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By Jim White (Director of Training and Instructor)

I just finished a review of Azure in Action by Chris Hay and Brian Prince (Manning Publications).  This book is to be formally released later this summer (August 2010).  You can get an early electronic copy at www.manning.com/hay.


If you are exploring or actively developing applications for Windows Azure, this is a must have book.  Windows Azure is Microsoft’s public platform as a service (PAAS) entry in the cloud computing arena.  I have already written in this blog (see here) about the potential importance and impact of cloud computing and platforms like Windows Azure on our industry.  I believe this is where our industry is headed and Azure in Action will help you navigate the "clouds"in Windows Azure form of this new atmosphere.

While this book does provide instruction on the basics of Windows Azure, the Azure SDK and API, potential readers will be happy to find that its real assistance is in getting you to think about real world design and architectural aspects of your applications running in the cloud.  Hay and Prince challenge the reader to think about how running in the Azure cloud impacts performance, organization of data and costs of operating in the cloud.  They do a good job of laying out options and providing you with the pros/cons of those options as they might apply in your application setting.

For example, in Chapter 6 (called "Scaling web roles"), they cover session management.  While you may find that porting a typical ASP.NET application to Azure is straight forward, Hay and Prince inform you that with regard to something like persisting data across requests you have to consider potential issues such as the fact that "Windows Azure does not consistently implement sticky sessions."  As you scale, session management becomes a bit more complicated.  They provide information about what session management is and how it works and then provide alternative implementation options (such as In-Process and Table Storage session management).

Azure in Action also peels back the covers on how Azure works under the covers – in the Microsoft data centers.  I found chapter 3 (titled "How it works") particularly fascinating.  The information they provide on the lengths and efforts Microsoft have taken to provide the computing foundation and data centers in which Azure runs should give all of us writing applications for this platform a bit of confidence in the platform’s future.

A word of warning, the Manning Early Access Program (MEAP) version of the text is still in the midst of the editing process.  So there are still quite a few typos, grammatical issues, and even a couple of code samples that need to be corrected.  One would assume those would be taken care of before the book formally comes out this summer.

If you are looking for an API reference on Windows Azure, dial up the MSDN site on your local browser.  But if you are looking at how to design/write real world applications that scale and perform well in the Windows Azure cloud, help yourself out and download the MEAP version of Azure in Action today.

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