Azure Logic Apps– Lesson 1 - Quick Sample

 

Hi all, I’ve been pretty busy lately and have been struggling to get the time to write a few blog posts. So what I’ve decided to try do is create a few videos instead, I’m going for a warts and all approach so I’m not editing the videos before publishing, this will allow you to get a better feel for what is involved in working with Azure rather than looking at a well polished demo that leave some critical parts uncovered (that’s my excuse for not making time to try edit it!)

Lesson 1

A quick sample to get a feel for Logic Apps.

Out with the old in with the new(er)

With 2016 drawing to a close and 2017 already in full swing for me, I thought this was a good opportunity to reflect on how 2016 went and what 2017 has in store for me from a technological point of view.

2016

If asked how 2016 was from a professional perspective I’d probably try to sum it up as follows “Technology continued to roll out at an ever increasing pace, not only was new technology appearing faster than ever before, existing technology stacks started iterate and churn under our feet!”

Nearing the end of 2016 was where I finally admitted defeat and realized that I can’t keep up with everything and I while I sure am greedy and to know everything about everything, it was getting to the point that I was becoming a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’ dare I say a full stack developer! I’d actually like to think I’m master of some, but certainly it was a big effort to stay on top of everything.

What did I get up to?

Azure : I got certified in Azure this was without doubt my most prized professional achievement of 2016, I’ve been using Azure for years and I feel quite confident in acclaiming it to be the best public could in the world today.
I’ve also started work on a state of the art data distribution network using Server-less architecture. I finally got down and dirty with Swagger/API Apps/LogicApps/AzureFunctions.
I got a lot better at networking, Load balancing resiliency, Azure/AWS causes a, devops inner persona to ooze its way to the top.
I listened with baited breath to the Azure Weekly Azure Podcast to see what was new (and always scratched my head when Cale got excited about BlockChains, perhaps next year I’ll look back and kick my self for not being an early adopter, it does seem to be an area that’s heating up).

AWS: I got certified as an AWS Solutions Architect, it was great to get a better understanding of AWS and indeed for a few offerings they I’d choose them over Azure. Got heavily involved in AWS CloudFormation and helped regain some control on AWS madness.

Google Cloud: I spent a few weeks playing with it just to see how it’s coming along, at least now I’m somewhat informed but I’d only consider myself as a beginner (I’d consider GoogleCloud a beginner also , unless they put in a massive investment into the portal and services, they simply can’t compete with Azure and AWS.

Docker: I can create images, start stop then understand volumes, I didn’t get as far as any of the clustering techniques such as swarm but I see huge value in Docker!

AngularJS: Architected and delivered a cutting edge data visualization system based on Angular 1.x, typescript,sccs,gulp. 
Introduced AngularJS in to multiple smaller projects.

Typescript: This is a fantastic language, and now especially with all the bells and whistles in v2.1 (not least async/await for es5 targets). If you are writing any Javascript you need to learn this no one will ever convince me that a dynamically typed language is better than a statically typed language for starters, but with all the new Standards based features now baked in, it’s certainly taking the industry by storm, I can’t see how Babel will continue to fight for its place in the world alongside it.

Ionic2: I wrote another mobile app, I’ve done this in many languages to date, I started out with iPhones and xamarin c#, moved to objectiveC and java, and finally settled back on the Typescript/Angular2 based Ionic2 framework. It’s a pleasure to deal with, and with my other investments in the underlying stack it has become a natural fit.

Java8: Finally spend some time getting up to speed on the new jdk and it’s offerings. While not strictly Java8, I’m including Sprint Bootstrap, Wildfly10 Application server, CDI, JaxRS etc in this section.

Camel: Gained a basic understanding and working knowledge of the Camel EAI framework.

ActiveMQ: I debated about putting this one on here, all queues fulfil the same core requirements to pass messages right? But I did approach ActiveMQ from three different sides camel/c#/java, so that was interesting.

.NET 2017 I’m now informed about what’s coming down the line. Some interesting thing like C#7 (which I will admit I had to read twice before I saw the value in the language changes), better support for the web stacks (although I’d admit with a tear in my eye that I’ve moved to Jetbrains software and am unlikely to come back to VStudio unless it’s an ASP based backend).

Client Products: Not only the development stacks have been changing, products in use by my clients have been moving at a rapid pace also and given they pay the bills I dedicate a fair amount of time to understanding them in depth.

Resource Consumption:
DNR -Listened to nearly every episode of DotNetRocks.
Hanselminutes - Funnily enough I found DotNetRocks as I used to subscribe the Hanselminutes; I say used to, as I’ve finally given up on Hanselminutes it appears to have moved in a different direction in the last year or so, don’t get me wrong, Scott is a great guy one of the best technical speakers in MS if you ask me, I even follow the weekly ASP.net stand-ups which he’s in, it only the podcast that I gave up on in December.

Other recommended podcasts:
Angular In Action
Javascript Jabber
RunAs Radio
Azure Podcast

2017

As you can image it takes a lot of time to get proficient in any of the above stacks I’ve mentioned . I’ve been trying to stay on top of them all and I’ve now reached the point or realization that need to let some go (think of Kate Winslet prying Leonardo DiCaprio’s icy fingers off that board she was on, it’ll be oh so sad). I’m going to narrow down the field, I’ll still keep in touch with them and if I encounter anything I don’t understand then I’ll make it my business to understand it, I simply won’t actively go pursuing them all. I’ve been burnt before with that approach, I learn Sliverlight after all, it wasn’t all bad as I wrote a windows phone app and many WPF apps around the same time, so the experience transferred nicely, it’s just that I’m not writing much WPF these days so I’ll put effort back in that direction only if and when needed.

Q: So the question remains: Where am I going to put my extended effort this year? 
A: Azure first approach. Azure will be the primary topic of my blogs whether the implementation is in C#/JavaScript/Typescript/Java I don’t really care. If the backend is .NET or Java, again I don’t really care but I do intend on blogging on practical usage cases for Azure services, I may even create a video or two!

Happy new year!

Tech of the week

Appears to be the story of my life lately, just as I get excited and proficient on one stack I get side tracked with something else. The latest stack I’m playing with is the Ionic2 framework, but first some history.

 

UX Stacks

I’ve written UX applications in many different way in the past

  • java swing (albeit i’d never put this on my resume as I can’t recall a single bit of that application i helped a student friend with so many years ago)
  • MFC – Oh the pain
  • ATL/WTL – Actually i quite like this back in the old C++ days when men were men.
  • C# Windows forms – Spent years on this stack and if you’re happy with battleship grey it’s still quite RAD
  • WPF/Silverlight – Wrote quite a few applications in this, probably wouldn’t call myself an expert but I can xaml like the next guy
  • MVC3+ – Have written and still support a quite a few MVC applications it was the bridge that finally moved me heavily to web client side tech.
  • Objective-C/XCode – A handful of iPhone applications, it’s ok, language is a little weird yes but use it for a week read a few books/material and you’ll make a good stab at it.
  • Xamarin – A nice approach for writing mobile apps in  c#, problem is you still need to use the native designers (yes i know about xamarin forms.. are we really going to talk about that?)
  • Web tech, My transition to the web was a natural progression that leveraged things I’d learned with other frameworks, e.g Knockout was familiar from wpf data binding, angular has somewhat a familiarity to MVC

Ionic2

So what is Ionic2? In short it’s a framework for writing mobile (and progressive) apps. As you’ve seen above I’ve already ways of writing mobile apps, So why something new? Why not! in this world – always be learning!

In my case there were some more compelling reasons,  see for the last year I was an architect and hands on developer for a new web application using angularjs v1 sass, typescript and a tonne of wonderful libraries. Ionic2 is built around the same stacks, applications use angular2, html5, typescript, saas, gulp etc, the list goes on and on. Apparently I’m finding my home in this world, in fact if i was to write a greenfield desktop application I’d seriously consider writing it with html tech and framing with Atom/Electron.

Sample app

image_thumb2 Taking the application on the left as an example,
I was to create this screen in a few hours, sure i’s not the prettiest and contrasts are high, but the point is that from a blank canvas it only took a few hours to design and implement this screen using Ionic2 and web technologies. I’m a little spoiled as I can somewhat ignore the stubborn elephant in the room *CSS*. i’m targeting the latest devices so I’m getting to use flexbox for layout , css3 transitions etc.

I’m seriously convinced that when it comes to writing general purpose mobile applications Ionic2 will be hard to beat.

I know if i was to write the same screen in xcode/android studio it would take me a lot longer to implement this design.

Check out Ionic2 for yourself you won’t regret it.

Azure vs. AWS Text to Blob with SDKs

This demonstrates what is involved in writing and reading some text to an Azure and an AWS blob.

Use case

What i set out to achieve was to demonstrate how to read and write some text to a blob with the SDKs. Just to make it a little more interesting I decided to use .NET for the reading and Java for the writing.

Obtaining the SDKs

Adding the SDKs was a seamless process, for .NET Nuget was used and for Java Maven was used

 

.Net Java
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Write

Azure

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AWS

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Read

Azure

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AWS

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Conclusions

Both SDK’s were trivial to install and use, the Azure SDK’s suited my use case a little better in that they didn’t need me to deal with files in my Application code (I expect text is not a mainstream use case).

AWS as always relies on the region being specified which I can’t say I like that much.

Certification

It’s been a busy year and my blog posts have suffered while I’ve been preparing and sitting these exams. But I’ve got them both now, so expect my Azure vs AWS series of posts to continue.

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Media Indexing In the Cloud

So out of the blue I found myself giving Azure Media Indexing a trial run, for no other reason other than I could, this is why I love cloud tech so much, it brings something that would have been very difficult 5-10 years ago, within reach of anyone with an public cloud account.

AWS vs Azure

Both AWS and Azure have media services, typical used to manage digital media and serve it up to consumer playback devices at scale.

AWS has the the Elastic Transcode and Azure has Azure Media Services, however only Azure has the ability to dig into audio or media files and extract the text within.

Azure Media Indexer

Azure Media Indexer enables you to make content of your media files searchable and to generate a full-text transcript for closed captioning and keywords. You can process one media file or multiple media files in a batch. Have a look at this post for some details on how to do it from code https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/media-services-index-content/

The code uploads a file then starts an indexing job, then downloads the results:
Note: The source code seen above has a typo, I’ve submitted a pull request to hopefully this will be fixed, but easy to spot.
Also the download part failed with an exception for me so i just pulled it down with a little bit of code on a second pass.

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The above code is possibly all you need if you wish to upload content and start the indexing job manually with the old portal.

Here’s how:

On your media account upload some content

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Once the content is uploaded, start the indexer process, set a good title as Azure will reach out to the interweb and use it to seed the language extraction.

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There is no way to download the output from the portal so use use the code i shared above to download the content.

I processed the latest podcast at time of publishing from https://www.dotnetrocks.com/
https://s3.amazonaws.com/dnr/dotnetrocks_1276_news_from_build.mp3 

In hindsight it was possibly not the best podcast to index as it was recorded live @build (i expect, i’m two episodes behind on DNR this week so have not listened to it yet), the DNR guys typically have exceedingly good audio, at some stage it might be worth indexing another episode.

Results

You can find the results here here , initially my knee jerk reaction was , “ah this is poor” but after reflecting on it I’m blown away by what was done and so so, sooo easily!

With a bit of editing this can be thrown into Azure Search / Sql Server etc for full text search and direct seek media playback.

See for yourself:

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For sure it needs some editing, e.g.
I release the eleventh music decode by
should in-fact be
I released the eleventh music to code by

but what a great start!!!

Cloud costs: Shut those VM’s down

The public cloud is fantastic for numerous reasons, if you’re not faced with some restriction such as where you data lives or other factors, then my advise is get away from private clouds and get to the public clouds as fast as your legs can carry you!

However once you’re there it’s not all plain sailing, if you let a team of people loose to play with with all these new toys, on the back of your company’s credit card, then costs can start to accumulate very quickly!

Sometimes, your VM’s are not being used for production and what invariably happens, is that these machines get forgotten about or are left running for no good reason, now while there are a few ways to capture such scenarios,  what I’ll show you now is a very quick way of scheduling those known VM’s to shutdown (or start up) as on a predefined schedule,

AWS

For AWS the easiest way of scheduling a single standalone VM to shutdown is to use the AWS Data Pipeline service.

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Lets quickly show the workflow:

1) Create new Pipeline with CLI Command

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2) Enter the Stop EC2 CLI commands

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Note: This field only shows as one line of text vertically in chrome so I modified to styles to show the full command.


You can see that i have two different stop commands, I could combine these into the one command with the two IDs however if one fails then they both fail, this can be problematic if for example an Instance gets terminated.

3) Schedule

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4) Set log file bucket

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5) Select role

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Choose custom and then select the two defaults.
Security Note:  Roles needs to be configured to allow Data Pipeline access to your VM’s, please see here: https://aws.amazon.com/premiumsupport/knowledge-center/stop-start-ec2-instances/

6) Done

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That’s it, you now have a scheduled task that will switch off your vm’s nightly. It should be noted that this will start a micro data pipeline ec2 instance VM with a default run time of 50 minutes, so you need to ensure the end justifies the means, better yet reduce the run time by editing the workflow to e.g. 15 minutes.

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Azure

In order to achieve the same results with Azure we are going to select Azure automation,

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If you’re familiar with Azure you will know that there are currently two ways of creating VM’s, the classic approach and the RM (resource manager approach). In this post I’ll show you the RM approach, but feel free to substitute classic in it’s place with a nearly identical approach.

1) Open or create an Azure Automation account.

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2) Edit Assets

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Add a variable for the AzureSubscriptionId you’ll be using
Select your service principle account, you’ll have to search for it to appear.

3) Runbook

We have two options now, we can either use some powershell or some graphically defined workflows, let’s do this with a graphical version, we don’t need to create this, we simply import from the gallery.

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After importing choose Edit on the runbook

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4) Set inputs

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Then we set the two Assets we provided earlier and optionally a ResourceGroupName (to stop all vm’s in a resource group) or a VMName The “Auto” you see above isn’t a keyword, it’s my badly named ResourceGroup.

5) Publish

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6) Set schedule

Go back to the Runbook and choose schedule

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With the schedule you can specify any of the input parameters and override the defaults if you so wish.

Security Note: Much the same as Azure you’ll need to ensure you’ve permission to access the VM’s from Azure Automation, the best option is to create a SecurityPrinciple application. See: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/resource-group-create-service-principal-portal/

 

Conclusion:

While it does look like the Azure approach is much more convoluted it is much more powerful, e.g. it is very easy to extend the azure run book to check all VM’s for a “Production” tag and only shutdown vm’s if they are not production (because that would be bad right!); with AWS, we are simply relying on a feature of Data Pipeline that allows us to run simple cli commands.

Pricing is much of a much-ness between each, with Azure you can run for free (to a limit)

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AWS the 15 mins with a micro instance is not even worth worrying about.

Web App deployment to AWS and Azure

As promised, hereby the first instalment of the AWS vs Azure blog post saga, again I’m trying to remain impartial throughout.

What I intend to outline is at this stage is the show to get started deploying a new application to AWS and to Azure from within Visual Studio. I’m sure there are those of you that are shouting, “.NET, Visual Studio, Azure? Of course Azure will do it better!!!” however rest assured this is only the first of a few posts related to Azure App Service and AWS elastic beanstalk and AWS doesn’t fair all that badly.

Sample Application

The sample application in this case is just a File/New ASP MVC5 project using .net 4..6.1, I’m only hitting the home page as a test and not worrying about databases for now (databases will make another interesting series of blog posts!).

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

AWS has a AWS Toolkit plugin for Visual Studio, this allows you to view and manipulate AWS resources

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It also lets you Publish Applications to AWS by right clicking on the solution and choosing “Publish to AWS”

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Once you choose this option you’ll be presented with a dialog that lets you choose your environment or create a new one.
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If you don’t already have one, lets create one, you will choose a name for the environment

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Next you choose your instance size (the underlying VM size, or any custom Amazon Machine Image you’ve created previously), other options of interest are, use non-default VPC, this is basically the network you’ll be running on, all AWS accounts get a default VPC per region (and if you delete it you’ll need to contact AWS to get it back!). The option of single instance environment is selected here as this is just a test. If i wasn’t running in single instance mode, I would be able to Enable Rolling Deployment to keep my app running while it gets updated (more about that here: http://docs.aws.amazon.com/elasticbeanstalk/latest/dg/using-features.rollingupdates.html)

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Lastly we choose the application settings, I’m just deploying a .net 4 runtime debug application.

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Once you review and finish, you can see your application start deploying on the portal

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Once it’s finished which can take a few minutes after the upload you should see the Health go Green and you can access your application

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Note: If you’re following along and wish to stop this ElasticBeanstalk environment to minimize costs/free tier bandwidth, then please ensure to terminate it from the ElasticBeanstalk section of the console, Stopping the underlying EC2 instance will only serve to signal the autoscaling group it belongs to, to start a new instance and restore the health of this application.

Azure App Service

Now lets deploy this same application to azure. Right click on solution explorer and choose Publish

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Choose to Azure

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Like AWS where we chose a server environment we need to choose an app hosting plan, with Azure you can sign up for a free trial, if you have a subscription you can choose to deploy a free cloud app (you get 10 free per region, there are some limitations which we are not concerned with just now).

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After creating this new hosting plan we arrive back at the publish dialog

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Visual Studio then starts the publish task and opens the application in your default Visual Studio specified web browser.

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You can also see your new application seeding life in the Azure portal http://portal.azure.com

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Summary

So in this blog post I’ve run through how to deploy applications to PaaS offerings on AWS and Azure, in the next post I’m going to drill down and and do some more comparing and contrasting of these two applications, stay tuned!

AWS or AZURE

History

So way back circa 2008 I registered for AWS free tier, now back then I was working in a different industry that didn’t have much need for ‘the cloud’ I played with a few linux vm’s during that year but nothing came of it and my trial expired.

Fast forward two years and Azure was born at least in public,, I was immediately sold and was all-in. I’ve used abused and consulted on more Azure projects than I can remember and anytime the subject of AWS came up I dismissed it as a inferior pioneer on cloud tech, I mean just look at the console it’s offending to the eye is it not?

Fast forward another two years and I found myself while heavily swallowing the PAAS cool-aid recommending AWS over Azure to a client, why? Simply because AWS have a managed offering for Oracle and that particular client did not have the knowledge or appetite to manage their own oracle server.

This did open my eye that there might be a bit more to AWS than an ugly console, an opportunity presented itself to become AWS certified and I jumped at it, now as I write this article I can put this lovely logo Solutions-Architect-Associateon my business card.

 

 

 

Learning’s

So what have I learned about AWS in in my quest for certification? Well the console is not nearly as offending as I once believed it to be, in fact I think it’s more practical than that sexy looking new Azure portal, it’s faster to get things done in than constantly sliding those Azure portal blades around the place that’s for sure. As for feature parity, for the most part both platforms tend to support the same features in the general sense but once you drill down differences do start to emerge.

I’ve also decided it about high time that I also get certified in Azure, (underway), this should give me the street cred I need for what I’m going to try achieve and hopefully my findings be as impartial as possible.

Cloud Wars

Starting from my next blog post I’m going to start comparing features on both platforms and outline the pros and cons of each… Stay tuned to what should be a very interesting blog series. Obviously the topics are vast, so, if anyone has any requests please send me an email: b at briankeating.net.

IE 11 Disassembly

So I’ve been looking at an issue for a client today where by an application working perfectly well on most browsers was failing on internet explorer 11. Users were presented with the following error:

imageI think we can all agree that it’s not very helpful.

 

The problem was this particular application has a massive code base, so it was hard to identify where to start given no other information was furnished by IE.

Assembly

In order to gain insight in what was failing I pressed the Debug button and let Visual Studio 2015 grab as much information as it could from the Microsoft Symbol servers only to be presented with the following:

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Reading between the lines

Now I’m not an assembly man, and i say that at the detriment of a future role that has it as a nice to have, I’d rather gouge my eyes out than mess with assembly, that said, looking at the assembly above it it was clear that the issue was related to style sheets / css.

This allowed be me to narrow in on the offending code, and I quickly seen that the following line was causing the problem:

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It appears IE11 doesn’t like this, the solution for my client was to render the correct css serverside and now it’s working perfectly well for them.

Heading on nearly 20 years into my professional IT career I can honestly admit that this is the first time assembly saved my bacon! 

(Smilebut I’d still rather go blind )

Recent Tweets

Note: For Customization and Configuration, CheckOut Recent Tweets Documentation

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