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Windows Azure Recipe: Social Web / Big Media

With the rise of social media there’s been an explosion of special interest media web sites on the web. From athletics to board games to funny animal behaviors, you can bet there’s a group of people somewhere on the web talking about it. Social media sites allow us to interact, share experiences, and bond with like minded enthusiasts around the globe. And through the power of software, we can follow trends in these unique domains in real time.

Drivers

  • Reach
  • Scalability
  • Media hosting
  • Global distribution

Solution

Here’s a sketch of how a social media application might be built out on Windows Azure:

image

Ingredients

  • Traffic Manager (optional) – can be used to provide hosting and load balancing across different instances and/or data centers. Perfect if the solution needs to be delivered to different cultures or regions around the world.
  • Access Control – this service is essential to managing user identity. It’s backed by a full blown implementation of Active Directory and allows the definition and management of users, groups, and roles. A pre-built ASP.NET membership provider is included in the training kit to leverage this capability but it’s also flexible enough to be combined with external Identity providers including Windows LiveID, Google, Yahoo!, and Facebook. The provider model has extensibility points to hook into other identity providers as well.
  • Web Role – hosts the core of the web application and presents a central social hub users.
  • Database – used to store core operational, functional, and workflow data for the solution’s web services.
  • Caching (optional) – as a web site traffic grows caching can be leveraged to keep frequently used read-only, user specific, and application resource data in a high-speed distributed in-memory for faster response times and ultimately higher scalability without spinning up more web and worker roles. It includes a token based security model that works alongside the Access Control service.
  • Tables (optional) – for semi-structured data streams that don’t need relational integrity such as conversations, comments, or activity streams, tables provide a faster and more flexible way to store this kind of historical data.
  • Blobs (optional) – users may be creating or uploading large volumes of heterogeneous data such as documents or rich media. Blob storage provides a scalable, resilient way to store terabytes of user data. The storage facilities can also integrate with the Access Control service to ensure users’ data is delivered securely.
  • Content Delivery Network (CDN) (optional) – for sites that service users around the globe, the CDN is an extension to blob storage that, when enabled, will automatically cache frequently accessed blobs and static site content at edge data centers around the world. The data can be delivered statically or streamed in the case of rich media content.

Training

These links point to online Windows Azure training labs and resources where you can learn more about the individual ingredients described above. (Note: The entire Windows Azure Training Kit can also be downloaded for offline use.)

Windows Azure (16 labs)

Windows Azure is an internet-scale cloud computing and services platform hosted in Microsoft data centers, which provides an operating system and a set of developer services which can be used individually or together. It gives developers the choice to build web applications; applications running on connected devices, PCs, or servers; or hybrid solutions offering the best of both worlds. New or enhanced applications can be built using existing skills with the Visual Studio development environment and the .NET Framework. With its standards-based and interoperable approach, the services platform supports multiple internet protocols, including HTTP, REST, SOAP, and plain XML

SQL Azure (7 labs)

Microsoft SQL Azure delivers on the Microsoft Data Platform vision of extending the SQL Server capabilities to the cloud as web-based services, enabling you to store structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data.

Windows Azure Services (9 labs)

As applications collaborate across organizational boundaries, ensuring secure transactions across disparate security domains is crucial but difficult to implement. Windows Azure Services provides hosted authentication and access control using powerful, secure, standards-based infrastructure.

See my Windows Azure Resource Guide for more guidance on how to get started, including links web portals, training kits, samples, and blogs related to Windows Azure.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Clint Edmonson

Clint Edmonson is an Architect Evangelist for Microsoft focused on Windows Azure and Cloud Computing. He has been developing software with Microsoft technologies for the last 20 years, working on everything from custom shrink-wrapped software at small startups to enterprise architecture and methodology adoption at fortune 500 companies. He spends his days helping companies understand Microsoft’s latest developer cloud offerings and developing strategic roadmaps for their adoption. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri and is the host of www.notsotrivial.net. You can follow Clint on twitter at @clinted.

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