that you do the training in a given period of time, you can activate a 30-day Windows Azure Pass. The Windows Azure Pass provides a comparable number of hours and resources as does the Introductory Special without the need for a credit card. However, after 30-days, your account and anything you may have deployed will be deleted. If you think that 30 days is enough for you and you don’t want to use a credit card, go to http://windowsazurepass.com, select Canada as your country, and enter the promo code CDNDEVS.

    2: Tools for the Cloud

    Once you have your subscription activated, download and install the tool add-ins that you’ll need for that rich development environment experience. You can download them from the Windows Azure Developer Center.

    3: Windows Azure Platform Training Kit

    Last but not least, download the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit.  It includes hands-on labs and several sample applications to help you quickly learn how to use Windows Azure, SQL Azure, and the Windows Azure AppFabric.

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    How to Make Your Code Demos Rock!

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    Do you have to explain your code at team meetings? imageDo you present at user groups, or conferences (if not now perhaps something to work towards)? There are a number of little things you can do to make your code demonstrations more effective. Whether you are working with SQL Server Management Studio, Visual Studio, or the Command Window, it is worth taking a little time to learn a few best practices. That’s why I co-presented a session entitled “Creating Captivating Code” with developer MCT, Christopher Harrison (@geektrainer) at the ``MCT Third Thursday`` April 21st.  If you are an MCT, you can visit the MCT Summit site and see the recorded session. For those of you who are not MCTs, maybe you want to become one (but that’s a blog for another day,) meanwhile, I’ll share a few tips and tricks here.

    The first step is to take some time to learn how to make the most of the tools themselves. For example, if you are doing a demonstration in  Visual Studio, choose Tools | Options from the menu and explore!  You can add or remove line numbers, change the font size, or even the tab settings.  Learning how to use the tool features to make your code appear more clearly will make your demonstrations more effective and can even make you look smarter Smile! Don’t believe me? Next time you are showing someone your code in Visual Studio, put your cursor in the code window and try <ALT><SHIFT><ENTER>. I promise you, your co-worker will look at you impressed and say “Hey, that’s cool! How did you do that?” (by the way to exit this mode use <ALT><U>) Like that trick? There is a great session from TechDays called Visual Studio Tips 2010 and Tricks you can watch to learn more. In SQL Server Management Studio, go to the menu and choose Tools | Options | Environment | Fonts and Colors, choose Selected Text Item and set Background to yellow, and Foreground to black. Now when you highlight part of a SQL command or stored procedure it will jump out at you (no 3D glasses required.) Working in the Command Window? Right click at the top of the Command Window and choose Properties | Font | Size to change the size of the font (I like 12X16.)

    How you write your code affects code demonstrations too. Formatting counts! Indent your If statements and loops, use meaningful variable names, make keywords uppercase in your SQL commands. This makes your code easier to read and consequently easier to understand. Keep your methods short, I don’t need to see the code that declares the connection string when you are trying to show me a LINQ query. If you want to write the code from beginning to end so you can show all the steps required, consider refactoring. For example, if you start your demonstration by creating and opening a connection, refactor that code into a method called OpenConnection and call the method, then go on to write your query. This way when you are explaining the query all eyes are on the query, exactly where you want them!

    My 5

    5 Tricks to improve demonstrations in different tools

    1. For all your demonstrations – Install and use ZoomIt or something equivalent. With Zoomit, you can zoom in when the text or image is too small to see. In particular, Zoomit is great for property windows, Explorer windows and execution plans.
    2. SQL Server Management Studio – Change the Font Size for the Text Editor, Grid Results, and Text Results (Tools Options | Environment | Fonts and Colors)
    3. Visual Studio – Change the Font Size for the code editor window (Tools Options | Environment | Fonts and Colors)
    4. Command Window – Change the Screen Background to White and the Screen Text to Black (Properties | Colors)
    5. Windows Phone 7 – Clean your fingernails. It sounds nitpicky but seeing an enlarged view of dirty fingernails on the projector is actually distracting me from the cool stuff you are trying to show me!

    One of the great debates (aside from VB vs C# but that is a discussion for another day) is whether code demos should be kept simple to just illustrate the concept, or more complicated so they better reflect the real world. I would be curious to know what you think both from a presenter and audience perspective. Should code demonstrations be Simple or Real World?

  • Canadian Solution Developers' Blog

    Jumping In With Both Feet! The Only Way to Become a Developer Evangelist!

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    imageHi there, my name is Susan Ibach, and I am psyched to have just joined the Developer Evangelist team! ( I swear I was hired before Joey announced he was moving on, and no I do not play the accordion)


    I love working with people, I love helping people, and I am a geek, so when the opportunity presented itself to join the developer evangelism team, well, to quote a cheesy Tom Cruise movie “They had me at Hello.” There is so much technology, it is a challenge for developers to keep up! When you find a technology you want to use, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. How do you know what technology to choose for a project? How do you get started with HTML5 without messing up existing applications? How do you play with the latest tools when working on a project that is using COBOL? (yeah, I did COBOL) Working as a developer evangelist I hope I will be able to use my knowledge and resources to help you however I can.


    If you are curious, who is this Susan person? and where did she come from? Read on. For the past 9 years I have been a Microsoft Certified Trainer teaching SQL Server, .NET, ITIL, and Business Analysis. I love teaching. There is nothing like seeing that light in someone’s eyes when they “get it”. I have been very involved in the trainer community, presenting at TechDays and train the trainer events, helping in Hands on Labs at PDC or explaining the value of certification at TechEd. I even performed my infamous(?) Certification rap on stage last year at TechEd New Orleans.  (quick side note: If you followed that link you now know I have been known to make a complete fool of myself on occasion. To be fair, I was competing in a race organized by Microsoft Learning called the IT Grand Prix and that was one of a series of videos my teammate and I put together to encourage our supporters to help our Gold Team secure victory and a cash prize for our charity IDE. The IT Grand Prix was a wonderful experience working with charities that I am happy to talk about it endlessly if you just ask Smile )


    When I am not geeking out, I am hanging out with my kids, or enjoying my husband’s awesome cooking. I am a bit of an exercise nut, at the moment I do Tae Kwon Do, kickboxing and running. I do occasionally sit still long enough to catch a hockey game (Go Sens Go!) or watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory.


    My 5
    Whenever I post a blog, I try to include a My 5, five little tips, or tricks, or interesting tidbits that I want to share on a particular topic. Today

    5 Technologies or releases that have me very excited in no particular order


    1.   HTML5 – anything that makes it easier to write code once and support it across platforms sounds good to me! Running it on IE9 or IE10 really rocks!
    2.    Office 365 – I worked at a small company, I know how much trouble we had keeping our e-mail and SharePoint servers up to date (SharePoint 2003 anyone?)
    3.    SQL Server Denali – I have always geeked out on SQL, can’t help myself Smile
    4.    Xbox Kinect SDK – APIs for the Kinect! The possibilities are endless!
    5.    Windows Phone 7 Mango – supports IE9, and that means HTML5 (refer to #1) and I can make my own ring tone, now I just have to decide whether I want the Cantina music from Star Wars or the Hockey Night in Canada music (the original of course)

     
    I had a chance to meet a few of you at the IT Code Camp in Ottawa and I can’t wait to catch up with more of you at DevTeach in Montreal and Prairie Dev Con in Regina. Meanwhile drop me a line sibach@microsoft.com or twitter @HockeyGeekGirl you can also find me on LinkedIn and Facebook. Talk to you soon!

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