Maarten Balliauw {blog}

Web development, NuGet, Microsoft Azure, PHP, ...


Just released: MvcSiteMapProvider 3.1.0 RC

ASP.NET MVC Sitemap providerIt looks like I’m really cr… ehm… releasing way too much over the past few days, but yes, here’s another one: I just posted MvcSiteMapProvider 3.1.0 RC both on CodePlex and NuGet.

The easiest way to get the current bits is this one:

Install-Package MvcSiteMapProvider

As usual, here are the release notes:

  • Created one NuGet package containing both .NET 3.5 and .NET 4.0 assemblies
  • Significantly improved memory usage and performance
  • Medium Trust optimizations
  • DefaultControllerTypeResolver speed improvement
  • Resolve authorize attributes through FilterProviders.Current (in MVC3)
  • Allow to specify target on SiteMapTitleAttribute
  • Fix the NuGet package DisplayTemplates folder location
  • Fixed: Nuget web.config section duplication
  • Fixed: HelperMenu.Menu() always uses default provider
  • Fixed: 2.x Uses Default Parameters
  • Fixed: Bad Null Checking in MvcSiteMapProvider.DefaultSiteMapProvider
  • Fixed: Exception: An item with the same key has already been added.
  • Fixed: Add id="menu" to default MenuHelperModel DisplayTemplate (not in NuGet yet)
  • Fixed: Wrong Breadcrumb Displayed Under Heavy Load
  • Fixed: Backport Route support to 2.3.1

Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Platform Update 1 KB2478063 Service Pack 5 Feature Set 3.1 R2 November Edition RTW

As you can see, a new .NET Framework version just came out. Read about it at Now why does my title not match with the title from the blog post I referenced? Well… How is this going to help people?

For those who don’t see the problem, let me explain… If we get new people on board that are not yet proficient enough in .NET, they all struggle with some concepts. Concepts like: service packs for a development framework. Or better: client profile stuff! Stuff that breaks their code because stuff is missing in there! I feel like this is going the Java road where every version has a billion updates associated with it. That’s not where we want to go, right? The Java side?


As I’m saying: why not make things clear and call these “updates” something like .NET 4.1 or so? Simple major/minor versions. We’re developers, not marketeers. We’re developers, not ITPro who enjoy these strange names to bill yet another upgrade to their customers

How am I going to persuade my manager to move to the next version? Telling him that we now should use “Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Platform Update 1 KB2478063” instead of telling “hey, there’s a new .NET 4! It’s .NET 4.1 and it’s shiny and new!”.

It seems I’m not alone with this thought. Hadi Hariri also blogged about it. And I expect more to follow... If you feel the same: now is the time to stop this madness! I suspect there’s an R2 November Edition coming otherwise…

[Edit @ 14:00] Here's how to use it in NuGet. Seems this thing is actually ".NET 4.0.1" under the hood.
[Edit @ 14:01] And here's another one. And another one.
[Edit] And Scott Hanselman chimes in:

A Glimpse at Windows Identity Foundation claims

For a current project, I’m using Glimpse to inspect what’s going on behind the ASP.NET covers. I really hope that you have heard about the greatest ASP.NET module of 2011: Glimpse. If not, shame on you! Install-Package Glimpse immediately! And if you don’t know what I mean by that, NuGet it now! (the greatest .NET addition since sliced bread).

This project is also using Windows Identity Foundation. It’s really a PITA to get a look at the claims being passed around. Usually, I do this by putting a breakpoint somewhere and inspecting the current IPrincipal’s internals. But with Glimpse, using a small plugin to just show me the claims and their values is a no-brainer. Check the right bottom of this '(partial) screenshot:

Glimpse Windows Identity Foundation

Want to have this too? Simply copy the following class in your project and you’re done:

1 [GlimpsePlugin()] 2 public class GlimpseClaimsInspectorPlugin : IGlimpsePlugin 3 { 4 public object GetData(HttpApplication application) 5 { 6 // Return the data you want to display on your tab 7 var data = new List<object[]> { new[] { "Identity", "Claim", "Value", "OriginalIssuer", "Issuer" } }; 8 9 // Add all claims found 10 var claimsPrincipal = application.User as ClaimsPrincipal; 11 if (claimsPrincipal != null) 12 { 13 foreach (var identity in claimsPrincipal.Identities) 14 { 15 foreach (var claim in identity.Claims) 16 { 17 data.Add(new object[] { identity.Name, claim.ClaimType, claim.Value, claim.OriginalIssuer, claim.Issuer }); 18 } 19 } 20 } 21 22 return data; 23 } 24 25 public void SetupInit(HttpApplication application) 26 { 27 } 28 29 public string Name 30 { 31 get { return "WIF Claims"; } 32 } 33 }

Enjoy! And if you feel like NuGet-packaging this (or including it with Glimpse), feel free.

Using dynamic WCF service routes

DynamicFor a demo I am working on, I’m creating an OData feed. This OData feed is in essence a WCF service which is activated using System.ServiceModel.Activation.ServiceRoute. The idea of using that technique is simple: map an incoming URL route, e.g. “” to a WCF service. But there’s a catch in ServiceRoute: unlike ASP.NET routing, it does not support the usage of route data. This means that if I want to create a service which can exist multiple times but in different contexts, like, for example, a “private” instance of that service for a customer, the ServiceRoute will not be enough. No support for having and to map to the same “MyService”. Unless you create multiple ServiceRoutes which require recompilation. Or… unless you sprinkle some route magic on top!

Implementing an MVC-style route for WCF

Let’s call this thing DynamicServiceRoute. The goal of it will be to achieve a working ServiceRoute which supports route data and which allows you to create service routes of the format “MyService/{customername}”, like you would do in ASP.NET MVC.

First of all, let’s inherit from RouteBase and IRouteHandler. No, not from ServiceRoute! The latter is so closed that it’s basically a no-go if you want to extend it. Instead, we’ll wrap it! Here’s the base code for our DynamicServiceRoute:

1 public class DynamicServiceRoute 2 : RouteBase, IRouteHandler 3 { 4 private string virtualPath = null; 5 private ServiceRoute innerServiceRoute = null; 6 private Route innerRoute = null; 7 8 public static RouteData GetCurrentRouteData() 9 { 10 } 11 12 public DynamicServiceRoute(string pathPrefix, object defaults, ServiceHostFactoryBase serviceHostFactory, Type serviceType) 13 { 14 } 15 16 public override RouteData GetRouteData(HttpContextBase httpContext) 17 { 18 } 19 20 public override VirtualPathData GetVirtualPath(RequestContext requestContext, RouteValueDictionary values) 21 { 22 } 23 24 public System.Web.IHttpHandler GetHttpHandler(RequestContext requestContext) 25 { 26 } 27 }

As you can see, we’re creating a new RouteBase implementation and wrap 2 routes: an inner ServiceRoute and and inner Route. The first one will hold all our WCF details and will, in one of the next code snippets, be used to dispatch and activate the WCF service (or an OData feed or …). The latter will be used for URL matching: no way I’m going to rewrite the URL matching logic if it’s already there for you in Route.

Let’s create a constructor:

1 public DynamicServiceRoute(string pathPrefix, object defaults, ServiceHostFactoryBase serviceHostFactory, Type serviceType) 2 { 3 if (pathPrefix.IndexOf("{*") >= 0) 4 { 5 throw new ArgumentException("Path prefix can not include catch-all route parameters.", "pathPrefix"); 6 } 7 if (!pathPrefix.EndsWith("/")) 8 { 9 pathPrefix += "/"; 10 } 11 pathPrefix += "{*servicePath}"; 12 13 virtualPath = serviceType.FullName + "-" + Guid.NewGuid().ToString() + "/"; 14 innerServiceRoute = new ServiceRoute(virtualPath, serviceHostFactory, serviceType); 15 innerRoute = new Route(pathPrefix, new RouteValueDictionary(defaults), this); 16 }

As you can see, it accepts a path prefix (e.g. “MyService/{customername}”), a defaults object (so you can say new { customername = “Default” }), a ServiceHostFactoryBase (which may sound familiar if you’ve been using ServiceRoute) and a service type, which is the type of the class that will be your WCF service.

Within the constructor, we check for catch-all parameters. Since I’ll be abusing those later on, it’s important the user of this class can not make use of them. Next, a catch-all parameter {*servicePath} is appended to the pathPrefix parameter. I’m doing this because I want all calls to a path below “MyService/somecustomer/…” to match for this route. Yes, I can try to do this myself, but again this logic is already available in Route so I’ll just reuse it.

One other thing that happens is a virtual path is generated. This will be a fake path that I’ll use as the URL to match in the inner ServiceRoute. This means if I navigate to “MyService/SomeCustomer” or if I navigate to “MyServiceNamespace.MyServiceType-guid”, the same route will trigger. The first one is the pretty one that we’re trying to create, the latter is the internal “make-things-work” URL. Using this virtual path and the path prefix, simply create a ServiceRoute and Route.

Actually, a lot of work has been done in 3 lines of code in the constructor. What’s left is just an implementation of RouteBase which calls the corresponding inner logic. Here’s the meat:

1 public override RouteData GetRouteData(HttpContextBase httpContext) 2 { 3 return innerRoute.GetRouteData(httpContext); 4 } 5 6 public override VirtualPathData GetVirtualPath(RequestContext requestContext, RouteValueDictionary values) 7 { 8 return null; 9 } 10 11 public System.Web.IHttpHandler GetHttpHandler(RequestContext requestContext) 12 { 13 requestContext.HttpContext.RewritePath("~/" + virtualPath + requestContext.RouteData.Values["servicePath"], true); 14 return innerServiceRoute.RouteHandler.GetHttpHandler(requestContext); 15 }

I told you it was easy, right? GetRouteData is used by the routing engine to check if a route matches. We just pass that call to the inner route which is able to handle this. GetVirtualPath will not be important here, so simply return null there. If you really really feel this is needed, it would require some logic that creates a URL from a set of route data. But since you’ll probably never have to do that, null is good here. The most important thing here is GetHttpHandler. It is called by the routing engine to get a HTTP handler for a specific request context if the route matches. In this method, I simply rewrite the requested URL to the internal, ugly “MyServiceNamespace.MyServiceType-guid” URL and ask the inner ServiceRoute to have fun with it and serve the request. There, the magic just happened.

Want to use it? Simply register a new route:

1 var dataServiceHostFactory = new DataServiceHostFactory(); 2 RouteTable.Routes.Add(new DynamicServiceRoute("MyService/{customername}", null, dataServiceHostFactory, typeof(MyService)));


Why would you need this? Well, imagine you are building a customer-specific service where you want to track service calls for a specific sutomer. For example, if you’re creating private NuGet repositories. And yes, this was a hint on a future blog post :-)

Feel this is useful to you as well? Grab the code here: DynamicServiceRoute.cs (1.94 kb)

Slides for my talk at MIX11: Fun with ASP.NET MVC 3, MEF and NuGet

As promised, here are the slides and demo code for my talk "Fun with ASP.NET MVC 3, MEF and NuGet" I presented at MIX in Las Vegas.

Abstract: "So you have a team of developers… And a nice architecture to build on… How about making that architecture easy for everyone and getting developers up to speed quickly? Learn all about integrating the managed extensibility framework (MEF) and ASP.NET MVC with some NuGet sauce for creating loosely coupled, easy to use architectures that anyone can grasp."

The recorded session: (on Channel 9)


The slide deck:

The demo code: 2011-04-14 Fun with ASP.NET MVC 3 (6.76 mb)

Enjoy! And thanks for joining!

kick it on

Official Belgium TechDays 2011 Windows Phone 7 app released

I’m proud to announce that we (RealDolmen) have released the official Belgium TechDays 2011 Windows Phone 7 app! The official Belgium TechDays 2011 gives you the ability to browse current & upcoming sessions, as well as provide LIVE feedback to the event organizers. Is the current session awesome? Let us know! Is the food too spicy? Let us know!

Why am I blogging this? Well: one of the first sessions at the event will be Silverlight, Windows Phone 7, Windows Azure, jQuery, OData and RIA Services. Shaken, not stirred, deliverd by Kevin Dockx and myself. It will feature this WIndows Phone 7 application as well as the backoffice for it (Silverlight), the mobile web front-end (jQuery mobile), the web front-end (MVC), the integration points with the event organizers and the deployment on Windows Azure. Not to mention the twitterwall that integrates with this. ANd the top sessions ranking that will be displayed based on input from all the channels I mentioned before. In short: I’m blogging this to plug our session :-)

Interested in what we’ve built? Or just a consumer of WP7 apps? Download the app at or directly by clicking the picture below:

Download the official Techdays 2011 application for WIndows Phone 7

See you at TechDays!

Lightweight PHP application deployment to Windows Azure

Those of you who are deploying PHP applications to Windows Azure, are probably using the Windows Azure tooling for Eclipse or the fantastic command-line tools available. I will give you a third option that allows for a 100% customized setup and is much more lightweight than the above options. Of course, if you want to have the out-of-the box functionality of those tools, stick with them.

Note: while this post is targeted at PHP developers, it also shows you how to build your own .cspkg from scratch for any other language out there. That includes you, .NET and Ruby!

Oh, my syntax highlighter is broken so you won't see any fancy colours down this post :-)

Phase 1: Creating a baseline package template

Every Windows Azure package is basically an OpenXML package containing your application. For those who don’t like fancy lingo: it’s a special ZIP file. Fact is that it contains an exact copy of a folder structure you can create yourself. All it takes is creating the following folder & file structure:

  • ServiceDefinition.csdef
  • ServiceConfiguration.cscfg
  • PhpOnAzure.Web
    • bin
    • resources
    • Web.config

I’ll go through each of those. First off, the ServiceDefinition.csdef file is the metadata describing your Windows Azure deployment. It (can) contain the following XML:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ServiceDefinition name="PhpOnAzure" xmlns="">
  <WebRole name="PhpOnAzure.Web" enableNativeCodeExecution="true">
      <Site name="Web" physicalDirectory="./PhpOnAzure.Web">
          <Binding name="Endpoint1" endpointName="HttpEndpoint" />
      <Task commandLine="add-environment-variables.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple" />
      <Task commandLine="install-php.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple" />
      <InputEndpoint name="HttpEndpoint" protocol="http" port="80" />
      <Import moduleName="Diagnostics"/>

Basically, it tells Windows Azure to create a WebRole named “PhpOnAzure.Web” (notice the not-so-coincidental match with one directory of the folder structure described earlier). It will contain one site that listens on a HttpEndpoint (port 80). Next, I added 2 startup tasks, add-environment-variables.cmd and install-php.cmd. More on these later on.

Next, ServiceConfiguration.cscfg is the actual configuration file for your Windows Azure deployment. It looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<ServiceConfiguration serviceName="PhpOnAzure" xmlns="" osFamily="2" osVersion="*">
  <Role name="PhpOnAzure.Web">
    <Instances count="1" />
      <Setting name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Plugins.Diagnostics.ConnectionString" value="<your diagnostics connection string here>"/>

Just like in a tooling-based WIndows Azure deployment, it allows you to set configuratio ndetails like the connection string where the diagnostics monitor should write all logging to.

The PhpOnAzure.Web folder is the actual root where my web application will live. It’s the wwwroot of your app, the htdocs folder of your app. Don’t put any contents n here yet, as we’ll automate that later in this post. Anyways, it (optionally) contains a Web.config file where I specify that index.php should be the default document:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
        <clear />
        <add value="index.php" />

Everything still OK? Good! (I won’t take no for an answer :-)). Add a bin folder in there as well as a resources folder. The bin folder will hold our startup tasks (see below), the resources folder will contain a copy of the Web Platform Installer command-line tools.

That’s it! A Windows Azure deployment package is actually pretty simple and easy to create yourself.

Phase 2: Auto-installing the PHP runtime

I must admit: this one’s stolen from the excellent Canadian Windows Azure MVP Cory Fowler aka SyntaxC4. He blogged about using startup tasks and the WebPI Command-line tool to auto-install PHP when your Windows Azure VM boots. Read his post for in-depth details, I’ll just cover the startup task doing this. Which I shamelessly copied from his blog as well. Credits due.

Under PhpOnAzure.Web\bin, add a script named install-php.cmd and copy in the following code:

@echo off
ECHO "Starting PHP installation..." >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt

md "%~dp0appdata"
cd "%~dp0appdata"
cd ..

reg add "hku\.default\software\microsoft\windows\currentversion\explorer\user shell folders" /v "Local AppData" /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d "%~dp0appdata" /f
"..\resources\WebPICmdLine\webpicmdline" /Products:PHP53 /AcceptEula  >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt 2>>..\startup-tasks-error-log.txt
reg add "hku\.default\software\microsoft\windows\currentversion\explorer\user shell folders" /v "Local AppData" /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d %%USERPROFILE%%\AppData\Local /f

ECHO "Completed PHP installation." >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt

What it does is:

  • Create a local application data folder
  • Add that folder name to the registry
  • Call “webpicmdline” and install PHP 5.3.x. And of course, /AcceptEula will ensure you don’t have to go to a Windows Azure datacenter, break into a container and click “I accept” on the screen of your VM.
  • Awesomeness happens: PHP 5.3.x is installed!
  • And everything gets logged into the startup-tasks-error-log.txt file in the root of your website. It allows you to inspect the output of all these commands once your VM has booted.

Phase 3: Fixing a problem

So far only sunshine. But… Since the technique used here is creating a full-IIS web role (a good thing), there’s a small problem there… Usually, your web role will spin up IIS hosted core and run in the same process that launched your VM in the first place. In a regular web role, the hosting process contains some interesting environment variables about your deployment: the deployment ID and the role name and even the instance name!

With full IIS, your web role is running inside IIS. The real IIS, that’s right.  And that’s a different process from the one that launched your VM, which means that these useful environment variables are unavailable to your application. No problem for a lot of applications, but if you’re using the PHP-based diagnostics manager from the Windows Azure SDK for PHP (or other code that relies on these environment variables, well, you’re sc…. eh, in deep trouble.

Luckily, startup tasks have access to the Windows Azure assemblies that can also give you this information. So why not create a task that copies this info into a machine environment variable?

We’ll need two scripts: one .cmd file launching PowerShel, and of course PowerShell. Let’s start with a file named add-environment-variables.cmd under PhpOnAzure.Web\bin:

@echo off
ECHO "Adding extra environment variables..." >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt

powershell.exe Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted
powershell.exe .\add-environment-variables.ps1 >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt 2>>..\startup-tasks-error-log.txt

ECHO "Added extra environment variables." >> ..\startup-tasks-log.txt

Nothing fancy, just as promised we’re launching PowerShell. But to ensure that we have al possible options in PowerShell, the execution policy is first set to Unrestricted. Next, add-environment-variables.ps1 is launched:


$rdRoleId = [Environment]::GetEnvironmentVariable("RdRoleId", "Machine")

[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("RdRoleId", [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::CurrentRoleInstance.Id, "Machine")
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("RoleName", [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::CurrentRoleInstance.Role.Name, "Machine")
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("RoleInstanceID", [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::CurrentRoleInstance.Id, "Machine")
[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable("RoleDeploymentID", [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::DeploymentId, "Machine")

if ($rdRoleId -ne [Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime.RoleEnvironment]::CurrentRoleInstance.Id) {

[Environment]::SetEnvironmentVariable('Path', $env:RoleRoot + '\base\x86;' + [Environment]::GetEnvironmentVariable('Path', 'Machine'), 'Machine')

Wow! A lot of code? Yes. First of all, we’re loading the Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime assembly. Next, we query the current environment variables for a variable named RdRoleId and copy it in a variable named $rdRoleId. Next, we set all environment variables (RdRoleId, RoleName, RoleInstanceID, RoleDeploymentID) to their actual values. Just like that. Isn’t PowerShell a cool thing?

After all this, the $rdRoleId variable is compared with the current RdRoleId environment variable. Are they the same? Good! Are they different? Reboot the instance. Rebooting the instance is the only easiest way for IIS and PHP to pick these new values up.

Phase 4: Automating packaging

One thing left to do: we do have a folder structure now, but I don’t see any .cspkg file around for deployment…  Let’s fix that. by creating a good old batch file that does the packaging for us. Note that this is *not* a necessary part, but it will ease your life. Here’s the script:

@echo off

IF "%1"=="" GOTO ParamMissing

echo Copying default package components to temporary location...
mkdir deploy-temp
xcopy /s /e /h deploy deploy-temp

echo Copying %1 to temporary location...
xcopy /s /e /h %1 deploy-temp\PhpOnAzure.Web

echo Packaging application...
"c:\Program Files\Windows Azure SDK\v1.4\bin\cspack.exe" deploy-temp\ServiceDefinition.csdef /role:PhpOnAzure.Web;deploy-temp\PhpOnAzure.Web /out:PhpOnAzure.cspkg
copy deploy-temp\ServiceConfiguration.cscfg

echo Cleaning up...
rmdir /S /Q deploy-temp


echo Parameter missing: please specify the path to the application to deploy.


You can invoke it from a command line:

package c:\patch-to-my\app

This will copy your application to a temporary location, merge in the template we created in the previous steps and create a .cspkg file by calling the cspack.exe from the Windows Azure SDK, and a ServiceConfiguration.cscfg file containing your configuration.

Phase 5: Package hello world!

Let’s create an application that needs massive scale. Here’s the source code for the index.php file which will handle all requests. Put it in your c:\temp or wherever you want.

echo “Hello, World!”;

Next, call the package.bat created previously:

package c:\patch-to-my\app

There you go: PhpOnAzure.cspkg and ServiceConfiguraton.cscfg at your service. Upload, deploy and enjoy. Once the VM is booted in Windows Azure, all environment variables will be set and PHP will be automatically installed. Feel free to play around with the template I created ( (854.44 kb)), as you can also install, for example, the Wincache extension or SQL Server Driver for PHP from the WebPI command-line tools. Or include your own PHP distro. Or achieve world domination by setting the instance count to a very high number (of course, this requires you to call Microsoft if you want to go beyond 20 instances, just to see if you’re worthy for world domination).


Next to the officially supported packaging tools, there’s also the good old craftsmen’s hand-made deployment. And if you automate some parts, it’s extremely easy to package your application in a very lightweight fashion. Enjoy!

Here’s the download: (854.44 kb)

Windows Azure and scaling: how? (PHP)

One of the key ideas behind cloud computing is the concept of scaling.Talking to customers and cloud enthusiasts, many people seem to be unaware about the fact that there is great opportunity in scaling, even for small applications. In this blog post series, I will talk about the following:

Creating and uploading a management certificate

In order to keep things DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), I’ll just link you to the previous post (Windows Azure and scaling: how? (.NET)) for this one.

For PHP however, you’ll be needing a .pem certificate. Again, for the lazy, here’s mine (management.pfx (4.05 kb), management.cer (1.18 kb) and management.pem (5.11 kb)). If you want to create one yourself, check this site where you can convert and generate certificates.

Building a small command-line scaling tool (in PHP)

In order to be able to scale automatically, let’s build a small command-line tool in PHP. The idea is that you will be able to run the following command on a console to scale to 4 instances:

1 php autoscale.php "management.cer" "subscription-id0" "service-name" "role-name" "production" 4

Or down to 2 instances:

1 php autoscale.php "management.cer" "subscription-id" "service-name" "role-name" "production" 2

Will this work on Linux? Yup! Will this work on Windows? Yup! Now let’s get started.

The Windows Azure SDK for PHP will be quite handy to do this kind of thing. Download the latest source code (as the Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client class we’ll be using is not released officially yet).

Our script starts like this:

1 <?php 2 // Set include path 3 $path = array('./library/', get_include_path()); 4 set_include_path(implode(PATH_SEPARATOR, $path)); 5 6 // Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client 7 require_once 'Microsoft/WindowsAzure/Management/Client.php';

This is just making sure all necessary libraries have been loaded. next, call out to the Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client class’ setInstanceCountBySlot() method to set the instance count to the requested number. Easy! And in fact even easier than Microsoft's .NET version of this.

1 // Do the magic 2 $managementClient = new Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client($subscriptionId, $certificateFile, ''); 3 4 echo "Uploading new configuration...\r\n"; 5 6 $managementClient->setInstanceCountBySlot($serviceName, $slot, $roleName, $instanceCount); 7 8 echo "Finished.\r\n";

Here’s the full script:

1 <?php 2 // Set include path 3 $path = array('./library/', get_include_path()); 4 set_include_path(implode(PATH_SEPARATOR, $path)); 5 6 // Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client 7 require_once 'Microsoft/WindowsAzure/Management/Client.php'; 8 9 // Some commercial info :-) 10 echo "AutoScale - (c) 2011 Maarten Balliauw\r\n"; 11 echo "\r\n"; 12 13 // Quick-and-dirty argument check 14 if (count($argv) != 7) 15 { 16 echo "Usage:\r\n"; 17 echo " AutoScale <certificatefile> <subscriptionid> <servicename> <rolename> <slot> <instancecount>\r\n"; 18 echo "\r\n"; 19 echo "Example:\r\n"; 20 echo " AutoScale mycert.pem 39f53bb4-752f-4b2c-a873-5ed94df029e2 bing Bing.Web production 20\r\n"; 21 exit; 22 } 23 24 // Save arguments to variables 25 $certificateFile = $argv[1]; 26 $subscriptionId = $argv[2]; 27 $serviceName = $argv[3]; 28 $roleName = $argv[4]; 29 $slot = $argv[5]; 30 $instanceCount = $argv[6]; 31 32 // Do the magic 33 $managementClient = new Microsoft_WindowsAzure_Management_Client($subscriptionId, $certificateFile, ''); 34 35 echo "Uploading new configuration...\r\n"; 36 37 $managementClient->setInstanceCountBySlot($serviceName, $slot, $roleName, $instanceCount); 38 39 echo "Finished.\r\n";

Now schedule or cron this (when needed) and enjoy the benefits of scaling your Windows Azure service.

So you’re lazy? Here’s my sample project ( (181.67 kb)) and the certificates used (management.pfx (4.05 kb), management.cer (1.18 kb) and management.pem (5.11 kb)).

Windows Azure and scaling: how? (.NET)

One of the key ideas behind cloud computing is the concept of scaling.Talking to customers and cloud enthusiasts, many people seem to be unaware about the fact that there is great opportunity in scaling, even for small applications. In this blog post series, I will talk about the following:

Creating and uploading a management certificate

In order to be able to programmatically (and thus possibly automated) scale your Windows Azure service, one prerequisite exists: a management certificate should be created and uploaded to Windows Azure through the management portal at Creating a certificate is easy: follow the instructions listed on MSDN. It’s as easy as opening a Visual Studio command prompt and issuing the following command:

1 makecert -sky exchange -r -n "CN=<CertificateName>" -pe -a sha1 -len 2048 -ss My "<CertificateName>.cer"

Too anxious to try this out? Download my certificate files (management.pfx (4.05 kb) and management.cer (1.18 kb)) and feel free to use it (password: phpazure). Beware that it’s not safe to use in production as I just shared this with the world (and you may be sharing your Windows Azure subscription with the world :-)).

Uploading the certificate through the management portal can be done under Hosted Services > Management Certificates.

Management Certificate Windows Azure

Building a small command-line scaling tool

In order to be able to scale automatically, let’s build a small command-line tool. The idea is that you will be able to run the following command on a console to scale to 4 instances:

1 AutoScale.exe "management.cer" "subscription-id0" "service-name" "role-name" "production" 4

Or down to 2 instances:.

1 AutoScale.exe "management.cer" "subscription-id0" "service-name" "role-name" "production" 2

Now let’s get started. First of all, we’ll be needing the Windows Azure service management client API SDK. Since there is no official SDK, you can download a sample at Open the solution, compile it and head for the /bin folder: we’re interested in Microsoft.Samples.WindowsAzure.ServiceManagement.dll.

Next, create a new Console Application in Visual Studio and add a reference to the above assembly. The code for Program.cs will start with the following:

1 class Program 2 { 3 private const string ServiceEndpoint = ""; 4 5 private static Binding WebHttpBinding() 6 { 7 var binding = new WebHttpBinding(WebHttpSecurityMode.Transport); 8 binding.Security.Transport.ClientCredentialType = HttpClientCredentialType.Certificate; 9 binding.ReaderQuotas.MaxStringContentLength = 67108864; 10 11 return binding; 12 } 13 14 static void Main(string[] args) 15 { 16 } 17 }

This constant and WebHttpBinding() method will be used by the Service Management client to connect to your Windows Azure subscription’s management API endpoint. The WebHttpBinding() creates a new WCF binding that is configured to use a certificate as the client credential. Just the way Windows Azure likes it.

I’ll skip the command-line parameter parsing. Next interesting thing is the location where a new management client is created:

1 var managementClient = Microsoft.Samples.WindowsAzure.ServiceManagement.ServiceManagementHelper.CreateServiceManagementChannel( 2 WebHttpBinding(), new Uri(ServiceEndpoint), new X509Certificate2(certificateFile));

Afterwards, the deployment details are retrieved. The deployment’s configuration is in there (base64-encoded), so the only thing to do is read that into an XDocument, update the number of instances and store it back:

1 var deployment = managementClient.GetDeploymentBySlot(subscriptionId, serviceName, slot); 2 string configurationXml = ServiceManagementHelper.DecodeFromBase64String(deployment.Configuration); 3 4 var serviceConfiguration = XDocument.Parse(configurationXml); 5 6 serviceConfiguration 7 .Descendants() 8 .Single(d => d.Name.LocalName == "Role" && d.Attributes().Single(a => a.Name.LocalName == "name").Value == roleName) 9 .Elements() 10 .Single(e => e.Name.LocalName == "Instances") 11 .Attributes() 12 .Single(a => a.Name.LocalName == "count").Value = instanceCount; 13 14 var changeConfigurationInput = new ChangeConfigurationInput(); 15 changeConfigurationInput.Configuration = ServiceManagementHelper.EncodeToBase64String(serviceConfiguration.ToString(SaveOptions.DisableFormatting)); 16 17 managementClient.ChangeConfigurationBySlot(subscriptionId, serviceName, slot, changeConfigurationInput);

Here’s the complete Program.cs code:

1 using System; 2 using System.Linq; 3 using System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates; 4 using System.ServiceModel; 5 using System.ServiceModel.Channels; 6 using System.Xml.Linq; 7 using Microsoft.Samples.WindowsAzure.ServiceManagement; 8 9 namespace AutoScale 10 { 11 class Program 12 { 13 private const string ServiceEndpoint = ""; 14 15 private static Binding WebHttpBinding() 16 { 17 var binding = new WebHttpBinding(WebHttpSecurityMode.Transport); 18 binding.Security.Transport.ClientCredentialType = HttpClientCredentialType.Certificate; 19 binding.ReaderQuotas.MaxStringContentLength = 67108864; 20 21 return binding; 22 } 23 24 static void Main(string[] args) 25 { 26 // Some commercial info :-) 27 Console.WriteLine("AutoScale - (c) 2011 Maarten Balliauw"); 28 Console.WriteLine(""); 29 30 // Quick-and-dirty argument check 31 if (args.Length != 6) 32 { 33 Console.WriteLine("Usage:"); 34 Console.WriteLine(" AutoScale.exe <certificatefile> <subscriptionid> <servicename> <rolename> <slot> <instancecount>"); 35 Console.WriteLine(""); 36 Console.WriteLine("Example:"); 37 Console.WriteLine(" AutoScale.exe mycert.cer 39f53bb4-752f-4b2c-a873-5ed94df029e2 bing Bing.Web production 20"); 38 return; 39 } 40 41 // Save arguments to variables 42 var certificateFile = args[0]; 43 var subscriptionId = args[1]; 44 var serviceName = args[2]; 45 var roleName = args[3]; 46 var slot = args[4]; 47 var instanceCount = args[5]; 48 49 // Do the magic 50 var managementClient = Microsoft.Samples.WindowsAzure.ServiceManagement.ServiceManagementHelper.CreateServiceManagementChannel( 51 WebHttpBinding(), new Uri(ServiceEndpoint), new X509Certificate2(certificateFile)); 52 53 Console.WriteLine("Retrieving current configuration..."); 54 55 var deployment = managementClient.GetDeploymentBySlot(subscriptionId, serviceName, slot); 56 string configurationXml = ServiceManagementHelper.DecodeFromBase64String(deployment.Configuration); 57 58 Console.WriteLine("Updating configuration value..."); 59 60 var serviceConfiguration = XDocument.Parse(configurationXml); 61 62 serviceConfiguration 63 .Descendants() 64 .Single(d => d.Name.LocalName == "Role" && d.Attributes().Single(a => a.Name.LocalName == "name").Value == roleName) 65 .Elements() 66 .Single(e => e.Name.LocalName == "Instances") 67 .Attributes() 68 .Single(a => a.Name.LocalName == "count").Value = instanceCount; 69 70 var changeConfigurationInput = new ChangeConfigurationInput(); 71 changeConfigurationInput.Configuration = ServiceManagementHelper.EncodeToBase64String(serviceConfiguration.ToString(SaveOptions.DisableFormatting)); 72 73 Console.WriteLine("Uploading new configuration..."); 74 75 managementClient.ChangeConfigurationBySlot(subscriptionId, serviceName, slot, changeConfigurationInput); 76 77 Console.WriteLine("Finished."); 78 } 79 } 80 }

Now schedule this (when needed) and enjoy the benefits of scaling your Windows Azure service.

So you’re lazy? Here’s my sample project ( (26.31 kb)) and the certificates used (management.pfx (4.05 kb) and management.cer (1.18 kb)).

Note: I use the .cer file here because I generated it on my machine. If you are using a certificate created on another machine, a .pfx file and it's key should be used.

Windows Azure CDN updates

The Windows Azure team has just put out the new Windows Azure SDK 1.4 for download. Next to that, I noticed some interesting new capabilities for the CDN (Content Delivery Network):

  • Windows Azure CDN for Hosted Services
    Developers can use the Windows Azure Web and VM roles as “origin” for objects to be delivered at scale via the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network. Static content in your website can be automatically edge-cached at locations throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America to provide maximum bandwidth and lower latency delivery of website content to users.
  • Serve secure content from the Windows Azure CDN
    A new checkbox option in the Windows Azure management portal to enable delivery of secure content via HTTPS through any existing Windows Azure CDN account.

That first one looks very interesting: before today, if you wanted to use the CDN feature, you’d have to upload all static content that should be served by the CDN to your bob storage account. Today, you can just use any hosted service as your CDN “source data” provider. This means you can deploy your application on Windows Azure and have its static content (or cachable dynamic content) cached in the CDN and delivered from edge locations all over the world.

Using the Windows Azure CDN with a hosted service 

As with blob storage based CDN, the management portal will give you a domain name in the format http://<identifier> This is the CDN endpoint that will serve content you specify for caching on the CDN. Of course, a prettier domain name can be linked to this URL as well. The source for this data willl come from your hosted service's subfolder "cdn", e.g. This means that all content under that folder will be cached on the CDN. For example, say you have a URL This will be cached on the CDN at http://<identifier> It's even possible to cache by query string, e.g. http://<identifier>

One closing hint here: make sure to specify correct cache control headers for content. This will greatly improve your end user's CDN experience and reduce bandwidth costs between your source (blob or hosted service) and the CDN in many cases.

And one closing question for the Windows Azure team: it would be great if I could use my current blog as the CDN source. It's not on Windows Azure yet I would want to use the CDN with my current host's data. This feature would also fit into the "cloud is not all or nothing" philosophy. Vote for this here :-)