In Focus

Windows Azure: Introducing Roles, Visual Studio Setup, Online Portal

Windows Azure provides a Windows Server based computing environment for applications. The applications deployed on Windows Azure are getting executed on Virtual Machines.


Windows Azure is picking up speed in the market and the businesses seem to shift to this new paradigm. Surely this is changing the way the game is played.

Windows Azure provides a Windows Server based computing environment for applications. The applications deployed on Windows Azure are getting executed on Virtual Machines.

Windows Azure is Microsoft's answer for Cloud Computing.

The advantages provided by Azure would be many:

Platform as a Service

As the Azure platform provides the software the business organizations can save high amount of software licensing costs. This will reduce the operating expenses of the company or they can divert the expense to provide more features to their application. Similarly the hardware costs are also reduced.

So one may raise a question that the current ASP.NET deployment can also be made without purchasing any software's and by paying yearly rent. In this case if additional processing power is needed then more IT support for Load balancers, Programming for Caching, Testing efforts are needed. These all overheads are addressed in Windows Azure.


Windows Azure is designed to provide availability of the application in the mid of any software upgrade or hardware failure. This can be achieved through instance management.


In the current situations of ASP.NET, the need for load balancer arise additional costs of programming and testing. These additional requirements and costs can be reduced through the Azure platform. The load balancers are deployed in the Azure platform so that the IT support/developers can be freed from these tasks and concentrate on the business features.

Vertical and Horizontal Scalability

Scalability can be vertical and horizontal. Vertical Scalability infers increasing the resources like CPU, memory etc. Horizontal Scalability infers increasing the number of application instances.

Uneven Demand Processing

In the case of business applications which require high computing power during peak times (during Christmas Season, Year End, Demo Launch etc.) Azure provides advantage of upgrading or downgrading the hardware resources.


Roles in Windows Azure

Roles are an important concept in Windows Azure and learning them is the base for further programming. There are mainly 3 roles in Windows Azure.

  • Web Role
  • Worker Role
  • VM Role

Web Role

It provides a web front end solution. This is similar to an ASP.NET application. While under hosting Azure provides IIS and required services.

Worker Role

It provides a background service solution. This can be thought as a windows service application. We can use this role to run background operations like database management tasks, report generation etc. It can run lengthy operations.

According to msdn, the Web Role can be considered as a Worker role loaded with IIS. Similarly the worker role can be used to host other application platforms.

VM Role (Virtual Machine Role)

The Web Role and Worker Role are executed on virtual machines. The Virtual Machine Roles provides the user the ability to customize the virtual machine on which the web and worker roles are running. The VM role run a virtual hard disk (VHD) image which can be created and uploaded by the user. Through the VM role the customers can run scheduled tasks and other windows services.


Application Overview

From the above we can summarize that a Windows Azure application will contain web roles, worker roles and vm roles.


The case of application is similar to our ordinary solutions where a project include

  • Web Application in ASP.NET
  • Background Services in Windows Services
  • Configuration

Setting up Visual Studio

After creating an account, we can proceed with setting up the development environment.

Windows Azure applications can be developed in multiple environments.

  • Visual Studio 2008, 2010
  • Standalone SDK

Here, we are focusing on setting up the SDK for Visual Studio.

Open the url:  and click on the Get Tools & SDK button.


On clicking the button an executable named WindowsAzureToolsVS2010.exe will be downloaded. Run the executable and it will be installing the needed tools for Visual Studio.

The installer above will be installing all the required features including Azure Tools, SDK, ASP.NET MVC, IIS settings, hotfixes etc.

After the installation, you can start the Visual Studio and from the New Project dialog box you can view the Azure Project item.


SDK Tool Runtime Components

Following are some of the important components of runtime.

Windows Azure Compute Emulator This is the tool that enables local Azure environment for developing and testing applications.

Windows Azure Storage Emulator This is the tool that enable storage (Blob, Queue, Table) services in the local machine.

SDK Support for Other Languages

There is SDK support for other languages like:

  • Java
  • PHP
  • Ruby

Know Issues

You can read the known issues associated with the latest SDK 1.5 release.

Registering Online

For beginners to experiment with Azure,

Step 1: Create new Account

For creating a new account, you can use the url:


Click on the "Try it free now!" button and you will be prompted with the following screen:


Proceed with clicking the "Get the free trial" button and now you will be prompted with the windows live id authentication. You can use an msn/hotmail id to login. If you do not have a live id, then create one and login.


After logging in, you will be prompted with the following screen:


Enter the details and click the Next button to see the following screen:


Click next to continue...

Step 2: Provide Credit Card Details

After clicking next, you will be prompted to provide the Credit Card details. Please not that the charges will be held on credit card if:

  • Any usage after 90 days of trial period
  • The usage exceeded the computation limits within the trial period

One can use Greybox ( to monitor the consumption in the specified account. This will ensure that no unattended usage causes billing problems later.

After providing the details click the Submit button and the creation process is completed.

Step 3: Verify Account

Now login to the Window Azure Portal using the link below:


Click on the Sign in to the Management Portal and provide your credentials. You will be getting the following verification screen.


One might need to call the toll free number for verifying identity.

Step 4: Management Portal

After successful registration & identity verification, you will be able to see the following portal screen:



In this article, we have seen how to setup environment for Windows Azure and creating online trial account.