7 Best Practices for Building Microsoft Azure Cloud Applications

7 Best Practices for Building Microsoft Azure Cloud Applications
7 Best Practices for Building Microsoft Azure Cloud Applications

Microsoft Azure is one of the fastest growing cloud infrastructure platforms and is the backbone of Microsoft cloud. It is a cloud based application platform from Microsoft that can adopt and adapt the standards of various operating systems and can also seamlessly embrace competing software platforms ensuring Azure stays relevant to as many people and business enterprises as possible. Gartner has ranked Azure as the industry leader in both platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). This is the reason why Azure has become the preferred choice of cloud infrastructure among many IT professionals. According to State of the Cloud Survey conducted by RightScale, close to 19% of enterprises use Azure IaaS.

Windows Azure provides business enterprises with a wonderful platform to develop, manage and host applications off-site. Several components are present in Azure such as the cloud operating system, SQL Azure-the database service in the cloud and .NET services. The computers that Azure runs on are physically located in Microsoft data centers. By selecting Azure for their cloud infrastructure business enterprises can derive various advantages such as the incredible ease with which temporary applications can be spun up and down and .NET developers will not have to learn anything new. But business enterprises can derive the most out of Microsoft Azure while building cloud applications by following few best practices.

Here are few best practices for building Windows Azure cloud applications:

  1. Build a Robust Cloud Service:

    Business enterprises must clearly differentiate between web role and worker role and the various benefits they offer. The functionality between the web role and the worker role must be distributed. The application logic must be decoupled between the web role and the worker role. Distributed cache can be made use of for state management. Static assets such as CSS, images and JavaScript files must be identified and blog storage can be used instead of including the static assets with the application package file. For enterprises to get the best return on investment (ROI) they must make the most effective use of VM instances where it is deployed.

  2. Keep the Web Tier Stateless:

    When application data is not stored in file systems or web server memory it is known as stateless web tier.  Business enterprises can save a lot of money and provide better customer experience by keeping the web tier stateless. Enterprises can quickly react to changes in application traffic by adding or removing servers if the stateless web tier is placed behind a load balancer. As enterprises only pay for server resources in a cloud environment, quickly responding to changes in demand can result in huge savings. Scaling needs can be quickly taken up as the architecture of stateless web tier is quite simple. In a stateless web tier when server goes down, re-routing traffic won’t cause any errors.

  3. Avoid Blocking Calls by using .NET’s Asynchronous Support:

    Handling tasks asynchronously has been made simple as .NET has enhanced the VB and C# programming languages. Asynchronous programming not only helps in parallel processing situations but also enables the web server to perform reliably and efficiently under high load conditions.  When all threads are in use under high load conditions, incoming requests cannot be entertained unless the threads are freed up as only a limited number of threads are available in the web server. If database queries and web service calls cannot be handled by the application code asynchronously, threads get tied up unnecessarily as the server waits for an I/O response. Threads that are waiting for database or web service to return data is freed up by asynchronous programming.

  4. Use Content Delivery Network to Cache Static File Assets:

    Here static file assets such as script files and images are given to a content delivery network (CDN) provider who stores the files in data centers situated in strategic locations around the world allowing people to access the application relatively quickly and the cached assets have low latency. As the overall load time is drastically improved, the load on the server is reduced. CDNs are extremely useful for business enterprises whose customer base encompasses a large geographical area.

  5. Manage Latency:

    Business enterprises must co-locate their applications and data stores. For exemplary performance, the cloud service and storage accounts must be co-located in the same affinity group and the cloud service and the SQL database must be co-located in the same data center. The Azure CDN must be used appropriately in such scenarios. The application can be load balanced by using Azure Traffic Manager when the application is being deployed in different data centers.

  6. Protect Application against Hardware Issues:

    Hardware issues can create a lot of problem when building cloud applications. Multiple instances of the application must be deployed. Horizontal scaling must be favored over vertical scaling. Hardware issues can be mitigated by using smaller sized virtual machine instead of larger ones. Since Virtual Machine’s local storage is transient and not fail-safe, it cannot be relied upon. Instead, Azure Blob Storage can be used. Decoupled applications can be built to safeguard the application against hardware failures.

  7. Use Azure Storage and SQL Database:

    It is critical that business enterprises know the uses of storage such as blob, tables and SQL databases.  For instance, enterprises may store images in a SQL database even though the ideal place to store it is the blob storage. Enterprises need to understand that being shared resources they don’t come with thresholds and limits which can be controlled. Moreover, the SQL database is nothing but on-premise SQL server and therefore enterprises will have to make few changes to their data access layer. For backup purposes, enterprises will have to rely on mechanisms like BACPAC functionality or Copy Database as there is no access to data/log files. The application must be prepared to handle transient errors. For best performance, the application and SQL database can be co-located in the same data center. The data will have to be de-normalized as relationships are not supported by table storage. The data in a table can be managed and organized using ‘PartitionKey’.

Business enterprises around the world are increasingly migrating towards cloud to bring about improvements in their IT infrastructure. The popularity gained by services like Microsoft Azure has shown that cloud computing has become completely integral to the way businesses are being run. Enterprises can partner up with an expert Azure application development service provider to develop and deploy robust Azure applications.

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