Windows Azure SQL Database Marketplace
Editor’s Note: Today’s post, written by Miguel Parejo, CTO at Softlibrary describes how the company uses Windows Azure and the Windows Azure Marketplace to run and sell its multi-tenant information management service.
Softlibrary is a company started in 1988 in Barcelona (Spain). Since then, it has always been involved in information management, and providing cutting-edge custom solutions to our customers. For that purpose, the company adopted Microsoft platforms and architectures from its very beginning.
Kern4Cloud is a multi-tenant service focused on information management whether it comes from a corporate nature or not. It can handle all the information lifecycle providing a set of tools for publication, categorization and classification, lexical-semantic and thesauruses systems, version control, multilingual, live-translation and workflow processes.
We chose Windows Azure because it resides in certified data centers where information and services are kept in a reliable and secure way. Windows Azure resources are capable of being stretched in order to provide high-performance solutions, as well.
Every single portion of existing information within the system is saved in XML format, so we can also look at Kern4cloud as a black-box that transforms heterogeneous sources into standard and internationalized ones.
When we first looked Windows Azure, we realized that architecture and design stages should now include some cost-efficient strategies. There are some billing drivers you must consider when migrating or creating from scratch your solutions on Windows Azure. Fortunately, Microsoft has provided some extra features and capabilities to make this process much easier. To mention a couple:
There are other tools but you can also take a look at some cost-efficient strategies out there. So that was the main challenge: design, migrate, adapt and write code in a way developers had never done before. Every single stakeholder in the project must now take in consideration one new parameter: cost. We don’t mean Windows Azure is expensive, just the other way around.
Once we had redesigned the core components we faced another challenge. How could we authenticate users in a multi-tenant service? Windows Azure comes with Access Control Service (ACS). ACS lets us deal with identities in a transparent way and focus on the authorization process.
Now we know what Kern4cloud does, we’ll show who is doing it and later we’ll map these with Windows Azure components.
Here’s a list of the main components:
This is an eagle-eye view of the architecture. Let’s see how it’s mapped with Windows Azure components.
Before getting into specifics there’s one thing that must be explained. Kern4Cloud modeling service is offered for two main audiences.
Below, there are four figures showing the most important Windows Azure components and services in our architecture. There are some interactions between them which we have been omitted for readability.
Finally we decided to empower Kern4Cloud by filing an application to be published on the Windows Azure Marketplace. We found it to be a perfect destination for a cloud-based solution because it’s a platform where our customers can securely subscribe our services and makes billing a worry of the past. When customers want to subscribe our service, they only need visit the Windows Azure Marketplace and search for Kern4Cloud. After they choose the most suitable offering, the Windows Azure Marketplace will ask them to login with a Windows Live ID account and provide some billing information (such as credit card number). In the Windows Azure Marketplace, subscriptions are billed monthly, so the first month will be immediately charged. Customers will trust the billing process because it’s provided by Microsoft and ISVs will only have to follow some rules and provide their offering prices to the Windows Azure Marketplace. The whole process is fast, secure and reliable for customers and providers.
Furthermore, integrating any solution to the Marketplace is quite easy. Basically you should follow the steps shown in the proper sample found at the Windows Azure Training Kit (WATK). Microsoft has made a big job recollecting good samples and best practices to build Windows Azure-based solutions. You can find the Windows Azure Marketplace integration project separately but I recommend downloading the whole kit.
Let’s see how this works with a sample:
<handlers><add name="AzureMarketplaceOAuthHandler" verb="*" path="AzureMarketplaceOAuthHandler.ashx" type="Microsoft.AzureMarkeplace.OAuthUtility.AuthorizationResponseHandler, Microsoft AzureMarketplace.OAuthUtility"/>
This project relies on Microsoft.IdentityModel and Microsoft.IdentityModel.Protocols.OAuth libraries, as well.
<azureMarketplaceConfiguration appSpecificAzureMarketplaceOAuthClientId="YOUR_CLIENT_ID" appSpecificAzureMarketplaceOAuthClientSecret = “CLIENT_ECRET_KEY" appSpecificPostConsentRedirectUrl = "http://127.0.0.1:81/AzureMarketplaceOAuthHandler.ashx" appSpecificWellKnownPostConsentUseUri = "http://127.0.0.1:81/Subscription/New"/>
This information must be the same as the one defined in the Marketplace (whether it is the playground or not).
Of course, a section element must be added, as well:
<section name="azureMarketplaceConfiguration" type="YOURNAMESPACE.AzureMarketplaceConfiguration, YOURASSEMBLY" requirePermission="false"/>
Note the testing URLs should be replaced in production environment.
The other important class is SubcriptionUtils.cs. This will be the final destination of the Marketplace requests. Here you will create the CreateSubscription and Unsubscribe methods in order to process all the requests. You only need to add this line to your Global.asax (Application_Start method):
And you’re done. Your website is now capable of getting subscriptions requests only from the Marketplace and process them according to your needs.
The migration from our on-premises system has not been an easy task, but a thrilling one. Windows Azure provides all the services we needed to accomplish our mission. We only had to take some considerations before. One of them regards some discussions existing on the web, trying to say whether the Cloud means the death of IT. Our experience concludes that IT departments won’t disappear, they’ll just have to get used to these platforms. Furthermore, we believe the debate is going to finish soon with the introduction of hybrid clouds to the mainstream.
We’d like to thank Microsoft for the opportunity of being the first Spanish company to write for this blog series. If you would like more information regarding some of the aspects shown here, feel free to contact us.