Microsoft Azure Concepts – Mobile Apps

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Mobile Apps are a recent phenomenon in Microsoft Azure and form part of App Services, which are specifically targeted at the delivery applications on mobile technology.

What Are Mobile Apps

In a nutshell, Mobile Apps are a PaaS offering, which means that the developer can create and manage mobile applications without needing to worry about managing and maintaining the underlying operating system.

Depending on the App Service Plan chosen, will entitle you to a number of features for your website which are:

  • Amount of disk space
  • SLA
  • Number of instances
  • Auto Scale
  • Backups
  • Geo Distributed Deployment
  • Custom Domain
  • Staging Environment
  • Offline Sync
  • Active Mobile Devices

Most businesses would choose the Standard Tier as this provides an SLA of 99.95% along with Auto-Scale.  More information on the types of App Service plans can be found here.

As part of the Mobile Apps PaaS offering identity and access are included as this is underpinned via Azure Active Directory.  Meaning that if you use Azure AD Connect in either same sign on or single sign on you have the ability to provide enterprise level authentication using your on-premises directory services.  Or if the mobile application is going to be standaline, the ability to use social providers such as Facebook, Google or Twitter is provided.

Offline Data

Mobile coverage is an issue in the UK, I can be driving on the M1 and in some areas have no phone signal.  This is a challenge when developing mobile applications as you can’t expect the user to always be in an area that has excellent coverage.  Built into Mobile Apps is an offline sync client which uses SQL Lite to cache and modify data locally on the end device.  It works on a push basis with the end device providing the notification to Mobile Apps to receive data over REST API’s.

Offline sync is available on Andiod, Cordova, iOS, Windows.

Notification Hubs

Integrated with Mobile Apps are Azure Notification Hubs.  These allow you to send notifications to mobile devices using a Platform Notification System (PNS).  In the same way that offline sync is available across platforms, so are notifications hubs.

Typical use cases for Azure Notification Hubs are:

  • Breaking news or offers
  • Updates per location e.g. travel issues
  • Updates per group e.g. people with a similar interest
  • One time passwords for MFA

Upload Content

Mobile apps by their very nature usually require input from the client device.  This could be in the form of uploading documents or images to Azure Blob storage.  To achieve this you would use a Shared Access Signature (SAS), the client device calls the Mobile App to generate a SAS which passes a storage token back to the client device enabling the user to write data to your Azure Blob storage account on a time restricted basis.

The diagram below provides a logical overview of the use of mobile apps and how the components integrate.



Microsoft Azure – UK Datacentres

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azureMicrosoft have made Azure and Office 365 generally available from UK datacentres in London, Durham and Cardiff.

The go live of these services means that customers who had concerns regarding data sovereignty and compliance, now have some of their concerns alleviated.

It is important to understand that some services are not available from UK datacentres yet, these include:

  • Storage Import and Export which could be a factor if you want to seed data
  • Azure Site Recovery, meaning that you cannot protect your Azure based VM’s across regions using this service

A full list of services available in the Europe are located here.

Thanks to @sideshowtob for the Resource Group picture below.



Azure App Service Migration Assistant Tool

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App ServiceOne of my colleagues brought the Azure App Service Migration Assistant Tool to my attention recently.

App Services are used to provide PaaS type offerings with Microsoft controlling items such as deployment slots, load balancing, backups and operating system patches, with the consumer focusing on the IIS instance.

App Services are quite appealing to customers as it allows them to pass over the infrastructure elements to Microsoft enabling them to deal with managing and maintaining their websites.

So the question is, how do I know if my website is ready to become a Microsoft Azure App Service?  This is where the Azure App Service Migration Assistant Tool comes into play.  It scans the IIS server and determines readiness for migration to Microsoft Azure including:

  • Websites running on the IIS server.
  • Applications and virtual directories configured under each site.
  • Application pools used by the sites and applications and their settings.
  • HTTP and HTTPS bindings used by the sites.
  • Databases defined in web.config using connectionString attribute.

vSphere 5.0 & 5.1 – Licenses After End of Support?

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vSphere 5.0 5.1It’s well documented on the VMware Product Lifecycle Matrix that on 24th August 2016 vSphere 5.0 and 5.1 general support will end, moving into technical guidance.

Way back on 21st May 2014 VMware moved vSphere 4.x into ‘end of general support’.  Then a few months later on 15th August 2014, VMware removed the ability to download, downgrade or generate new license keys for vSphere 4.x see VMware KB2039567.  This essentially meant that you couldn’t expand your unsupported hypervisor environment.

So the question is how long until VMware remove the ability to download or generate vSphere 5.0 and 5.1 licenses?

HPE Discover – Thoughts

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hpe_pri_grn_pos_rgbIt’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting in London Heathrow Terminal 3, on my way to HPE Discover.  If you follow my blog, you will have noticed that my focus has been on Microsoft Azure, with this in mind, it I wasn’t entirely sure if HPE would see the value in bringing me to HPE Discover this year.  However the legend that is @CalvinZito believes I can bring something to the table

It seems strange if not alien for me to be thinking about hardware, I have been decoupled from the murky depths of DAC cables, storage performance/capacity, servers and networking items such as virtual connect for over twelve months.  Yes you still have architectural considerations in Microsoft Azure, however these are higher up the stack and are geared towards limits and quotas rather than hardware boundaries.

Meg Whitman has proved that she has the vision and belief to shape and change HPE.  With the split into Enterprise and Ink in 2015 and the recent announcement that HP Enterprise Services will be acquired by CSC (Computer Sciences Corp).  This leaves HPE as a global hardware and software manufacturer.  I’m interested to know how HPE is adapting to the future of ‘hybrid cloud’ and how they are going to show value in a ‘commodity hardware’ market.

When you have a company that turns over $53 Billion dollars and has 252,000 employees, it’s a gigantic task to point the ship in a new direction.

Let’s see what HPE announce at Discover and what their thoughts are in an ever changing market place.