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A software architect, Azure expert, and former Microsoft evangelist, Mike Benkovich dedicates huge amounts of his time to helping his fellow developers and burgeoning programmers learn about new technologies and platforms. Mike’s website equips developers with tips and resources to help them get to grips with technologies including cloud, data and devices, and he produces online courses covering areas like Azure enterprise development and serverless computing. Mike is also a chronic sharer of puns, so head over to his Twitter feed if you’re after a laugh (or a groan).

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VS 2017 Launch Live Notes

@MikeBenkovich 03/07/2017

Watching the live stream of the Visual Studio 2017 launch and 20 year anniversary party…thought I’d capture some of the notes of what’s going on and share the fun.

Visual Studio 2017 release

Developer Productivity - Kasey Uhlenhuth

  • Live Unit Tests
  • Exception helper
  • Find all references
  • New intellitrace tray of options
  • Ctrl+T for goto All
  • Code suggestions
  • Code Config file - map code styles and suggestions for environment
  • Support for tuples on methods
  • Improved refactoring
  • Indent guide visibility to method code is in even if not visible

.NET Core - Beth Massi

  • .net Tools for Core 1.0 in production
  • Migrate/Upgrade to new tools easy
  • Simplified csproj format which is human readable
  • References grouped by type…i.e. nuget refs, project refs, etc.
  • Application Insights
    • New add-in experience
    • Search and graph analytics in VS

Containers Docker - Scott Hanselman

  • Add docker support in VS right click on project
  • Run in docker if selected startup project
  • Debug, edit and volume mapping realtime from vs to docker
  • Publish to Linux docker or windows
  • Automatically references other docker containers dependent on
  • Debug across containers
  • Check out Ref application http://aka.ms/MicroservicesArchitecture

Xamarin : James & Miguel

  • Tizen new OS from Samsung for IoT devices…built on Xamarin Forms
  • Visual Studio for Mac Preview 4
  • New App templates
    • Mobile App added with best practices if checkbox Azure
    • Code for clients
  • Forms Previewer
    • Works if you have JDK 1.8+ on x64 installed (settings?)
  • Improved intellisense
  • Native animations in XAML
  • Forms inspector, when connected tp android emulator
    • Layers
    • Live edit of XAML

VS Mobile Center - Keith

  • http://mobile.azure.com
  • Xamarin Test Cloud
  • Add app…pick type
  • Add nuget & register app
  • Distribute sets up a team of testers/user community for builds
  • Build service
    • Pick sln
    • Provisioning profile
    • Certificate for signed builds
    • Trigger
  • Test service …
    • run automated UI tests
    • See devices tested on
  • Crash reporting
    • Usage & crash info
    • Stack dumps grouped by count
  • Analytics
    • Custom events

DevOps - Brian Harry & Donovan Brown

  • Continuous delivery
  • "Shift Right" = delivery improvements, production is part of the plan
  • TFS 2017.1 for on Premise installs
  • http://aka.ms/tfsimportdata
  • Donovan demo - any project, any platform
    • Create project
    • Import Git repo
    • View code
    • Setup build from templates or by scratch
      • Sources - where is repo? In TS or external?
      • Test settings
      • Code Coverage
      • Build agents - windows or linux
      • Search for build task
      • Marketplace for build tasks
      • Create your own extension
      • Variables
      • Create work items on failure
      • Track history/changes to build definitions
    • Release definitions
      • Infrastructure as code
      • Approvers
    • Dashboards
  • Data Migration - Partner with Red Gate
    • In VS RedGate ReadyRoll has tools by default
    • SQL Obj explorer, make changes and save
    • Tell ReadyRoll to refresh with changes, generate migration scripts
      • Add update statements for populating default values on existing data after modification
    • Add database scripts and changes that will happen on the database
    • Add the ReadyRoll task to deploy the database task
  • RedGate included in VS 2017 Enterprise
  • Pluralsight 1yr
  • DevOps Enterprise Accelerator offer

Welcome to BlogEngine.NET using Microsoft SQL Server

@MikeBenkovich 02/11/2016

If you see this post it means that BlogEngine.NET is running and the hard part of creating your own blog is done. There is only a few things left to do.

Write Permissions

To be able to log in, write posts and customize blog, you need to enable write permissions on the App_Data and Custom folders. If your blog is hosted at a hosting provider, you can either log into your account’s admin page or call the support.

If you wish to use a database to store your blog data, we still encourage you to enable this write access for an images you may wish to store for your blog posts.  If you are interested in using Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, SQL CE, or other databases, please see the BlogEngine docs to get started.

Security

When you`ve got write permissions set, you need to change the username and password. Find the sign-in link located either at the bottom or top of the page depending on your current theme and click it. Now enter "admin" in both the username and password fields and click the button. You will now see an admin menu appear. It has a link to the "Users" admin page. From there you can change password, create new users and set roles and permissions. Passwords are hashed by default so you better configure email in settings for password recovery to work or learn how to do it manually.

Configuration and Profile

Now that you have your blog secured, take a look through the settings and give your new blog a title.  BlogEngine.NET is set up to take full advantage of many semantic formats and technologies such as FOAF, SIOC and APML. It means that the content stored in your BlogEngine.NET installation will be fully portable and auto-discoverable.  Be sure to fill in your author profile to take better advantage of this.

Themes, Widgets & Extensions

One last thing to consider is customizing the look and behavior of your blog. We have themes, widgets and extensions available right out of the box. You can install more right from admin panel under Custom/Gallery.

On the web

You can find news about BlogEngine.NET on the official website. For tutorials, documentation, tips and tricks visit our docs site. The ongoing development of BlogEngine.NET can be followed at CodePlex where the daily builds will be published for anyone to download.

Good luck and happy writing.

The BlogEngine.NET team


Setting a schema for the database in Azure Mobile Services

@MikeBenkovich 01/12/2015

I’ve been working on a project using Xamarin.Forms and Azure Mobile Services for a while, and one issue I came across that wasn’t entirely clear is how do you work with an existing database, yet support updates to the tables and be able to deploy to different environments (like Test, QA and Prod)? Hopefully I can shed some light with this post.

Azure Mobile Services is a feature rich cloud service that promises to take care of some of the complexities of building connected mobile apps. It supports things like 3rd party federated identity, push notifications, logging and more. With the original node.js release it supported JavaScript configuration for the CRUD operations against a table along with a dynamic schema that adapts to the request received via REST. In the .NET release they replace node.js with the ability to roll your own logic in C# and handle the data interaction with WebAPI type controllers. It requires a bit more work, and handling the database changes can be confusing.

Fortunately I’ve found a couple articles that help illustrate how this is done (on MSDN), but it doesn’t specify how to handle ongoing updates. To make it work for my scenario I either needed a way to support data model changes to a .NET backend mobile service, but have a consistent schema name when I move between environments. In the second article they show how to enable code-migrations, and to replace the default database initializers, by using the NuGet package manager and modifying code in the WebApiConfig.cs file. The steps were:

  1. Use NuGet Package Manager to Enable-Migrations
  2. Add a starting migration
  3. Update the WebApiConfig.cs file to use a DbMigrator to update the context instead of calling the default initializer

    public
    static class WebApiConfig
    {
    public static void Register()
    {
    // Use this class to set configuration options for your mobile service
    ConfigOptions options = new ConfigOptions();

    // Use this class to set WebAPI configuration options
    HttpConfiguration config = ServiceConfig.Initialize(new ConfigBuilder(options));

    // *** BENKO: Enable database migrations for the service
    //Database.SetInitializer(new MobileServiceInitializer());
    var migrator = new DbMigrator(new Configuration());
    migrator.Update();
    }
    }
  4. Test local and confirm it’s working

I added a couple additional changes to set the schema name for my app in the MobileServiceContext.cs file (in the Models folder).


protected override void OnModelCreating(DbModelBuilder modelBuilder)
{
// *** BENKO: This is what sets the schema name to the service name...
string schema = ServiceSettingsDictionary.GetSchemaName();
schema = "mySchema";
if (!string.IsNullOrEmpty(schema))
{
modelBuilder.HasDefaultSchema(schema);
}

modelBuilder.Conventions.Add(
new AttributeToColumnAnnotationConvention<TableColumnAttribute, string>(
"ServiceTableColumn", (property, attributes) => attributes.Single().ColumnType.ToString()));
}

I also need to make sure to create the schema on my database instance in SQL Azure and grant rights to the service user account. You can get the user account using SQL Server Mgmt tool (expand the users of the database node, or by running a SQL Script to select name from the SysLogins table of the master db. Once you have it you will need to create the schema an grant rights to it. Assuming the service user is ABC123Login_myServiceUser, the script looks like this:



create schema mySchema

-- Grant specific access rights to use based on Schema
GRANT
SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE,
ALTER, CONTROL, EXECUTE,
REFERENCES, TAKE OWNERSHIP, VIEW DEFINITION
ON SCHEMA::[mySchema]
TO [abcdefghijLogin_democityUser]

When you publish the mobile service it will attempt to update the database using the schema provided. If there are error you can use the service’s logs to figure out what’s missing. By specifying the schema name instead of using the service’s name I’m able to deploy to multiple environments but integrate this data with my other applications.

Happy Coding! (originally posted on www.benkotips.com)

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CloudTip 15-Avoid a gotcha in naming projects with Mobile Services

@MikeBenkovich 12/15/2014

Short Answer – Don’t use special characters in a Mobile Service’s project name when you create it, the local SQL won’t be able to open the database and you may spend a lot of time figuring out why chasing down false leads…

The Long Answer…

In my last role at Microsoft as an Azure Evangelist I posted a series of cloud tips, which were intended to be quick tips for using the latest tools & services. This one is the next in that series, and focuses around some esoteric gotcha’s that come up when you’re following a convention for organizing your solution in Visual Studio. As you probably are aware you can have multiple projects in a solution, and one approach for keeping them organized is to follow a naming standard that uses a dot-syntax to keep related related things in their right spot.

For example if my project is a solution to a to-do list, I might create the solution called “TestData”, and within that solution have a project for the web called “TestData.web” and a shared project called “TestData.shared”. Following this convention it makes sense if I want to add a data service project I might call it “TestData.svc”, right? When I try this out and build it, I was finding an error that took longer to expose than I had planned, and that’s the focus of this post.

image

I started with this solution and added some custom classes to the data tables to work with my TestData and found that I was getting  errors. The Mobile Services project type includes a testing page that allows me to try out the service and test the calls to my data, which is great. But I found that I was getting an error when I was running the project without adding or changing anything…Isn’t the stuff supposed to work “out of the box”? Instead I get the error - “The database name 'TR_TestData_svc]_TodoItems_InsertUpdateDelete' is invalid. Database names must be of the form [<schema_name>.]<object_name>”. What does this mean???

image

Don’t do this…

It looks like something’s not right with EF, so I tried updating my NuGet’s to make sure I have the latest packages…Right click the project explorer and go to the NuGet page and try update packages…this is the wrong thing to do because the template was created using specific versions of specific packages, and while some can be updated others shouldn’t.

This time I get an error that the JWTSecurityTokenHandler is broken. After some digging I found a StackOverflow post that answers this.  In particular I find that EF is unhappy with the latest MobileServices entity versions so in the NuGet Package Manager I need to uninstall the WindowsAzure.MobileServices.Backend packages and install the specific version 1.0.342.

Do this…Don’t name your Mobile Service project with special characters in the name

The problem isn’t with EF or out of date packages, it has to do with the local database name not being recognizable with the dot-syntax naming convention (another StackOverflow post). In the web config you can fix it by removing the period in the names, or you can do what I did which is just recreate the project without the dot name and test to confirm it’s working, and then rename the services project in the solution.

image

And it works! Time to go and write some code.


Avoiding Hacker Trix

@MikeBenkovich 08/19/2014

ExtremeHackerThis week we're doing a session called "Avoiding Hacker Trix" which goes thru some of the top web exploits that you should be aware of. In this webcast we will cover a variety of things including what we call the secure development process, cross site scripting attack, one click attack, SQL Injection and more. There are a bunch of links we cover, but rather than having you copy these down I'm providing them here...

Links from the slide deck:


CloudTip #17-Build Connected Windows 8 Apps with Windows Azure

@MikeBenkovich 07/10/2012

imageYesterday in Dallas we had Scott Guthrie (@ScottGu) and the Azure team put on a great event at the Irving Convention Center to show off what’s new in the Microsoft Cloud story and to dive into getting started with the tools and services that make it work. Chris Koenig did a great job of coordinating the event and Adam Hoffman, Clint Edmonson and Brian Prince all pitched in with sessions about Virtual Machines, Web Sites and how to work with the services.

imageMy talk was on Building Connected Windows 8 Metro applications with Windows Azure, and we showed how to use the Camera UI to upload images to Blob Storage, Geolocation to add a point of interest to a SQL Azure database and then add a pin to a Bing Map, and finally add Notification Services to update the Live Tile. It was a lot of code and I promised to share it here, so if you’re looking for the link to download it is http://aka.ms/dfwWin8Az.

Here are some notes to be able to build out & deploy locally and then migrate the services to Azure…

image- This project is designed to run locally against the Azure Storage Emulator and SQL Express. It can easily be modified to run as a cloud service, see steps below.
- Do a CTRL+SHIFT+F to search for "TODO" to find all the places where you need to personalize settings
- I've included the script MsdnDB.sql which should be run against a local instance of SQL server, or against a cloud instance.
- You should download the Bing Map VSIX installer to add functionality for Metro. Download the latest from Visual Studio Gallery here
    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/0c341dfb-4584-4738-949c-daf55b82df58

- I used several packages to enable notifications. These included
    For MyApp  --> PM> Install-Package Windows8.Notifications

    For MySite --> PM> Install-Package WindowsAzure.Notifications

                   PM> Install-Package wnsrecipe

- To deploy to the Cloud
  1. Create an Azure Web Site from the Management console, then download the publish settings from the web site dashbaord
  2. Create a storage account and update the web.config of MySite with appropriate storage credentials
  3. Create a SQL Azure database
  4. Run the create script MsdnDB.SQL (included) against database
  5. Update credentials in web.config of MySite
  6. Change MyApp MainPage.xaml.cs URI's to point to your site instead of localhost:19480
  7. Run the NuGet Packages from Package Manager console
  8. Register your app for notifications on https://manage.dev.live.com/Build
     - update the Package Name reference in Package.appxmanifest
     - Add the SID and Client secret to the SendNotification method in LocationController.cs


Enjoy!
-mike

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CloudTip #16-Meet the new HTML based Windows Azure Management Portal

@MikeBenkovich 06/07/2012

Windows Azure has seen a number of upgrades. The latest announced today, along with a series of events to showcase and explore the features and capabilities of the Microsoft cloud platform (http://aka.ms/MeetAzMB), clearly shows the move towards simplicity, ease of use, and the speed to which you can get started with Azure. While I can’t cover it all in a single post, this is meant as an introduction to the new portal and in future posts I will explore various aspects and features that you can use for building scalable, durable and performant information solutions. A number of things were announced on the Azure blog (blog url) including some key ones around IaaS, Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and the Application Galleries.

HTML and AJAX Based Interface

The new portal runs on HTML and JavaScript, which means it can render on any browser that supports the core HTML functionality. This is great if you need to access it from a mobile device or tablet that doesn’t support plugins like Silverlight. The next thing you notice is that you get an at-a-glance view of all your running services, storage and networks.

image

Easily Create New Services

Adding a new service is as easy as clicking “NEW” on the bottom left corner of the screen and then making a selection of what you want to create. In addition to Cloud Services (formerly called Hosted Services) and storage, you can also create Virtual Machines, Web Sites, and Networks. These generally include a quick creation option which provisions the service with minimal configuraiton, but both Web Sit4es and Virtual machines include a “From Gallery” option which allows you to select a starting point to build from. 

image

This includes content management applications like Umbraco, DotNetNuke, Joomla, Das Blog, mojoPortal, and WordPress, or a Virtual Machines that already have SQL 2012 Eval, Windows Server 8 Beta, SUSE Linux, or Ubuntu installed and ready for your deployments. You can also save your own machines as starting points or upload your own VHD.

Yes, I did just say Linux. Running on Azure. In the Microsoft Cloud. Notice that the list of available images includes these as well as images I created!

image

The new dialogs walk you thru all the steps collecting the needed information in an easy to follow logical order to get the selected services up and running. Quick and easy, but where can you see the status and updates on these configuration tasks? That’s where the notification area at the bottom of the screen comes to bat. It provides a comprehensive spot for seeing summary and optionally more detailed information about your changes as they happen.

image 

Monitoring and Diagnostics

Beyond the provisioning of new services and configuration tasks you also can get great monitoring information about resources used by your cloud instances. By selecting a provisioned instance, clicking the name takes you to a details page where you can get deployment and configuration settings including database connection strings and more. You can quickly see how much usage you’ve used out of the available allocation that is part of the subscription.

image

You can easily get started today, just go out to http://windowsazure.com and try out the 90 Free Trial, or if you have an MSDN Subscription you can get compute time, storage and a lot more as part of your subscription benefits.

Enjoy!

-mike

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CloudTip #14-How do I get SQL Profiler info from SQL Azure?

@MikeBenkovich 05/18/2012

Your application is running slow. You need to find out what’s going on. If you’ve used SQL Profiler on a local database you might be familiar with how you can capture a trace of database activity and use it to figure out where your resources are going. The visibility makes it MUCH easier to tune a database than sorting thru a bunch of code. The question is, what do you do when you’re moving an app to the cloud?

If you’ve wondered how you can get Profile information from SQL Azure, the new online management portal for SQL Azure has been updated with design, deployment, administration and tuning features built in. The Overview screen provides quick links to the different areas of the portal, as well as easy links to help information from msdn online. You can get to the portal either by going to the Windows Azure management portal on http://windows.azure.com and after signing in going to the database section and clicking Manage, or simply browsing to your database name – https://<myserver>.database.windows.net where you substitute your database server’s name for <myserver>.

image

When I log in I can see my databases and get information about size, usage as well as the ability dive into specific usage. From there I can go into designing the schema, functions and code around my database. If I swap over to the admin page though, I have visibility into not just database size and usage, but also a link to query performance. Clicking this takes me to where I can see profile data from queries.

image

I can sort and see which calls to the database are most frequent as well as most expensive in terms of resource usage. Further I can select one and dive even deeper to see the execution plan and statistics around the calls. This information is key to making decisions on indexes and design of a well performing database.

image

In the query plan I can look for table scans or other expensive operations and if it make sense determine whether additional indexes would be useful.

image

Nice!

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CloudTip #13-What do you need to know to get started?

@MikeBenkovich 05/17/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it's a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I've got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I've been working for a while now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what's new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.


Try Azure for 90 Days Free!

In this post I'd like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

Part 1 - Get Started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
You've heard the buzz, your boss might even have talked about it. In this first webcast of the Soup to Nuts series we'll get started with Windows Azure and Cloud Computing. In it we will explore what Azure is and isn't and get started by building our first Cloud application. Fasten your seatbelts, we're ready to get started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 2 - Windows Azure Compute Services
The Cloud provides us with a number of services including storage, compute, networking and more. In this second session we take a look at how roles define what a service is. Beyond the different flavors of roles we show the RoleEntryPoint interface, and how we can plug code in the startup operations to make it easy to scale up instances. We will show how the Service Definition defines the role and provides hooks for customizing it to run the way we need it to.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 3 - Windows Azure Storage Options
The Cloud provides a scalable environment for compute but it needs somewhere common to store data. In this webcast we look at Windows Azure Storage and explore how to use the various types available to us including Blobs, Tables and Queues. We look at how it is durable, highly available and secured so that we can build applications that are able to leverage its strengths.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 4 - Intro to SQL Azure
While Windows Azure Storage provides basic storage often we need to work with Relational Data. In this weeks webcast we dive into SQL Azure and see how it is similar and different from on-premise SQL Server. From connecting from rich client as well as web apps to the management tools available for creating schema and moving data between instances in the cloud and on site we show you how it's done.
Video; WMVMP4 Audio; WMA Slides: PPTX

Part 5 - Access Control Services and Cloud Identity
Who are you? How do we know? Can you prove it? Identity in the cloud presents us with the same and different challenges from identity in person. Access Control Services is a modern identity selector service that makes it easy to work with existing islands of identity such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google. It is based on standards and works with claims to provide your application with the information it needs to make informed authorization decisions. Join this webcast to see ACS in action and learn how to put it to work in your application today.
Slides: PPTX

Part 6 - Diagnostics & Troubleshootingx
So you've built your Cloud application and now something goes wrong. What now? This weeks webcast is focused on looking at the options available for gaining insight to be able to find and solve problems. From working with Intellitrace to capture a run history to profiling options to configuring the diagnostics agent we will show you how to diagnose and troubleshoot your application.

Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure. Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

Part 9 - Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O'Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in-providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

Enjoy!

-mike

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Cloud Tip #12-Get Started with SQL Azure

@MikeBenkovich 04/27/2012

Business Software is in the business of data management. Creating, updating, deleting and using information in new ways as well as simplifying how it is collected and reported is key to what we do as technology professionals. With the advent of Cloud Computing being able to take advantage of relational data directly in the cloud using the same skills we’ve been using with solutions built on premise means we’ll spend less time on the good old learning curve. One great example where this is the case is SQL Azure, the relational database service from Microsoft.

If you’ve been working with SQL Server for any length of time you’ll know that at its base it is a relational database engine that talks on port 1433 and speaks a language called Tabular Data Stream (or TDS). Common tools for working with SQL Server on premise includes SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), BCP, Integration Services, Visual Studio, and many more too numerous to name. What is interesting about SQL Azure is that it uses the same protocols and ports as SQL Server you run on premise, so all the same tools continue to work. In this post I’d like to show how to get started working with SQL Azure quickly, provisioning a server, creating a database and some schema, and then migrating data to it.


Get the Azure 90 day Free Trial

Provisioning a Server

First thing we need is a service running in a datacenter to host our databases from. This is a logical service that represents many physical machines. We provision a server by going to the Windows Azure management portal (http://windows.azure.com) and selecting the Database section. From there we select our subscription and then click the Create button in the ribbon.

image

This will provision a SQL Azure service in a specified data center. The management tool lets you select the data center and set administrative credentials. These credentials are whatever you want, but with a couple restrictions. For example it disallows certain usernames for the admin  account including SA, Root, Admin, Guest, etc. Next it requires a strong password which includes 3 of the 4 types of characters on the keyboard (Upper Case, Lower Case, Numbers, and/or Symbols). The last step is to set up some firewall rules which specify who can see the server. By default there are no rules included, you even need to check the box to allow Windows Azure Services to see the server. You should also add a rule for your development machine, but be aware that it’s looking at the external facing IP address. Fortunately when you click the Add button it includes your external facing IP address.

image  image  image

Once this is done you’ll see you have a new database service created. The server name is auto generated for you and is part of the *.database.windows.net domain. It includes a master database (which is used by the system, no charge to you), and you can add databases as needed. To create a database select your server and then click the “Create” button.

image

You’ll see a dialog that prompts you to decide the size of database and the name. You have options for Web and Business and sizes ranging from 1 GB to 150 GB.

 image

After creating the database the ribbon provides  buttons which include functionality such as management of the schema and performance data from your database, as well as tools to import and export the data and schema. You can also drop the database and/or the server from the ribbon.

image

In the right pane you’ll find properties about your database. The pieces of information that are most useful include the allocated size, actual size, management URL (which is simply the generated name + .database.windows.net), and a link button to see examples of the connection strings you’ll use in your application to connect to SQL Azure.

image

So that’s it. I’ll go into the web based management tool in another post, but the key is that it is very easy to get up and started working with SQL Azure. In less than 5 minutes you can provision a service and be up and running with your database in the cloud.

Enjoy!
-mike

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Cloud Tip #7-Configuring your firewall at work for cloud development

@MikeBenkovich 04/05/2012

I had a question after a Windows Azure Camp about what ports need to be opened and enabled at my work environment to enable working with Windows Azure. While the services work with REST there are a couple services that will benefit from adjusting the firewall to allow traffic between on-premise and the cloud. I found settings for Service Bus and SQL Server, and the settings are below…

Service Bus

-Minimal: Enable outbound http on port 80 and 443, authenticated against proxy server if any

-Optimal: Allow outbound on port 9350 to 9353, can limit to well known IP range

- 9350 unsecured TCP one-way client

- 9351 Secured TCB one-way (all listeners, secured clients)

- 9352 Secured TCP Rendezvous (all except one way)

- 9353 Direct Connect Probing Protocol (TCB listeners with direct connect)

SQL on-Premise via Windows Azure Connect

-In SSMS - Enable Remote Connections on SQL Server properties window

-In SQL Server Configuration Manager

- Disable or stop SQL Server Browser

- Enable TCP/IP in the SQL Server Network Configuration | Protocols for server

- Edit TCP/IP protocol properties and set TCP Dynamic Ports to Blank, and then specify TCP Port to 1433

- Restart SQL Service

-In Windows Firewall add the following rules

- Inbound Port 1433 (TCP) Allow the connection

- Apply to all profiles (Domain, Private and Public)

- Name the rule something significant

Enjoy!

 

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Cloud Tip #5-Secure your settings in Web.config with Encryption

@MikeBenkovich 04/02/2012

In Windows Azure and especially with SQL Azure we need to store passwords to access things. I wanted to show how you can encrypt the web.config file by adding code to the global.asax file. The cool part of this is that using this technique you can secure application specific settings like connection strings and other data in the unlikely event that someone is able to get a copy of the configuration file (like by copying it to a thumb drive from the host machine or something similar).

The basic logic is to create a variable that points to a configuration section, then checking that the section is protected (i.e. encrypted). If it isn't, then call the ProtectSection method to encrypt the contents. The server uses the local DPAPI (Data Protection API) to encrypt the configuration section with a machine specific key, so only that machine can decrypt the contents. The code to add to the global.asax.cs file in the Application Start event for this is:

protected void Session_Start(object sender, EventArgs e) 
{ 
    EncryptSection("appSettings"); 
} 
     
private void EncryptSection(string sSection)
{
    Configuration config = System.Web.Configuration
                             .WebConfigurationManager
                             .OpenWebConfiguration
                             (Context.Request.ApplicationPath);

    ConfigurationSection configSection =
        config.GetSection(sSection);

    if (!configSection.SectionInformation.IsProtected)
    {
        configSection.SectionInformation.ProtectSection
        ("DataProtectionConfigurationProvider");
        config.Save();
    }
}

Happy Coding!

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Cloud Tip #3–Find good examples

@MikeBenkovich 03/31/2012

imageYesterday in Minneapolis we delivered the first Windows Azure Kick Start event of the series we’re running this spring to help developers learn and understand how to use the new tools and techniques for building cloud based applications. As part of that event we wrote a lot of code as a demonstration of how this stuff comes together and I’ve uploaded it to www.benkotips.com in case you’re interested in the download. The solution includes several projects including:

  • MplsKickSite - An existing ASP.NET web site that we migrated to Windows Azure, implementing the RoleEntryPoint interface and adding references to the Microsoft.WindowsAzure.StorageClient for working with storage, and Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime to give us instance information. We also added cloud identity to the site using Access Control Services to secure a data entry page with data hosted in a SQL Azure database
  • WPFUpload which is a Windows application which includes logic to support drag and drop to upload files into Windows Azure Blob Storage, and if they are images to add work to a queue to create thumbnail images
  • UploadDataLib which is a class library that implements Windows Azure Table Storage logic for working with the images uploaded by WPFUpload and the ThumbMaker worker role projects.
  • ThumbMaker which is a worker role class that demonstrated working with Tables and Queues and the System.Drawing library to create thumbnail images and brand them with a custom logo message
  • PhoneApp1 which demonstrates how to use a Windows Phone Silverlight user control to handle the login conversation with ACS
  • NugetPhone which is a second example of ACS in use with devices, except that instead of spending 10 minutes to write the code like we did with PhoneApp1 we use the Nuget package manager to include a package (Install-Package Phone.Identity.AccessControl.BasePage) to perform the authentication for us and make the 4 code changes to implement the logic…2 minutes to demo

The decks and recordings of similar sessions are available on the Soup to Nuts Cloud Computing page of my site (http://bit.ly/s2nCloud). You can download the solution and project files and run every thing with the Compute and Storage Emulator, but you’ll need an active subscription to deploy to the cloud. If you don’t have Azure benefits you can activate from an MSDN Subscription you can always give the 90 day Free Trial a try.

Enjoy!

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Cloud Tip #2–Finding Cloud Content that works for You

@MikeBenkovich 03/29/2012

imageThere are many ways to learn a new technology. Some of us prefer to read books, others like videos or screencasts, still others will choose to go to a training style event. In any case you need to have a reason to want to learn, whether it’s a new project, something to put on the resume or just the challenge because it sounds cool. For me I learn best when I’ve got a real project that will stretch my knowledge to apply it in a new way. It also helps to have a deadline.

I’ve been working for the last several years now for Microsoft in a role that allows me to help people explore what’s new and possible with the new releases of technology coming out at a rapid pace from client and web technologies like ASP.NET and Phone to user interface techniques like Silverlight and Ajax, to server and cloud platforms like SQL Server and Azure. The job has forced me to be abreast of how the technologies work, what you can do with them, and understanding how to explain the reasons for why and how they might fit into a project.

In this post I’d like to provide a quick tour of where you can find content and events on Cloud Computing that should help you get started and find answers along the way.

First on my list are the webcasts we’ve created that are 1 hour long sessions on the various aspects of a given topic. For Cloud Computing and Windows Azure I’ve got a list of several on my web site (www.benkotips.com) including a 27 part companion series we called “Windows Azure Boot Camp”. The first 10 webcasts in this series cover what you would see at a boot camp event (www.windowsazurebootcamp.com).  This spring we started a new series called “Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts” which is a developer focused get started with Windows Azure and the related services. We’ve recorded 6 webcasts as part of that series and will be adding more as we go forward. We just added 3 more for April including:

4/3 : Part 7 - Get Started with Windows Azure Caching Services with Brian Hitney (http://bit.ly/btlod-77)
How can you get the most performance and scalability from platform as a service? In this webcast, we take a look at caching and how you can integrate it in your application. Caching provides a distributed, in-memory application cache service for Windows Azure that provides performance by reducing the work needed to return a requested page.

4/10 : Part 8 - Get Started with SQL Azure Reporting Services with Mike Benkovich (http://bit.ly/btlod-78)
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting lets you easily build reporting capabilities into your Windows Azure application. The reports can be accessed easily from the Windows Azure portal, through a web browser, or directly from applications. With the cloud at your service, there's no need to manage or maintain your own reporting infrastructure.  Join us as we dive into SQL Azure Reporting and the tools that are available to design connected reports that operate against disparate data sources. We look at what's provided from Windows Azure to support reporting and the available deployment options. We also see how to use this technology to build scalable reporting applications

4/17 : Part 9 – Get Started working with Service Bus with Jim O’Neil (http://bit.ly/btlod-79)
No man is an island, and no cloud application stands alone! Now that you've conquered the core services of web roles, worker roles, storage, and Microsoft SQL Azure, it's time to learn how to bridge applications within the cloud and between the cloud and on premises. This is where the Service Bus comes in—providing connectivity for Windows Communication Foundation and other endpoints even behind firewalls. With both relay and brokered messaging capabilities, you can provide application-to-application communication as well as durable, asynchronous publication/subscription semantics. Come to this webcast ready to participate from your own computer to see how this technology all comes together in real time.

If you’re looking for a conversational 30 minute show that covers Cloud topics I suggest checking out Cloud Cover on Channel9. This show features Azure experts including Ryan Dunn, Steve Marx, Wade Wegner, David Aiken and others who work closely with the product teams at Microsoft to learn how to use the latest releases.

Live events are a moving target depending on when you read this post, but we try to keep a list of upcoming Microsoft Events for developers on http://msdnevents.com. As we schedule them we add the events to this hub and you can find them by date and by location with a map of upcoming events. Another place to check is the demo page I’ve created on BenkoTips which shows not only upcoming events (aggregated from Community Megaphone, if you add it there it should show up on the map) but also User Group locations and links to their sites. That’s on http://benkotips.com/ug, then use the pan and zoom to focus the map on your city. Pins get added with the links. If your User Group data is out of date, send me an email & we’ll get it fixed.

We’ve got a series scheduled to run in thru May 2012 for Cloud Computing called Kick Start, which are a 1 day focused event that takes you thru the content from Soup to Nuts. The current schedule includes:

As to books I’d suggest checking out Sriram Krishnan’s book Programming Windows Azure: Programming the Microsoft Cloud, or Brian Prince’s book Azure in Action. If it’s SQL Azure that you’re after then Scott Klein has a great book called Pro SQL Azure (Expert’s Voice in .NET). I am also partial to the Patterns and Practices team’s book on Moving Applications to the Cloud on the Microsoft Azure Platform.

Finally you need an active Azure Subscription to get started. You can activate a 90 Free Trial by going to http://aka.ms/AzureTrialMB and get the tools at http://aka.ms/AzureMB.

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Cloud Tip #1–How to set a connection string in Web.config programmatically at runtime in Windows Azure

@MikeBenkovich 03/27/2012

The scenario is I’m migrating an application to the cloud. I’ve got a database connection defined in my web.config file which uses an on-premise SQL Server database and what I’d like to do is to move it to a Web Role on Windows Azure and use a SQL Azure database. The basic process is to add a Windows Azure Deployment Project to the solution that contains my web application. Next I move my database to SQL Azure (using the SQL Azure Migration Wizard), and then I change the connection string to point to the cloud database. Except that after I’ve deployed the project I may need to change where the database lives.


Try Azure for free - Activate a 90 day trial at http://aka.ms/AzureTrialMB today!

Since that information is stored in Web.config all I need to do is redeploy a new web.config file to the Web Role and we’re good to go. Unfortunately that probably means an upgrade to the application or a VIP swap, which isn’t all bad, but I know that I can make changes to the ServiceConfiguration file and propagate the changes to the running instances…no down time. But how do I get a change in the Service Configuration into the web.config?

I have posted before how you can encrypt information stored in the web.config file during a Session_Start event by adding code to the Global.asax file to examine a section and then call protect. If I can add some code to determine whether I’m running in Azure, and if I am to read the setting from the ServiceConfiguration file then we should be good.  Like the example of encrypting settings an approach that works well is to add code to the Session_Start event. For my example I’ve created a setting in the Windows Azure Role for dbConnectionString and set it to the value I’d like to use.

image

Next I make sure I add a reference to the Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime namespace added to the web project so I can access information about the role. If I don’t have one already I add a global.asax file to my web project. This would be where I can add code for the events that fire periodically throughout the lifecycle of my app. I choose to use the Session_Start because if I’ve made changes to my ServiceDefinition file they will get applied the next time someone browses to my site. 

        public string dbConnectionString { get; set; }
 
        void Session_Start(object sender, EventArgs e)
        {
            // Are we running in Azure?
            if (RoleEnvironment.IsAvailable == true)
            {
 
                dbConnectionString = RoleEnvironment.GetConfigurationSettingValue("dbConnectionString");
 
                // Do we have a value for the alternate dbConnectionString in the ServiceConfiguraiton file?
                if (dbConnectionString != null)
                {
                    Configuration myConfig = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("~");
                    ConnectionStringsSection mySection = myConfig.GetSection("connectionStrings") as ConnectionStringsSection;
                    if (mySection != null)
                    {
                        if (mySection.ConnectionStrings["myDBConnectionString"].ConnectionString != dbConnectionString)
                        {
                            mySection.ConnectionStrings["myDBConnectionString"].ConnectionString = dbConnectionString;
                            myConfig.Save(ConfigurationSaveMode.Modified, true);
                        }
                    }
                }
            }
        }

I check to see whether the value in the Service Configuration file is different than the value in my web.config, and if it is then make the change and save it. Initially when I tested the code I got a “the configuration is read only” error, but by adding the option for the Save method it works. Now I am able to update the database connection string from the Service Configuration File and have it propagate to my web.config of the running application.

Credit goes where credit is due, and Bing pointed me to a few posts on the subject, including StackOverflow and DotNetCurry.

Enjoy!

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Questions on Tuning SQL Queries

@MikeBenkovich 03/14/2012

Sometimes I get questions about how to get better performance from a database. In working with SQL Server over the years and now SQL Azure this is not an uncommon question. In SQL 2008 and beyond the tools include a Tuning Wizard, which is great, but it relies on capturing a realistic sample of the database activity which you can get with SQL Profiler. Just go to the tool and run it, saving the captured trace to a table in SQL so you can look at it later and do some analytics.

Here’s some thoughts and ideas, for what they’re worth. First thing I would look at is to take a profile sample of the application running, which captures the queries and the statistics around which tables are being used and can be fed into the tuning utility to suggest indexes and keys. The second thing I would look at is whether a permanent working table would work better than a Temp table. The advantage is you have index capabilities, but the downside is truncating it and loading it when you need it.

Do you have flexibility with the schema to look at ways to pre-populate the data you need for the report during normal runtime of your system? For example if you are doing validations and transformations could these be scheduled to run periodically or even as the data transactions occur so that the work doesn’t have to be done ad-hoc to generate the report?

As to the query syntax I’ve found the “NOT EXISTS” clause to give better performance than the IN or NOT IN because of the way the optimizer creates and executes the plan.

Finally if you have complex queries are you generating them on the fly or can you create functions/stored procedures where the execution plan is pre-compiled?

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New Webcast Series–Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts

@MikeBenkovich 01/31/2012

Announcing the latest webcast series - Cloud Computing Soup to Nuts (http://bit.ly/s2nCloud). In this series we start at the beginning and take you thru the services and technologies that make up Windows Azure and SQL Azure. Running every week on Tuesdays join us to explore the possible with Cloud Computing. I’ll be updating this page as the registration links become available.

2/7 - Get Started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure
You've heard the buzz, your boss might even have talked about it. In this first webcast of the Soup to Nuts series we'll get started with Windows Azure and Cloud Computing. In it we will explore what Azure is and isn't and get started by building our first Cloud application. Fasten your seatbelts, we're ready to get started with Cloud Computing and Windows Azure.

2/14 - Working with Windows Azure Roles
The Cloud provides us with a number of services including storage, compute, networking and more. In this second session we take a look at how roles define what a service is. Beyond the different flavors of roles we show the RoleEntryPoint interface, and how we can plug code in the startup operations to make it easy to scale up instances. We will show how the Service Definition defines the role and provides hooks for customizing it to run the way we need it to.

2/21 - Windows Azure Storage Options
The Cloud provides a scalable environment for compute but it needs somewhere common to store data. In this webcast we look at Windows Azure Storage and explore how to use the various types available to us including Blobs, Tables and Queues. We look at how it is durable, highly available and secured so that we can build applications that are able to leverage its strengths.

2/28 - Intro to SQL Azure
While Windows Azure Storage provides basic storage often we need to work with Relational Data. In this weeks webcast we dive into SQL Azure and see how it is similar and different from on-premise SQL Server. From connecting from rich client as well as web apps to the management tools available for creating schema and moving data between instances in the cloud and on site we show you how it’s done.

3/6 - Access Control Services and Cloud Identity
Who are you? How do we know? Can you prove it? Identity in the cloud presents us with the same and different challenges from identity in person. Access Control Services is a modern identity selector service that makes it easy to work with existing islands of identity such as Facebook, Yahoo and Google. It is based on standards and works with claims to provide your application with the information it needs to make informed authorization decisions. Join this webcast to see ACS in action and learn how to put it to work in your application today.

3/13 - Diagnostics & Troubleshooting
So you’ve built your Cloud application and now something goes wrong. What now? This weeks webcast is focused on looking at the options available for gaining insight to be able to find and solve problems. From working with Intellitrace to capture a run history to profiling options to configuring the diagnostics agent we will show you how to diagnose and troubleshoot your application.


Which way?

@MikeBenkovich 07/02/2004

Circus lights, in the big top world
We all need the clowns, to make us laugh!

Name that tune, see if you can follow where I'm coming from. The key is to remain faithful to your dream. Right? Faithful to those around us and to what we are in this world. As I look at where we're going from a technology perspective, we can only smile and wonder whether this is all worth the trouble. OK, so you're wondering why the heck this guy is writing stuff that isn't that technical or showing off the latest code. So he's got a blog and plans to fill it with random technobable about .NET...hmmm...

I'm going to be doing a web cast in a few weeks on tuning SQL Server. That should be fun, I will get to show off how you can use Application Center Test to create a sample usage of an application, how to get a view of what the database is doing, and then identify some ways to pinpoint where to look for the most likely culprits that prevent your application's scalability.

Check it out, you will get the chance to see how to tune your application. All in all it should be fun.


Starting out

@MikeBenkovich 06/16/2004

In the beginning...

A long, long time ago. I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. I know that if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance and maybe they'd be happy for a while...

- Don McClean (?)

How about a little American Pie? I like to throw down a few lines of verse to get the thoughts flowing when I sit down to do a little writing. Sort of sets the mood.  I guess that this song reminds us to look at the possible, and to remember the good times that were and the ones that will be. In the software industry we've definitely seen some challenges these last few years, but I think that the changes we're seeing, and the trends that are in the air will bring a resurgence or rennaisance in the software development industry.

The last few years have forced businesses to change how they view the world in order to remain profitable. Cutting costs, canceling projects, holding off on hiring have been the hallmark of the last couple years. But recently we are seeing that manufacturing is starting to get more orders. As stability in the world economy settles in, companies are starting to hire again. Projects that have been on hold are being released into the development stream and we are starting to see the sun rise again. But how can we make sure that we get a piece of that pie?

The secret, my friends, is to be efficient. To take advantage of the tools at our disposal to be more productive. Application blocks are a great idea, and are available in the public domain. They are stepping stones that allow us to build off a solid base and deliver our projects quicker. In the current MSDN Event series we talk about using the Exception and Configuration management blocks, as well as the Updater block which allows us to add the self updating functionality.  You can download these blocks by clicking on the links above. The blocks come with documentation on how they're built and quickstart sample applications that show them in use.

Other ways that we can reduce the development costs and be more effective is to take advantage of new products such as SQL Server Reporting Services. This new product gives us the ability to rapidly create and deploy business reports with our applications  and to simplify so many of those tedious tasks surrounding the simple job of reporting. Sure we have the information, but lets make it available and useful. Besides the great authoring environment that integrates with Visual Studio, we can manage the scalability, performance and delivery of the reports by simply configuring the caching, subscriptions and security of individual reports.

In order to continue to bring home the bacon, we must demonstrate that it is more efficient to have the developer working hand in hand (if not face to face) with the business in designing and building solutions. The new RAD features of Whidbey & Yukon promise to significantly reduce the amount of code required to perform basic functions. For example, have you ever written code to see whether or not a specific machine is currently connected to the network? If you're at a cmd line you can run the PING command and see whether it times out. But to implement that programmatically requires some complicated code. At the Des Moines User Group meeting last week someone had an example he had written to do just that. The code for the ping function was 140+ lines. In the .NET 2.0 we can use the “My” object and write the same thing in one (1) line of code (!!!). Do a little exploring and you find that this new object provides a tremendous amount of intelligence about our current runtime environment.  Sure, there's a lot of other cool features of Whidbey (like the automated layout guidelines, refactoring, etc) that will make rapid prototyping a reality, but until you actually have a chance to see it in action, you won't really appreciate the impact these advances will have.

As the developer becomes more productive and is able to provide the solutions that businesses require, they will start to ask better questions. Our goal then is to be at the front of the wave that is passing through the industry, so that maybe if we're lucky we can catch it and ride until we get to where we're going.


SQL - Archive