New! Just Azure resource launched

We know how important it is to be able to navigate, understand, and start using Microsoft Azure.

So we’ve launched Just Azure, a new site from Cerebrata, providing essential technical resources and educational articles to support you – the Microsoft community – in navigating and understanding the rapidly evolving Azure platform.

Providing a range of educational content – from technical series and how-to articles, to insights into real-world uses of Azure – the site helps both new and experienced Microsoft Azure users share expertise and utilize their tried-and-tested knowledge in their daily tasks.

For all developers on Microsoft Azure

Working closely with Azure MVPs, developers and consultants, Just Azure aims to make it quicker and easier for developers and IT Pros to start using the latest Microsoft Azure technologies in their development and production environments.

As MVP Mike Wood, Just Azure Editor, explains, “Just Azure is providing a great educational resource on all topics Azure-related, and going deeper than most blog posts or Getting Started tutorials. We want readers to have an understanding of how all the features of Azure fit together, how others have used them, and more. I see it as a companion to the great work Microsoft continues to provide with the Azure Training Kit and Azure documentation, adding an essential layer of tried and tested real-world insight and techniques from the experts of the community.”

Covering the key Azure categories of Networks, Application Services, Data Services and Compute, content on the site starts with series tuned for beginners who are just getting to grips with new Azure concepts – including Diagnostics, Cloud Services, and Queues. From there, the resources range to articles exploring real life use cases for Azure features, and examples of people using the platform for everyday tasks such as automated testing. Over the next few months, additional content will continue to expand the article series depth and coverage. Many leading Azure experts are already contributing to the site, including Michael Collier on Azure Diagnostics, Roman Schacherl on Storage Queues and Sandrino Di Mattia on Cloud Services.

So head over to Just Azure to read our first articles, and follow us @justazure for more coming soon!

We hope you enjoy Just Azure, and as always we’d love to hear your feedback – share your thoughts in the comments section of the site.

Azure Management Studio has replaced Azure Diagnostics Manager and Cloud Storage Studio

We’ve replaced Azure Diagnostics Manager and Cloud Storage Studio with Azure Management Studio, and we’re upgrading all existing users of these products to Azure Management Studio for free.

If you own Azure Diagnostics Manager or Cloud Storage Studio, you can get your free upgrade to Azure Management Studio by emailing support@cerebrata.com with your existing license key(s) and/or order number(s).

Azure Management Studio combines the benefits of Azure Diagnostics Manager and Cloud Storage Studio, plus additional features to easily manage your Windows Azure resources:

  • Upload and download blobs
  • Quickly filter diagnostics logs
  • View and debug queues
  • Manage your cloud services
  • Control your deployments

If you’re upgrading to Azure Management Studio, we’d love to know what you think. How did you find getting started? Which features caught your eye first? What could we be doing better? Share with us on UserVoice, or leave your comments on this post.

AMS Now Supports Managing CORS and Minute Level Storage Analytics

The Windows Azure Storage Team recently announced several new great features for the storage service, most notably they have added CORS and JSON support to the services.  Beyond those the update had many great features in it so make sure you go take a look at all the new shiny things.

Today we would like to announce support for managing the more detailed level analytics, as well as the CORS settings!

Detailed Analytics

For a while now you could turn on Storage Analytics and track aggregated transaction statistics and capacity data.  We’ve had support for viewing this data in AMS for some time as well.  Prior to the new release the Storage Analytics were aggregated at the hour level, but now you have the option to aggregate to the minute level as well for more real-ish time analysis.  The numbers are available generally within about five minutes.

To configure the Storage Analytics, open AMS and navigate the treeview to the storage account you want to manage the settings for.  Right-click on the storage account and select ‘Configure Storage Analytics…’ from the context menu.

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On the Configure Storage Analytics dialog that appears you now have the option to enable/disable the Minute Metrics, including the data retention policy for each storage service (BLOBs, Queues, and Tables) just like you could do for the hourly metrics previously.  You also have the ability to click the ‘Quick Configuration…’ to set the same value for all three services at once.

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In the example above we have enabled the minute metrics for BLOBs, including metrics from the API and turned on a retention policy of 20 days.  Once you have your settings filled in click ‘Save’ .  After a little usage we can then take a peek at what was captured.

Expanding out the Storage Analytics node on the treeview and you’ll see there are now new tables available under the Raw Data node.

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If we query the minutes table for BLOBs we’ll see the following raw data:

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Since this is just data in a Windows Azure Storage Table you can query it, export it with AMS or use it direct from your own solutions.  You can see that the PartitionKey is comprised of the date down to the minute and the RowKey is the aggregate operations.

 

CORS Settings

CORS, or Cross-Origin Resource Sharing, is used to allow code from different domains to share resources.  Browsers have security features which help reduce the amount of cross-site scripting attacks by blocking code from one domain from attempting to hit code from another site.  In some cases though it is very helpful to be able to reach across to another domain to utilize a resource.  For example, your JavaScript code which originated from MyCompany.com wants to make an API call to upload a file directly into BLOB storage without having to first push it to a server, then upload the file from there. This is where CORS comes in.  You set up configuration to tell one resource that it can allow requests from another site, or Origin.

With the recent update Windows Azure Storage API now allows you to configure each service (BLOBs, Queues and Tables) independently per storage account.  You can currently have up to five CORS rules per service per storage account.  AMS now supports the management of CORS rules well.  By right-clicking a storage account node in AMS you’ll find the ‘Configure CORS…’ option.  If you already have CORS rules on the account you’ll see them in the list under the tab for the service they are specified for.  You can click on the plus sign to add a new rule.

Each rule consists of the allowed origins, methods and headers.  The allowed Origins are the URLs (case-sensitive) that are allowed to utilize the service.  You can also restrict which HTTP methods (or verbs) that are allowed and which headers to be expected. If a header is sent to the service that does NOT appear in this list the entire operation will be rejected.  Note that you can add multiple origins and headers by separating them with commas and that wildcards are supported.

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Once you set up your rule click Apply.

Remember that setting up a CORS rule allows the Cross Origin request to occur, it does not replace Windows Azure Storage authentication, so you still need to provide the correct authorization headers in your requests which will likely mean using Shared Access Signature URL so that your client code isn’t provided storage account credentials.

We hope you enjoy the new features and, as always, we’d love to hear your feedback.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your thoughts.

Since Azure Management Studio is a click-once application you should just magically see the bits arrive, but if you’ve declined the update or your app hasn’t checked for an update you can also force an update by using the “Check for Update” option from the Help menu. If you don’t see this option you likely are one of our previous Beta testers and can just re-download the app from our product page.  The version number will be 1.3.0.1080 or greater.

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Help us redesign the connection tree in Azure Management Studio

Many users will have noticed how we’ve been focusing a lot of our energy recently on cleaning up the interface, making it easier to use, and generally improving the overall user experience.

As we continue to improve AMS, it’s becoming increasingly clearer that we need to rethink the main connection tree. While it worked well in the early days when Cloud Storage Studio was just storage, it no longer scales with the breadth of functionality we now support or the different types of user we now see.

Screenshot of AMS tree

In fact, we have many users with over 25 subscriptions, thousands of blob containers and hundreds of cloud services – “Good luck finding that blob container!”

These observations, coupled with the knowledge that even a fairly simple web application can span a few facets of Windows Azure, mean we need to take a step back and rethink our approach. To that end, we’ve decided to overhaul the tree completely to better support common tasks and to accommodate heavy use scenarios. We’ll start simple by implementing virtualised trees and clean, consistent icons. We’ll then build on this with more advanced features such as remembering state, searching, filtering and project views.

If you have some strong opinions on this or just think the tree could be much better than it is, don’t hesitate to reach out and help us shape our thinking – we would love to share mockups and pre-release builds to get early feedback!

Azure Management Studio Tip–Colored Coded BLOB containers

When working with BLOB storage within Azure Management Studio (AMS) you might want to know which containers are private and which are public.  The good news is that we can color code the icons for you:

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Red = a Private container.  Only someone with storage credentials or a valid shared access signature can get at the data in that container.

Yellow = A Public container, but only people who know a specific BLOB by name can retrieve it. 

Green = A Public container, but is open so that anyone can see the list of BLOBs within the container as well.

 

One thing you may notice if you open up AMS is that your containers look more like this in the treeview:

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This is because by default AMS does not fetch the security settings (Access Control Lists, or ACLS) for the containers.  The ACL information for a container is obtained by making a call to the BLOB service for a given container.  When we want to see the color coding in the treeview we actually have to make a separate call for each container to find out the value (at least at time of this blog post).  In order to cut down on the number of transactions and calls AMS doesn’t make these calls for you by default. 

If you want to turn this on you can do so in the options for AMS.  Under the Tools menu select Options.  Then select the Blob tab and check the Fetch Blob Container ACL when listing Blob Containers option.

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When you turn this on you may slow down the population of the treeview if you have a lot of containers in your storage accounts.

Don’t forget that Cerebrata has a FREE BLOB explorer tool: Azure Explorer

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