Microsoft is going out of its way lately to ensure that its third-party developers are well equipped to get going with the Windows Azure platform. Last September, they announced major releases for their Windows Azure SDK and Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio 2010. Aside from a slew of fixes to prior releases, these package updates afforded programmers the means for significant upgrade in development capabilities, as exhibited through its newfound support for ASP.NET MVC, ASP.NET Web Forms or WCF projects, as well as the added function to run a number of different service configurations in a single cloud deployment.
With a new Windows 8 operating system on the horizon, Metro style apps that asynchronously update across Windows devices are proving to be all the craze. Needless to say, this has mobile implications in both consumer and business markets. And regardless of the type of audience your apps are geared toward, one thing is for certain; Windows 8 Metro style apps are cloud-based, and the instrument used to provide the service is Windows Azure. So whether you're looking to build cutesy Angry Birds type video games, or applications to address enterprise users globally, you're going to have to learn to embrace and get very familiar with Microsoft's cloud platform. That is especially true if you're looking to sell anything returning a substantial amount of revenue on the Windows Store, Microsoft's upcoming application distribution platform (similar to the Apple's iPad/iPhone App Stores and Google's Chrome Web Store).
The purpose behind the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 tool is to give developers the ability to take advantage of several built-in Windows 8 features, such as notifications (the underlying concept behind Metro style apps). Furthermore, as with most IDE toolkits, it also provides you the time to focus on application development, without having to be concerned with any major OS/platform configuration. In respect to Azure, this is generally broken down in terms of compute, storage, networking, and content delivery. If you've never used the Windows Azure platform and/or Visual Studio before, or this all just sounds very foreign to you, don't worry, as I've itemized some resources to help you get started installing and using the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 below, immediately, at no upfront cost.
- You can download the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 Consumer Preview by going here. Note that the automated installer includes everything you need to get started, including Visual Studio 2010 Express and the Windows Azure SDK on Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
- If you are unfamiliar with Windows Azure development, you might get started by downloading the Windows Azure Training Kit, here. Then, head over here for a free 3-month trial subscription of the Azure service. After three months have expired, read my "Windows Azure pricing demystified" post to get a sense of how Azure's pay-as-you go pricing might work for you.
- Discussion of key technologies used in the toolkit:
- ASP.NET MVC 3: Notable framework that utilizes model-view-controller architecture.
- WCF REST Services: .NET framework API for building SOA (software-oriented architecture) applications.
- Windows Azure SDK: Simplifies development, deployment and management on the Windows Azure platform via Visual Studio 2010.
- Windows Identity Foundation: Allows for identity aware ASP.NET applications supported by all modern Windows operating systems.
- Windows Push Notification Service (WNS): Update desktop/device applications using the Azure cloud service, such as with Windows 8 Metro cloud apps.
- See this site for a listing of NuGet Packages when you're ready to get involved with Push Notifications.
Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.