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This is the second of two case studies around Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center. The case study focuses on virtual infrastructure and business continuity and is worth spending a little time reading if you are looking to use these technologies.
The London-based practice needed a core infrastructure refresh to accommodate business growth, improve storage capacity, and ensure business continuity by virtualising its datacentres.
Zaha Hadid Architects deployed Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Hyper-V virtualisation software and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 for automated management.
Hear what Zaha Hadid's Head of IT thought of the solution...
“Using Microsoft System Center tools to service requests for updated versions of computer-aided design software has reduced demand on the IT team and helped us ensure licensing compliance.” Simon Johns, Head of IT, Zaha Hadid Architects
Download the full case study here!
Gary Pretty is the Deputy Head of Programming at Mando Group, a leading digital agency specialising in creating enterprise web sites and RIAs. Gary works with technologies across the Microsoft stack, including Windows Azure, Sharepoint, ASP.NET and Windows Phone. Gary can be found on twitter @GaryPretty
Using Windows Azure to create MicroFinance
We recently embarked on a proof of concept project to create a line of business web application using some of the latest technologies such as Windows Azure and HTML5 and see if we could combine these technologies with great design to produce an awesome experience for the end user. You can see the application itself, MicroFinance, at our web site at http://labs.mandogroup.com.
On the road to creating our MicroFinance application, there were some key technical requirements that we were aiming to achieve;
We wanted to see if Windows Azure could help us achieve the above objectives and how easy it would be to work with the Azure platform.
With this in mind we then set about splitting the planned application into several discreet components;
Now that we had the above separation we needed to decide how each of them could be implemented using the Azure platform.
For the data behind the application and how it is stored / accessed, we had a couple of options.
We decided to use Azure Table Storage as in the initial version of the application we are not storing hugely complex or massive amounts of data, meaning we could easily implement Table Storage for our data, perform joins on our data using LINQ once we have retrieved it from storage. We felt that SQL Azure was overkill for our requirements, but that’s not to say that it isn’t a good solution for many scenarios.
MSDN Magazine featured an article by Joseph Fultz which provides a detailed comparison of SQL Azure and Table Storage and I would highly recommend you read it if you are facing a similar decision.
The Web Application
The main web application which would be the primary method of accessing and managing the data for the end user needed to be responsive, reliable and scalable. As well as the core requirements, I wanted to be able to work with the technologies and tools I have always worked with (ASP.NET, C#, Visual Studio etc.). Happily for me, there is a great Windows Azure SDK Toolkit available with tools for Visual Studio, which makes creating applications and services that run in Azure an absolute snap.
Using the built in project templates that come with the Azure SDK and tools I was quickly able to create an Azure Web Role, used for hosting front end applications behind IIS, within which we could create the web application itself. From this point, where you have your Azure project created, it becomes business as usual from a development perspective, with the same old familiar ASP.NET pages and techniques you would always use, which meant that it was very easy for us to start writing the application even though it was to be hosted on a different platform than we would normally use.
The big advantage to hosting our application in Azure is the ability to scale at short notice. Should demand increase, you can simply log into your Management Portal and increase the number of instances of your application that are available to cope with the increased load. Should the demand drop back again, you can simply reduce the number of instances running back to a more suitable level. The notion of this rapid and responsive ‘spinning up’ and ‘spinning down’ within Azure is probably my favourite feature and the reason that Azure first grabbed my attention.
From a testing perspective, I only have more good things to say about the SDK and the tools. There is a set of very capable emulators that work with zero config within Visual Studio. This allowed us to run the application in a ‘cloud-like’ environment and ensure that the components were working together correctly. This was especially true with the storage emulator, which allowed testing of our code to create and access Azure Tables.
Deployment was my only real niggle with Azure development. There were a couple of routes available to me to get the solution into Azure. The first was to package the solution within Visual Studio, which produced two package files, and then to log into the Azure Management Portal and manually setup and upload these packages in order to deploy them. The second, more favourable option, is an automated deployment from within Visual Studio, however this option is only available to those with top-end Visual Studio editions (Ultimate I believe) and still require some manual configuration within your Management Portal. Therefore for many people I believe that the deployment procedure could be streamlined considerably. I also encountered an issue with the configuration of my application which was still configured to use local development storage whilst I was attempting to deploy and therefore causing the operation to fail. Unfortunately, the error message was incredibly vague and unhelpful, which could be improved.
Summary and What’s Next?
When all is said and done, the experience of developing an application to be hosted within Azure was on the whole a straight-forward and positive experience. I think that the small issues I encountered when deploying would not be enough to prevent me from recommending Azure to others.
At this point we now had a working core application running in the cloud, with the ability to serve data to a variety of platforms and scale when necessary. Next we needed to make it useable, look good and just more exciting for the end user in general and this will be discussed in a dedicated series of blog posts on MSDN starting with MicroFinance App, Creating the Front End.
As the Device becomes more and more ubiquitous and powerful, organisations are placing greater focus on them to improve and increase their business revenues and practices. Devices such as Thin Clients, Point-of-Service terminals (Tills), Kiosks and Digital Signage are growing in their prevalence and importance. As such, organisations are now focusing on the effective management of all IT resources including those that traditionally may not have been managed using Systems Management Tools.
Do you currently use SCCM to manage your IT estate?
Do devices form part of your IT estate? If the answer is yes and these devices are built using the Windows Embedded operating system, the good news is that they can now be managed in exactly the same way as your desktop environment using SCCM and Windows® Embedded Device Manager 2011 which is designed to manage these types of connected Intelligent Systems.
Windows® Embedded Device Manager 2011 enables enterprises to deploy, assess and update Windows Embedded devices, providing a single management solution that offers enhanced insight into and control over IT infrastructure and systems by extending the capabilities of System Center Configuration Manager 2007. Windows® Embedded Device Manager 2011 provides enterprise customers increased ease of management and greater embedded device integration. IT Professionals can manage the most common Windows Embedded devices found in their enterprise environments including thin client, Point of Service, kiosks, and digital signage.
With Device Manager you have the ability to control your entire Windows estate (desktop, laptop and device environment) through one standard process offering greater visibility of the embedded devices your organisation has in its out laying offices, shops, retail environments and airports and terminals to name just a few. Providing greater control over these devices will ultimately increase uptime and availability and will also allow you to efficiently deploy patches with latest software updates.
To find out more:
Microsoft Virtual Academy have a track dedicated to deploying Private Cloud scenario’s. The track covers:
During the 8 modules of this specialization, you will be introduced to all the elements of building the Microsoft private cloud. You’ll learn how to optimize and deploy the private cloud starting at the infrastructure layer. You’ll also be introduced to advanced virtualization management features and the concept and implementation of the System Center’s private cloud application service model.
After completing all of the modules you will have an understanding of:
Sign up to MVA and get started on this track now!
Last week we announced System Center 2012 as part of the Transforming IT with Microsoft Private Cloud event. The event itself was done in 3 parts and is now available to view as a series of webcasts.
Private cloud discussion with Microsoft executives: Insights and news
Executive panel and Q&A: Guidance and best practices
Envisioning Your Private Cloud: A scenario based demonstration from the Microsoft Technology Center in Redmond, WA. 30 Minutes Watch Now
Let us know what your thoughts are and how you will be using System Center 2012 by leaving a comment or sharing your feedback with us on Twitter.
You may also find our announcement and resources article relating to System Center 2012 useful.00
This is the first of two Hyper-V and System Center case studies that will provide some interesting insights into ways of making the most of Microsoft Technologies.
The Isle of Man Government wanted to save money and boost services by moving its infrastructure—including 1,000 applications—to a hybrid cloud environment.
It chose the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V technology and the Microsoft System Center suite to improve manageability.]
Here's what the IOM Government had to say about their experience.
“Our boost in performance speaks for itself—an eight-fold improvement in data availability, 40 per cent more storage resources with no extra hardware needed, and a reduction of 15 per cent in operating costs.” Peter Clarke, Chief Technology Officer, Isle of Man Government
You can read the full case study here!
Microsoft is partnering with 4 leading ISV partners – Metalogix, KnowledgeLake, Nintex and HiSoftware – to deliver a series of seminars across the UK starting February 27th 2012.
These half-day seminars will focus on the ‘SharePoint Customer Journey’ and will show users how to get more value from SharePoint and how to efficiently extend SharePoint to increase their business performance. Attendees will hear about real customer success stories and powerful partner solutions, as well as learning useful tips on how to quickly and easily get started. The event schedule, hyperlinked to the online registration pages, is as follows:
Edinburgh: 27/2/2012 (AM) Manchester: 28/2/2012 (AM) Reading: 29/2/2012 (AM) London: 1/3/2012 (AM)
These events are free to attend and provide a great opportunity to show existing SharePoint customers how they can extend their investment and expand adoption of SharePoint in the business. It’s also a great opportunity to increase license revenue, user adoption and deployment of advanced workloads.
This week has been very much about System Center and Private Cloud. There has been plenty of learning resources and training material to keep you going and get you up and running with System Center as fast as possible.
Look out this week for event announcements and Case Studies on Systems Center. Sign up to our newsletter for the information straight to your inbox or follow us on Twitter go get our blog post as soon as they come out!
This is a great opportunity to find out more about System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 with John Baker, Senior IT Pro Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation.
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, a management solution for the virtualized data center, lets a system administrator manage virtualization hosts, networking, and storage resources. With Virtual Machine Manager 2012, you can optimize your existing investments by managing multiple-hypervisor environments in a single pane of glass.
In this webcast, we demonstrate how you can use Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to create and deploy virtual machines and private clouds. We show how you can pool and dynamically allocate virtualized data center resources, enabling self-service infrastructure experience for your business, with flexible role-based delegation and access control.
Starts: Wednesday, February 01, 2012 10:00 AM (PST) For us Brits that’s 6PM so not too bad if you do want to get on the webcast. Time zone: (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada) Duration: 1 hour(s)