Last Tuesday was another installment from the UK Windows Azure User Group (formerly London Windows Azure UG) which this time included a presentation from our very own Simon Hart, and as well as myself, two other Smarties also attended the event to
heckle support Simon.
The session kicked off with an apology from Microsoft’s Mark Quirk (Azure Product Manager) due to last week’s Azure downtime. Mark described this as the first incident in two-half years and although any incident like this is never a good thing, it was great to see Mark there and helped reinforce to me just how important this stuff is to Microsoft.
The 1st agenda item was from Yossi Dahan (MS Technical Specialist) and given that he wasn’t feeling well he did a great presentation on Azure and how it can support mobile application development. Yossi demonstrated a mobile solution called BabelCam (source available here ) which goes something like this:
- Someone takes a picture from a mobile device of a menu which is in a foreign language.
- The solution then authenticates using the Azure Access Control Service (ACS).
- Once authenticated, stores the image on Azure as a BLOB.
- Passes the image to an OCR service to capture the text.
- The text is then passed to Bing where it is translated into English.
- Translated message is passed back to the mobile device.
A couple of things stuck out for me:
- Due to the constraints of processing power on mobile devices, Azure enables developers to move as much logic and data as possible from the device up onto the cloud.
- This helps deliver more powerful applications but also means that it is easier to support multiple device OS’s (Windows, iOS and Android) using the .NET SDKs.
The main realisation I had was how influential Cloud paired with Mobile will be and the combined potential that these technologies bring. Consumer-focused mobile applications (above Enterprise apps) require the type of scalability that only the cloud can provide. Couple this with the ease at which things like ACS can be configured to authenticate users via Live ID, Yahoo!, Google Mail and Facebook and MS are providing the building blocks for vastly scalable, quick-to-market solutions.
Following the beer and pizza (thanks sponsors), Simon Hart talked us through his soon to be published Azure reference architecture…in 45 minutes!
The solution enables you to notify your home-based media center of programmes you wish to record from any browser device. The effort and dedication shown by Simon in developing the reference architecture was obvious and the slides at the start helped frame the presentation; what initially looks to be a simple undertaking turns out to be quite a challenge. What Simon demonstrated was how all the facets of Azure can be used to overcome these challenges creating a solution that is:
Secure (using ACS)
Scalable (using the Azure Service Bus)
Resilient (using an active-passive DR capability across regions)
It was great to see an example pulling all these different parts together in one solution…the difficult part, was grasping it all in the time! I think that Simon is penciled in for the next meeting (3rd April) to talk in more detail about the Service Bus, so it’ll be another late one for me but well worth it.