This post is the fourth in a series of 4 about attending the AppsWorld conference in London.
Stewart Fullerton, one of our Application Engineers went along to the Azure mobile services talk. Stewart works on a lot of different technologies at Linknode. He works on Windows Phone & Windows 8 apps, builds Android apps using Xamarin technology and has built a few ASP.NET websites whilst he has been with us.
As a company it is important to us to know what else is going on in the app development world. The best way we could think of doing this was to head to AppsWorld in London last week. Four of us attended and I have asked the guys to write up their thought on what they saw and learned.
Azure Mobile Services
I attended a presentation at Apps World which describes developing for the back-end for Mobile applications in a reliable and effective manner, it was presented by Steve Plank from Microsoft (also known as ‘Planky’). He gave a demonstration on Windows Azure Mobile Services as well as the benefits of using these as opposed to a server that is independently maintained by the developers.
Steve discussed about the importance of managing cloud services which keeps cloud services available, stable and free of downtime aswell as how difficult and expensive it is to accomplish a task (having to configure firewalls, traffic, load queues, databases etc) on a server maintained by the app developers. A scenario that Steve gave was an incredible successful app that relies heavily on back end services, if any of these services fails the reputation of you as a developer as well as your app will be affected massively. Steve also stressed that the service may be as simple as submitting a high score to the cloud could fail resulting in loss of confidence by the user over the apps reliability.
Steve introduced Azure Mobile Services, a solution by Microsoft that gives the developer all the tools necessary relating to database manipulation and the creation of cloud services for an app in a cost effective manner. One of the main advantages that it gives to the developer is service management, rather than the developer managing the services independently so that they are always of a robust state, Microsoft takes care of management and maintenance to aid the developer and the users of the app concerned.
When a service fails in Azure the server reboots to try and resolve the problem, after several reboots and the service is still down the service is routed to another active server so that it is still available for the app to interact with. Microsoft has tens of thousands of servers located throughout the world and the same cloud services are copied to these servers so that they are constantly running and the chance of a service failing aswell as potential data loss while using the app is extremely low.
Steve then introduced the Windows Azure Portal, where the developer can create websites, databases, cloud services (Insert, Read Update, Delete etc) and custom API’s. He then showed the audience how these are created through the Portal. Another advantage about azure is that everything that the app depends on (services, databases etc) are stored in the one server and are accessed easily by creating back end clients in code.
As a developer that has used Windows Azure to create cloud services for apps I have embraced the benefits of this service due to its ease of use and not having to worry about maintenance costs as well as my cloud services failing when the apps are in use. Windows Azure is also cross-platform compatible (IOS, Android and WP8) which makes things even more easier as a developer. If your app relies on a back end service, Windows Azure is mandatory.