What the Azure Tools do to your Cloud Service Configuration

For my current work on Azure integration for NPanday I’m investigating what the Azure Tools do with the Service Configuration (*.cscfg) on publish, since the file in Visual Studio it isn’t the same as one which is deployed along with the Cloud Service Package (*.cspkg).

The build & package part for Azure Cloud Services can be found in %Program Files (x86)%\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v10.0\Windows Azure Tools\1.6\Microsoft.WindowsAzure.targets

Find and copy

First, the build tries to figure out which configuration to build use as input by checking for ServiceConfiguration.$(TargetProfile).ccfg and ServiceConfiguration.ccfg, while $(TargetProfile) is “Cloud” by default.

As a part of the build, after being copied, the configuration file is augmented with more settings.

Add “file generated” comment

That was why I noticed, that the files are different. The comment in the target file makes it look like the file is generated from scratch, but instead it is just a copy which changed here and there. By default, the comment is the only change 🙂

  SourceFile="@(SourceServiceConfiguration)" />

Cloud Tools version

If IntelliTrace or profiling is enabled, this change lets Azure know which versions of the tools are in use.

   Setting ="$(CloudToolsVersionSettingName)"
   Condition="'$(EnableProfiling)'=='true' or '$(EnableIntelliTrace)'=='true'" />

Intelli Trace

If IntelliTrace is enabled, it will add a connection string to the configuration:



If profiling is enabled, it will add an connection string, where to store profiling data.

  Setting ="Profiling.ProfilingConnectionString"
  Roles="@(DiagnosticAgentRoles)" />

Remote Desktop

If remote desktop is set to be enabled, the build configures this switch in the cloud service configuration, too:


Web Deploy

If WebDeploy is enabled for any of your web roles, it will add an endpoint to the definition and set the instance count to zero for all web roles in the service configuration.

  RolesAndPorts="$(WebDeployPorts)" />

Connection String Override

If ‘ShouldUpdateDiagnosticsConnectionStringOnPublish’ is set to true, the diagnostics connection string is overridden for all roles in order to prevent the default setting “UseDevelopmentStorage=true” to be published to the cloud.

This is one of the typical “Microsoft demo-ready” features. Most certainly you’ll have multiple role-spanning connection strings or settings that you’d like to change on publish, but this is the only one needed to get demos to run, right?

  Value="$(DiagnosticsConnectionStringValue)" />

Corresponding parameters in NPanday

The most complex part in the build is the setup for profiling and IntelliTrace; currently we have no plans on supporting these in NPanday. We will rather just deploy from Visual Studio, in case we need profiling or IntelliTrace.

I still have to look at how RDP and MSDeploy can be added to the configured service configuration; for a first release of NPanday that may have to be done manually.


PDC 2009 – .NET Developers Short Review and Bleeding Edge Download Links

This years PDC was great. I think the big deal this year was “Integration”. I’ve never seen so many bits working together at such an early state.

I’ll walk through what I’ve seen and provide some detailed information plus the corresponding downloads I’ve found. It is insane, how many CTPs and Betas Microsoft offers right now.

These are the topics I will cover. Click to jump to the corresponding section.

Visual Studio 2010 + .NET Framework 4

I’ll start with Visual Studio, because it spans all of it.

In the last years especially Visual Studio was lagging behind. It didn’t even have good support for debugging LINQ in C# – what could we then expect from integration with other products from Microsoft.

But now Visual Studio comes not only with an improved debugger, but also with many, many new project templates, enhanced deployment features for web and SharePoint, an extension manager bound to an online extension gallery, and many-many more features.

Maybe the reason for the more integrated development environment is the huge improvement in Visual Studio Extensibility. Download the SDK if you plan to write your own plugins.

If you want to know more about the “.NET Framework 4.0”, Google has a good coverage on “C# 4.0”, “Windows Workflow 4.0”, “Windows Communication Foundation 4.0”, “Entity Framework 4.0” …


Silverlight 4

Maybe the announcements around Silverlight 4 were the biggest. The Silverlight team has made incredible progress in the last couple years. With Silverlight 4 they seem to eliminate most of the drawbacks it had compared to WPF. I can’t see yet where this goes, but a Silverlight OS could absolutely be a nice answer to the Chrome OS. And then we are back to terminals and mainframes.

Among the new features are a better out-of-the-browser experience including full-trust mode. Also new is webcam and microphone access, a richtext/html editor and a browser control. The browser control can also embed flash. And it can be used as a brush, in other words, it lets you run YouTube videos while applying any Silverlight effects.


Entity Framework 4

After the entity framework came out in V1, many of the industry’s thought leaders called it a joke. The team has tried to incorporate most of that Feedback in EF V2 (Called V4 to align with .NET 4).

Together with the .NET Framework 4 Beta 2 and the Futures CTP you get code-only and model-first including SQL schema generation. There are also alot improvements in the designer and the query performance. Haven’t really checked out the details so far.


OData / WCF Data Services (neé “Astoria”)

The Open Data Protocol (OData) has been developed to support a convention-oriented REST-style API over data of any kind. It builds on atom/pub and adds optional metadata, querying and projections. Using the .NET OData Client (WCF Data Services) you can use LINQ against any OData source. Sharepoint 2010 will expose all data via OData. Any application that uses the Entity Framework can very simply expose it’s data over the protocol.

Also SQL Server Excel PoverPivot (neé Gemini) supports OData and lets you interact with huge amounts of data the Excel-way.


SQL Server Modelling (neé “Oslo”)

In a couple of sessions Doug, Chris, Don and Chris showed the new features in the November CTP. The team has made some progress, although it is easy to see, that they have much homework left. Some of the new features are the better Visual Studio Integration, a ASP.NET MVC project supporting “M” for the M in MVC, debugging support in DSLs, richer right-hand grammar productions, support for views in “Quadrant”. Also the Modeling Services where officially announced to be part of SQL Server in some future release.

I’ll spend a new post on more of the changes soon.

Also, today I think, that Quadrant will not replace the DSL Tools in Visual Studio. Those have made much progress and will rather be improved and merged with “M”.


Office and Sharepoint 2010

No matte who I asked, nobody liked SharePoint development so far. From what I’ve seen this might change in the future. There has been much focus on the developer experience for SharePoint customization. Deployment and packaging seems to be much more fluent, and the horrible SharePoint web service interfaces will be superseded by the new generic OData implementation over lists and libraries. There is also better support for embedding Silverlight, and Microsoft finally promises a good user experience even when using Firefox or Safari.

I just like Office 2010, but I haven’t done any customization for Office since the good old VBA times. I think the web-versions of Office built into SharePoint are really cool. They allow collaborative editing like in Google Docs. I’ll check out this stuff soon!


SQL Server 2008 R2

In the last couple of weeks I had to do a lot with SQL Server. The thing is, still devs do not care much about new SQL Server versions. They do rather talk about persistence ignorance. Even the Xml/XQuery implementations well the hosting of the CLR inside the SQL Engine did not really touch the developers hearts.

But often the heart of the application is data. And the more you have to do with it with fast response times, the closer you’ll have to operate on it. Another argument is, that Microsoft emerges the brand “SQL” from a relational RDBMS engine to a data platform including Analysis Services, Reporting, Integration Services, and so on …

Some of the new features are StreamInsight, the Excel PoverPivot plugin and more…


AppFabric (neé “Dublin” and “Velocity”)

“Dublin” was Microsofts promise to deliver a more manageable Application Server for .NET, WF and WCF solutions. But since it was announced there were no public CTPs or anything that we could have played around with.

At the same time “Velocity”, a memory cache, has had more publicity.

Those two are now merged in the AppFabric, promising a reliable host for the workflow foundation runtime and hopefully in the future a good replacement for NT services.

There have been rumors, that it enters the space of EAI, that BizTalk tried to cover so far. But the promise is, that they have different intents and will play nicely together.


Windows Azure

I’m not into it yet. But it looks promising. Let me just provide the links to the downloads I found.


.NET Service Bus

The .NET Service Bus is really interesting stuff. Somebody explained it as “Skype knowledge in a box”. This means, the .NET Service Bus helps you to set up secure duplex communication channels through firewalls and routers. It just leads your calls through the NAT jungle.

What you simply do, is creating a public namespace on “the internet”, where you then register your WCF service. Clients may then access your service through the Azure Cloud. Bye, bye DMZ!!

You can also use it to negotiate the connection details and then have it set up a direct TCP/IP connection between your server and the calling client.

In both modes, you’ll also be able to send messages to your clients, through all this expensive infrastructure that is intended to avoid those scenarios 🙂

The .NET Service Bus is part of the .NET Services SDK which also contains the Access Control Service and Workflow Services in the cloud.


Windows Identity Foundation (neé “Geneva”)

Federated claims-based security. Everybody is talking about it. After Microsoft tried to reach through with Card Space and Live ID, this finally seems to be their answer to OpenID.

I’ll definitely take some time digging into it. I’m also interested in how it interacts with the SQL Server Modeling Services for System.Identity.


    Windows 7

    Windows 7 is great! What I’m interested in most, is multi-touch. I think this will be the default for every monitor and notebook in just a couple of years.

    If you find any nice multitouch enabled applications, please give me a hint at http://multitouch-apps.com.


    Have fun!