Microsoft TechEd 2010, Silverlight, and the Cloud

How does it work with Windows Azure and SQL Azure

Greetings from Microsoft TechEd 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. I look forward to this conference every year and this year is no different. This year I get to give a Silverlight beginners session, and I’m pretty excited about it.  Of course, there is only so much you can cover in a 1:15 session, but I have a number of resources to give out to the attendees including:

  • The source code for an impressive Silverlight 4 CRUD application based on the sample SQL server database, AdventureWorks2008.
  • My slide deck (which has as many slides hidden as the slides I will talk to in the session) which is as comprehensive in Silverlight concepts, XAML constructs and declarative programming as anything I have seen.
  • The source code for a Silverlight multi-touch capable ScatterView photo application with a free developer version of the multi-touch capable ScatterView control.

My job in this session is to inspire attendees to jump into Silverlight by giving them the foundational background then to motivate them to take my learning resources and run with them. Really, I could do a day-long training course with it, but I’m confident packing it into a session will be very beneficial for the attendees.

Most of my other duties at TechEd this year (short of all the meetings) revolve around video Interviews. I’m used to getting interviewed. I have been around the Microsoft ecosystem working for or with Microsoft at some level for over 20 years. So, I’m looking forward to DevPro Connections’ own Sheila Molnar interviewing me about Silverlight. Look for a blog on our conversation on DevProConnections.com. When the video is posted Sheila promises to link to it from the site and this newsletter.

What is going to be really fun is that I get to be the Interviewer for a number of video interviews at TechEd. I’m the anchor for a live RD panel on RIA and client technologies for channel 9 live. My guests for that live segment are industry pillars Richard Campbell, Paul Sheriff, and Patrick Hynds. I am also the track owner and interviewer for the Windows Phone 7 track for “Bytes by MSDN” and I most certainly have some big guns to interview in that track including Brandon Watson and Loke Ui Tan from the Windows Phone 7 Product team, so check it out.

One of the things I love most about TechEd (and all the big Microsoft conferences for that matter) is that the keynotes always contain big, exciting Microsoft Roadmap announcements. And this year’s TechEd is no different.  The big highlighted announcements were:

  • BizTalk Server 2010, combined with Windows Server AppFabric and Windows Azure AppFabric, allows developers to more rapidly build composite applications that connect to line-of-business systems.
  • Windows Server AppFabric, which provides a set of on-premises application services focused on improving the speed, scale, and management of Web, composite, and enterprise applications.
  • Windows Azure AppFabric, which connects applications and services running on-premises and in the cloud.
  • SQL Azure, Microsoft’s SQL server in the cloud extends to 50 GB

For Silverlight developers most certainly the most interesting of the announcements are the latter two, Windows Azure AppFabric and SQL Azure. With this one-two cloud punch there is most certainly almost nothing impossible in terms of scale with Silverlight now…or more realistically in the immediate future as these cloud services are rolled out in production around the world.

Maybe it’s because Azure is so new, so misunderstood, so complex in pricing, so beta in parts (or a combo of all), but there just is very little guidance out there on how to design, architect and build your Silverlight application for the cloud. I would have guessed there would be a significant amount of guidance on the official Microsoft web properties but, when doing research for this article I struck out. That surprised me. I assume it’s coming. I will take Silverlight in the cloud as a homework assignment to drill into in future versions of this column. But for now, as is the case for many areas of guidance for the .NET stack, the best guidance comes from a third party, Modesty Zhang. Modesty wrote a fantastic article that is hosted on the Code Project with source code. The article drills into the techniques and does a good job on the “gotchas” of building a 3-tier Azure hosted application using Silverlight 3 or Silverlight 4 (presentation tier), .NET RIA services (business logic and data access), and SQL Azure (data storage).

So if you want to try Silverlight in the cloud now, Microsoft has made it easy to sign up for developer accounts to trial this stuff before the burden of the financial costs of production. There is the beginning of guidance out there which is most certainly going to explode as the pieces of Azure make it to production and garner adoption.

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