Book review: Microsoft Silverlight 5 and Windows Azure Enterprise Integration

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Packt Publishing.

The author, David Burela, though I didn’t hear about him before seems to be well known in the Australian community.

When you look at the contents of the book it looks like it’s covering the main integration parts with Windows Azure.

- Hosting Silverlight Applications in Azure
- Using Azure Queues with Silverlight
- Accessing Azure Blob Storage from Silverlight
- Storing Data in Azure Table Storage from Silverlight
- Relational Data with SQL Azure and Entity Framework
- RIA Services and SQL Azure
- Exposing OData to Silverlight Applications
- Application Authentication

The author expects you to already have some Silverlight knowledge and thus won’t explain the Silverlight parts in too much detail. My experience with Windows Azure is small, which makes me probably part of the target audience. The introduction helps you understand what Azure is, a good refresher for me. After that, chapter after chapter there’s an explanation on how to integrate Silverlight with the backend, running on Azure. All in all it stays very basic and a couple of times it refers to some MSDN pages for the details. Though I agree that copying information that’s already on the web is probably not a good thing, I was reading the book on the bench and this means, no details for me at the time. I would rather have a book that is complete and puts these kind of additional parts in an Appendix.

In the end I didn’t feel satisfied. Most of the integration was more like, you integrate with WCF and that WCF will integrate with Windows Azure. This doesn’t have anything to do with the book itself, the content is good. However is a book like this really needed? You have to judge that yourself. It is an engaging book that will introduce Windows Azure to Silverlight developers.

Getting Astoria to work with ADO.NET Entity Framework Beta 2

Hmm, still trying to test Astoria out, this time in combination with ADO.NET Entity Framework Beta 2. Still not succesful however. I noticed the following things.
  • When I try to add a "Web Data Service", I got stuck in a Visual Studio error. Error: this template attempted to load an untrusted component 'msastoriavs, Version=2.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31BF3856AD364E35'. For more information on this problem and how to enable this template, please see documentation on Customizing Project Templates.
  • Besides this I compared the Entity Model I created, they greatly differ between Beta 1 and Beta 2.
    • The extension is changed from .csdl to .edmx.
    • The schema-prefix changed from edm: to edmx:
My conclusion so far. The projectteam for Astoria has to do some work to make Astoria work with Beta 2 of ADO.NET Entity Framework.

Using Astoria Service for setting up Getting Things Done Data Service

A few days ago I wrote about trying out Astoria. Yesterday I started trying out. First I thought about using Astoria local, but that wasn't succesful. On the Astoria Getting Started Guide it says you need to have Visual Studio 2008 Beta 1 in combination with Astoria. In my case I already have Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2, which in case doesn't have ADO.NET Entity Framework available. And as a matter of fact Astoria is built on top of WCF and makes use of the ADO.NET Entity Framework. But that's no problem for setting up your own Astoria Data Service. Below are the detailed steps I took. entitymodel.jpg First of all I designed my rough model in Visio. Using the central entity Task and all the other things around Task like: Project, Context, Priority and User. The model is designed with Getting Things Done in my mind. A topic I blogged about some time ago. This tryout wasn't about building a complex model, it was all about getting started with Astoria. So let's translate this model in ADO.NET Entity Model. One thing before you start: I've had some trouble because the setting up of the model took me some time, and I wasn't able to complete because of some small error in the Session. Fast setting up does work though. First you need to set up some basic settings about your Data Service you're setting up. After this you need to create the entities, properties on those entities and all the assocications. Take a look at the images on the bottom for the way I translated the entity model to Astoria. After this I just completed the service. Next time I'm going to use the Getting Things Done Data Service to read and write data. Do you think this is an interesting service? At least, I do. step-1.jpgstep-2-priority.jpgstep-2-user.jpgstep-2-context.jpgstep-2-project.jpgstep-2-taskproject.jpgstep-2-taskcontext.jpgstep-2-task.jpg

Codename Astoria - Data Services Technology and Free Service

Microsoft is working on a project called Astoria. It consists partly of a new technology acompanied with a library and partly of a free service. It's a data service that is reachable over regular HTTP requests and standard HTTP verbs such as GET, POST, PUT and DELETE. The data is formatted as plain XML, JSON or RDF (experimental). The service that is acompanied is a hosting service for this data service. You will get a 100 MB data service hosting for free. The Astoria runtime library makes use of the ADO.NET Entity Framework part of Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5 and is built on top of Windows Communication Foundation. I'm very interested in this new technology. I might try it sometime in the future. But we have to remember this service is experimental. It might even cease to exist some day.