Configuring a Microsoft Azure CDN TechNet Guide

Last month, I published the first of a two part guide published on TechNet entitled Configuring a SQL Azure Sync Group which demonstrated the steps for configuring two SQL Azure databases to replicate using SQL Azure Sync. I’m still working away on the second part of the guide which I promised however to keep you all as excited about Microsoft Azure as I am in the mean time, I’ve just published a guide entitled Configuring a Microsoft Azure CDN on the TechNet Gallery.

This guide walks through the steps to prepare a BLOB Storage Account for distribution to a CDN and how to activate and use the CDN feature in Microsoft Azure.

The guide is available at http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Configuring-a-Azure-CDN-05c1f68a for download right now.

I hope you enjoy this latest release and if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to get in touch.

Microsoft Azure Web Sites Hosting Plan Modes

Normally in Microsoft Azure (nee Windows Azure), I run my blog in Shared compute mode, however I occasionally have to scale up to Standard if I hit the compute limits for Shared in a given time period. It’s a bit naughty perhaps but I’m not built of money so I need to look after the pounds where possible.

Today, I noticed that the site popped offline whilst I was working on something, the issue being what I was doing in the back-end of WordPress generated a big load which then tripped the Shared instance resources counter. I logged into the Microsoft Azure Management Portal, ready to increase the site level to Standard to notice that the Scale options for a Web Site have now changed, a new feature in Microsoft Azure Web Sites.

Microsoft Azure Web Sites Hosting Mode

Previously, we had three options for the Scale of a website in Azure, Free, Shared and Standard. Free was a great way to develop and test a site which didn’t need a custom domain name attached, didn’t need to be able to use HTTPS or where you generally weren’t worried about the performance. Shared stepped it up a level giving you support for Custom Domain Names however HTTPS support and some of the high end features such as Endpoint Monitoring where still out of reach and reserved for Standard.

After some poking around, I haven’t yet been able to find out exactly what the pitch for Basic vs. Standard is but looking through the settings in the Web Site settings panels in Microsoft Azure, I can see that SSL is available for Basic but Web Site Backups and Endpoint Monitoring are still reserved for Standard. I’ll see what else I can find out about this update and what exactly is in and out between Basic and Standard and update the post.

It’s also interesting to note that the Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator hasn’t yet been updated to reflect the addition of the new tier with the calculator still only offering up Free, Shared or Standard as the tier options.

Microsoft Azure Pricing Calculator Web Site Tiers

There are other new features in Microsoft Azure Web Sites that I want to talk about but I’ll save that for another post later.

Windows Azure Web Sites Always On

Continuing with my line of Windows Azure posts of late, I wanted to unearth a feature called Windows Azure Web Sites Always On.

Windows Azure Websites Always On

This feature is tucked away in the Configure options for a Windows Azure Web Site. The feature is only available to Standard mode web sites so you will not get this option if you are using the Free or Shared service tiers (sorry). When enabled, Windows Azure will regularly generate a simple HTTP request to the website which means for sites that are based on ASP.NET or other server-side compiling technologies, the website stays warm so that when your first visitor after a period of inactivity hits the site, they aren’t left waiting for it to compile, render and present itself.

Details of the feature are a bit scarce so I haven’t been able to determine yet exactly what the Always On request consists of. The lack of information or configuration options would suggest that it’s as simple as a HTTP GET request to the URL configured in the Site URL field for the web site. There doesn’t either seem to be any indication as to how often this request is issued. If you are already using the Monitoring Endpoints feature or if you are monitoring your web sites with System Center Operations Manager 2012 (SCOM), Global Service Monitor (GSM) for SCOM or another monitoring product then are you are essentially performing this Always On keep-alive activity.