Over the past few weeks we have run 2 free Windows Azure Bootcamps in the UK: one in London, one in Bristol.


etc.venues at Drummond Gate were our hosts in London and the Mercure Holland Hotel in Bristol. 55 delegates turned up to each event, laptops in hand ready for a day of Windows Azure. Each had been issued with a Windows Azure Pass which gives them a 30 day subscription to try Windows Azure for free. This would be important in the lab work.

I said it’d be a “pacey” sort of day because although we have what might be called “lectures”, most of the day is taken up with hands-on coding, config, deployment and so on. The first session concentrated on Windows Azure Compute and Storage. A mostly architectural discussion. Then immediately on to the lab:

The labs are not isolated, standalone exercises. They each build on the previous lab and the delegates eventually end up with an application which consists of a web front end using queues to communicate with a worker-role back end which stores references to messages in a SQL Azure database and the messages themselves in blob storage. Hyperlinks to the messages are formatted on to the home-page so they can be inspected afterwards.


The first lab gets delegates familiar with the Windows Azure SDK and tools for Visual Studio. They deploy their first “Hello World” ASP.Net app on Windows Azure as a live app running on the Internet. This gets them familiar with the way roles and instances work and we showed that a deployment in the Northern Europe data center is currently taking less than 8 minutes.

They then start to add code to the Web Role to take the contents of a text box, append the Windows Azure instance number and machine name and write that to a Blob. Next they put a reference to the blob on a Windows Azure queue.

It’s not too long before they are adding a Worker Role to the solution and adding code to pull the message off the queue and retrieve the blob. The worker role then “processes” the message (turns the text to uppercase!) and appends its own instance number to the message.

The delegates test their application out by tracking the messages as they flow through the system using a trial version of Red Gate’s Cerebrata Cloud Storage Studio.

Of course during the lab time, there are breaks, but I’ve found the delegates to be so enthusiastic they tend to run out, grab a coffee and bring it back to their desk and then carry on coding. I was ably assisted during these times by my Windows Azure colleague, Eric Nelson. Also Andy Cross and Richard Conway, both founders of the UK Windows Azure User Group and also Steve Spencer from Black Marble – who delivered the SQL Azure session and helped out during lab time along with everybody else. In Bristol, Eric helped and was able to chip in frequently with lots of very helpful tips regarding things that had come up on the six weeks of azure programme he is currently running. Also in Bristol, Andy Sithers, another Microsoft Colleague lent his help…

It’s the same at lunchtime – everybody grabs their bag of crisps, chocolate and sandwiches and brings them back to their desk to carry on coding while they munch away.

We then had an architectural discussion of SQL Azure. This was delivered by Steve Spencer in London and then folks start the lab – creating a simple SQL Azure database, adding ADO.Net code to the worker role and a data-bound repeater control to the web role. Another coffee break comes and goes, but you wouldn’t notice it: everybody is so keen they take the coffee to their desks and keep coding. We also move in to some other areas in this lab – such as setting the roles up to allow Remote Desktop access.

After the break there is a very brief session on the service bus and then a more detailed session on the access control service. There is also a lab for this and again, folks are busy typing away, deploying the services. This lab introduces a couple of other aspects, such as startup tasks.

Here’s a video to give you a feel of what it’s like on a bootcamp.

We’ll be running 2 more bootcamps in May so keep your eyes peeled on this blog for the announcement…

Planky – GBR-257