New Windows Azure Tools (July 2009)

 Jul 21st, 2009 

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AzureLogoAfter releasing the pricing scheme and the business model, Microsoft announced a new set of tools for Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio extend Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 to enable the creation, building, debugging, running and packaging of scalable web applications and services on Windows Azure.

The most interesting feature is probably the support for multiple roles. Now one can deploy many web/worker roles.

What’s new in the Windows Azure SDK?

  • The Windows Azure SDK supports developing and deploying services containing multiple web and worker roles. A service must include at least one role, of either type, and may include zero or more web roles, and zero or more worker roles.
  • The new PowershellRole sample hosts the Powershell runtime within a Windows Azure role. It demonstrates a simple remote console web role as well as a worker role whose implementation is a Powershell script. The host also includes the CloudDrive sample snap-in to provide access to Windows Azure Storage from script.

What’s new in Windows Azure Tools for Visual Studio

  • New project creation dialog
  • Support for developing and deploying services containing multiple web and worker roles. A service may contain zero or more web roles and zero or more worker roles with a minimum of one role of either type.
  • Ability to associate any ASP.NET Web Application project in a Cloud Service solution as a Web Role
  • Support for building Cloud Services from TFS Build
  • Enhanced robustness and stability

The new CTP Release can be downloaded from this link.

What is Windows Azure?

 Jul 15th, 2009 

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Just found a nice video describing what Windows Azure is.

I already explained what Azure is a previous post, Windows Azure Application Architecture, but I find this video funny and interesting.

PS: Sorry but this post is not XHTML valid :( I haven’t managed to embed the object in a proper way. Does anyone have a suggestion of how to correct this?

Panda Cloud Antivirus Beta Review

 May 14th, 2009 

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As we emerge more and more is a Software + Services world, Panda took advantage of this new wave and released the World’s first cloud antivirus solution.

The protection model based on a thin-client agent and server architecture which services malware protection as opposed to locally installed products. By combining local detection technologies with cloud-scanning capabilities and applying non-intrusive interception techniques on the client architecture, Panda Cloud Antivirus provides some of the best protection with a lightweight antivirus thin-client agent that barely consumes any PC resources.

Of course this S+S approach has advantages and drawbacks.

Advantages:

  • Always using the latest version of software and protection
  • Minimum impact on local resources
  • Detection of threats in less than 6 minutes (this is what Panda announced on the official blog)

Drawbacks:

  • Need of permanent Internet connection
  • Without Internet connection the protection is reduced

Panda Cloud Antivirus takes advantage of the cloud world and combines the information from all users in order to detect and stop malware. Using the so called Panda Collective Intelligence, a cloud-based test lab for malicious software, samples are collected, analyzed, categorized and, if needed, disinfection routines are created. Therefore the community becomes the lab. In this way there is no need for software updates, there is no virus definition database on the client computer and everyone has access to the latest protection.

Compared to other antivirus solutions, Panda categorizes local files from “real security risk” to “minimum security risk” and by this criteria the scanning engine prioritizes it’s tasks. There are three types of automatic scanning (as mentioned on the official blog):

  • On-Access Scan. This is the maximum priority resident scan that is applied only to objects which are truly a security risk in a specific point in time: files which are being executed or used. The file is intercepted, prevented from running and disinfected if found to be malicious.
  • Prefetch Scan. There are other elements such as files downloaded from the Internet which, while not being executed at a specific point in time, have a much higher risk and probability of being executed at any time. These files should be watched more closely than files which have barely any activity, as we can expect them to be executed, unpacked, copied or moved shortly. A Prefetch Scan basically launches an asynchronous local & cloud query on the file to scan it “as soon as possible” without impacting performance. Of course if any of these files is called to be executed, the file will be intercepted and an on-access scan will be applied to it.
  • Background Scan. Lastly a normal PC has hundreds of thousands of files in its hard drive. Most of these files are not executing normally and simply just “sit there” until either the use double-clicks on them or they are called upon by another process. These are considered the least dangerous files from a security perspective. Panda Cloud Antivirus will continuously run Background Scans on these in an asynchronous manner while the PC is idle, without impacting performance at all. Of course if any of these files is called to be executed, the file will be intercepted and an on-access scan will be applied to it.

In my opinion Read the rest of this post »

GeekMeet Brasov #1 – Cloud Computing

 Mar 29th, 2009 

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DISCLAIMER: This post contains Romanian words – sorry for those who do not understand them.

Yesterday I attended the first GeekMeet presentation from Brasov, Romania. It was pretty exciting because I was one of the speakers.

My general impression about this event was good. The organizers did their job well, with little mistakes – mistakes are inevitable for the first event :). The presentations were nice too; there were six:

  1. Mihai Gheza – “SEO Kung Fu”geekmeet_logo
    He told us about SEO and what can we do to improve it.
  2. Victor Hurdugaci – “Cloud Computing – Lumea din nor”
    My presentation.
  3. Maria Diaconu – Agile, Scrum, XP
    A 30 minutes workshop about the basic idea behind Agile methodologies.
  4. Claudiu Gamulescu – “eCommerce – Analiza de Criza”
    A presentation about the effects of crysis on electronic commerce
  5. Vlad Georgescu – “Design Related”
    Some general design related topics. Actually this presenation started an intresting debate about speculation and employment.
  6. Bobby Voicu
    Bobby’s presentation did not have a name. I will copy what Mihai said, Bobby’s presentation was a “friendly preaching”.

Mihai already uploaded his presentation. When the others will follow him I will update their links.

My presentation can be downloaded by click the following link: cloud-computing-geekmeet-2009-03-28. It is about cloud computing, mainly focused on Microsoft Windows Azure. Because there were no feedback form – unfortunately  – I want to ask my visitors who attended the presentation to give some feedback (as a comment or by e-mail at contact [at] victorhurdugaci [dot] com).

I am still waiting for pictures. When some will be available I will upload them here.

See you on GeekMeet Brasov 2 (April 25 – same place, same hour).

New Windows Azure Features (March 2009)

 Mar 19th, 2009 

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Now that Mix09 is talking place we have a lot of nice announcements from Microsoft. I want to focus this post on the new Azure features, SDK and Visual Studio Tools that have been released a few hours ago.

For those who don’t know, Windows Azure is the Microsoft’s cloud operating system. It is an operating system that runs in the cloud and only in MS’ data centers so don’t bother asking how can you install this new OS because there is no way you can do it. If you want more details about cloud computing and Windows Azure join my live presentation on GeekMeet Brasov on March 28 (it’s a presentation in Romanian).

Let’s see what new goodies are in the March release:

First of all there is support for FastCGI which allows developers to deploy and run web applications written with 3rd party programming languages such as PHP.  This provides developers using non-Microsoft languages the ability to take advantage of scalability on Windows Azure. Also the IIS URL Rewrite Module has been enabled.  URL rewriting, a feature often used by FastCGI developers, enables the creation of URLs that are easier for users to remember and easier for search engines to find. The Visual Studio Tools for Windows Azure includes a FastCGI Web Role that creates a Web Application project tailored to make it easier to configure, run and package a FastCGI application.

Geo-location provides developers with the ability to specify a location for their applications and data to build responsive services with lower network latency as well as the capability to meet location-based regulatory and legal requirements. Until now there were Azure data centers only in the north western United States but now you can also choose the data centers in south. Some officials from Microsoft said that “Going forward, we plan on expanding our presence to more locations, especially outside the U.S”.

One of the great things about Windows Azure is that it handles the deployment, monitoring, and management of your service so that you have more time to focus on the business logic.  Until recently, realizing these benefits meant your code had to run under Windows Azure partial trust, a code access security (CAS) level which locks down certain .NET functionality. Windows Azure now offers the option of running the code in your Web and worker roles under full trust.  This unlocks a number of compelling scenarios such as:

  • Invoking non-.NET Code: Many developers have existing investments in native code or may choose to use native code for some specialized tasks.  .NET full trust makes it possible to use native code via spawning processes or Platform Invoke (P/Invoke).
  • Using .NET Libraries that Require Full Trust: Certain .NET libraries, including libraries in the .NET Services SDK, require full trust and can now be used in Windows Azure.
  • Inter-process Communication via Named Pipes: If you application spawns processes, you can communicate among them via named pipes.

However you must be aware that the Full Trust is not really Full Trust :) There are some obvious limitations like writing to registry and writing to the file system. These limitation might not be that obvious when programming against the local development environment.

Least but not last, even though it was not officially announced, I think there are plenty of bug fixes and other nice things.

The SDK and Tools for Visual Studio can be downloaded from the following links:

Windows Azure Tools for Microsoft Visual Studio (March 2009 CTP) – now include the SDK
Windows Azure Software Development Kit (March 2009 CTP) – if you don’t need the Visual Studio Tools