Susan IbachTechnical Evangelist
If you’re not already using Windows Azure somehow in your applications, I’m sure you’ve been hearing more and more about how Windows Azure can help you build applications faster by focusing on development and not infrastructure or how it can help you respond faster to customer needs by having infrastructure resources at your disposal the moment you need them. You may have seen the following summary of why to use the Windows Azure platform (it’s on the Windows Azure site):
The response that I usually get from developers is “That all sounds great, but what does it all mean? Where would I actually use Windows Azure?” It’s a great question but unfortunately there’s no simple answer since the platform is flexible enough that you could use it in many different ways to solve very diverse problems.
I thought that I would pull together the scenarios that I’ve been seeing lately as I work with students who are developing apps across the country. Hopefully, these scenarios will plant the seed in your mind and maybe even compel you to take that app that you’ve been thinking about and see if you can use Windows Azure to make it come to life faster and cost-effectively.
When it comes to mobile platforms, such as the phone and slate devices, Windows Azure offers you an easy way to add redundant storage, compute power, database access, queuing, and caching to your applications without having to put strain on the device. This essentially makes Windows Azure the backend of your app. A huge benefit of using Windows Azure is dynamic scale. The mobile platform is expanding rapidly and apps are being downloaded by thousands every day. Your app may be one of those apps, potentially becoming an overnight success. If your apps uses data online, you’ll need the infrastructure capacity in the backend to be able to support that success. Windows Azure can do that for you in a matter of a few clicks with no upfront infrastructure or configuration costs – perfect for starting off small and reaching full potential in no time.
Check out Connecting Windows Phone 7 and Slates to Windows Azure on the Canadian Mobile Developers’ Blog to get a deeper understand of how these platforms can work together. Once you’ve done that, get started by downloading the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 or for iOS and working through Getting Started With The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 and iOS.
As you know, social apps such as games (Farmville anyone?), sharing, and location-based apps are the biggest thing these days. Social apps have the potential to reach millions of users in a short period of time, so like the mobile apps, they need a robust, scalable, and dependable platform on which to run. Social apps can become a success in no time, and you’ll need to be able to provision compute power, storage, and content delivery quickly. More importantly, social networks, like Facebook, aren’t going to host your application or game, but your users will expect the kind of experience (from a responsiveness and availability perspective) as they get from their social network. Deploying to Windows Azure, within the Microsoft data centers and potentially distributing your app and its data worldwide, will ensure you meet or exceed those expectations.
Find out how Sneaky Games, one of the first game developers to deploy a massive web-based game on Windows Azure, did it and what steps you should take to get started in this video. If you’re looking to target Facebook, Steve Apiki has put together a walkthrough of a sample application that uses the Facebook SDK with Windows Azure to create a simple ‘viral’ marketing application. There’s also an MSDN webcast, Creating Facebook Apps that can Easily Handle a Crowd, coming up on June 1st.
Of course, there are always websites – building websites and hosting them on Windows Azure is a common scenario. But anyone can host any site at any hoster, so what’s the difference? Where you start seeing the benefits of Windows Azure kick in is when you want to do things like:
I could write a whole series on just websites and how Windows Azure for websites makes sense. But I’ll leave the rest for you to discover as you think about the requirements you need for your application. Check out the conclusion at the bottom of the page for how to get your website using Windows Azure.
These are just some common scenarios that I see out there today, but they are certainly not all of them. Student developers are using Windows Azure in many interesting ways, and as such, I highly encourage you to look a bit further into the platform, discover what’s possible, and see how you can leverage Windows Azure for your next app. I’ve included many links above to get you started, but in addition to those, you can also:
If you’re already leveraging Windows Azure, I’d love to hear your story and maybe even feature it on our blogs – your story could inspire other Canadians to move their applications to the Cloud as well.
A few weeks ago, having connected my Samsung Focus to my desktop for syncing, I was greeted with a pleasant message from Zune notifying me that a Windows Phone 7 update was available. The NoDo update included fine-tuned performance and app start-up time tweaks, as well as the much awaited copy and paste feature, among other things. Features aside, the performance optimizations alone gave the OS a fresh and brand new feel. So needless to say, I am really excited about Mango – the next WP7 update. Mango’s list of features is so immense, that the update might as well be described as an intermediate OS release between the current version of WP7 and Windows 8.
For starters, Mango will include the mobile version of IE9, along with some of its most important features. In-browser Silverlight, HTML5 and hardware acceleration support are all slated to be included in the mobile cousin of the desktop browser. With HTML5, a music site with an audio playlist, for instance, will let you play music directly from the browser. While GPU accelerated Silverlight will give you direct access to interactive multimedia, once again, directly from your browser. And yes, that includes games. These features are impressive on their own, but I am even more eager to make use of them simultaneously, as Mango will include true multitasking. In the MIX2011 showcase, this was presented by playing music on a website using HTML5 and returning to the home screen with the music continuing to play. If you enjoy habitual game-playing but quickly grow tired of in-game music and would rather stream an online audio stream, then Mango has a treat for you!
Mango opens the doors wide-open to developers with an ocean of new APIs. Included in the list is support for TCP/IP sockets, finally paving the way to direct communication, instant messaging, multiplayer gaming, and more. Raw access to camera stream along with a motion sensor library and gyroscope support will allow for development of augmented reality apps and games. One particular API that is near and dear to my heart, XNA, will benefit from Silverlight/XNA integration, allowing for Silverlight’s UI components to be used natively in 3D accelerated games.
Along with these features, the already gorgeous Metro UI also gets a facelift. One particular feature that I think will become both handy and aesthetically pleasing to everyone is the alphabetical categorization of apps. The new layout is identical to the way your contact list behaves, allowing you to navigate to an app by name by selecting the first letter. Additionally, live tiles will be updateable with push notifications. In fact, apps will be able to take advantage of double-sided tiles and even multiple tiles.
With all that said, allow me to leave you with something to think about. Although the enormity of Mango makes it look like a major OS release, it is still bound to be just an update for WP7. However, now that we know that Windows 8 will be heading to SoC and will natively support ARM, it sure does make you think about what the next evolution of the PC and subsequently Windows 8-based tablets will be like. No speculation though, just food for thought :)
In case you missed it, the Great Canadian Apportunity (http://www.greatcanadianapportunity.ca) is now over and the winner has been announced! The Grand Prize winner will receive a whopping $10,000. The first runner up will enjoy a Mesh 2011 Conference Pack worth $3,000 along with a Windows Phone 7 device, while the second runner up will receive a Dell Alienware Laptop Bundle and a Windows Phone 7 device as well.
Want to win big too? You still have a chance!
Battle of the Apps (http://www.battleoftheapps.ca/) is a student-only competition currently in its 3rd and final round. You have until June 15th to make a Windows Phone 7 app and publish it on the marketplace for the entire world to download and use. With only one round remaining, you still have a shot at one of three Windows Phone 7 devices and career opportunities with Microsoft, Polar Mobile, Habañero and Yellow Pages. The three semi-finalists also get a shot at the grand prize - a trip to Australia to attend TechEd 2011!
Excited but not sure if you can score a winning app? No worries. Have a look at past submissions (http://www.battleoftheapps.ca/Submissions) to get an idea of what the expectations are. Don’t worry if some of the apps look far too fancy. You’ll be surprised just how impressed the judges can be by even the simplest-looking apps.
Convinced and ready to go? Head over to http://create.msdn.com/ and grab the Windows Phone Developer Tools to get started. If you’re unsure of what to do or how to start building an app, just flip through the education catalog and grab any complete sample to start learning. In fact, you can use the samples as the foundation for your own apps. They are there for you, so use them!
As you’re developing your app, be sure to commence the marketplace registration by signing up on http://create.msdn.com/. As a student, you do not have to worry about any marketplace developer fees thanks to DreamSpark (http://www.dreamspark.com/). Simply use your university email address to register, and the marketplace fee is on us. And while you’re on DreamSpark, be sure to grab Visual Studio 2010 Professional to get even more power for building your app. If your school is not on the list, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a coupon.
The final round of Battle of the Apps ends on June 15th, 2011. Plenty of time to create an app that might win you a trip to Australia.
AzureFest is coming to Kitchener! (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/cdndevs/archive/2011/05/23/just-confirmed-azurefest-kitchener.aspx)
Why should you care? Well let’s face it, as students we don’t like to attend long and boring lectures. We prefer to get straight to business and get our hands dirty. AzureFest will get you to do just that! Simply bring your own laptop and a credit card (event and tools are free; it is only required for account activation) and get ready to actually do stuff.
If you can make it to or happen to be around Kitchener, be sure to attend.
Holiday In - Kitchener 30 Fairway Road South, Kitchener, ON N2A 2N2 Tuesday, May 31, 2011 Click here to register
UPDATE: Our friends at Canada’s Technology Triangle .NET User Group, are giving away an XBOX 360 (250GB) to one lucky attendant who submits an evaluation form. Don’t forget to submit the event evaluation form for a chance to win!
As students, we get equally excited and worried as we get closer and closer to our graduation day. While the degree of anxiety due to uncertainty of what happens next might differ, in the end, most of us are primarily concerned about one thing – landing that first job.
There are numerous ways to make yourself stand out from the crowd and give your first interviewer a reason to hire you. One way is to get Microsoft Certified!
Microsoft Certification is a way of proving to your potential employers that you have mastered an area of technology, and have a certificate to prove it. In the same way that your college/university degree shows that you received years of broad education in a given field, certification in a specific part of the field shows that you mastered that area.
Still unsure and need just one more reason to be convinced? Until June 30, 2011 you can get certified for free! Simply head over to www.dreamspark.com and use your school account to sign up for certification for no fee. If your school is not on the list or you’re unable to get your Live ID verified, email email@example.com to receive a coupon. Remember, you have until June 30, 2011 to both redeem the coupon/sign-up on dreamspark and finish the exam.
Here are some thoughts about getting certified from students just like you.