Updated Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 Consumer Preview

On Friday we released the an update to the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 Consumer Preview. This version of the toolkit adds a Service Bus sample, Raw Notification sample and Diagnostics to the WnsRecipe NuGet. You can download the self-extracting package on Codeplex from here.

If you are building Windows 8 Metro Style applications with Windows Azure and have not yet downloaded the toolkit I would encourage you to do so.  Why?, as a quick demonstration the following video shows how you can use the toolkit to build a Windows 8 Metro Style application that uses Windows Azure and the Windows Push Notification Service (WNS) to send Toast, Tile and Badge notifications to your Windows 8 Consumer Preview apps in under 4 minutes.


You can view/download the hi-def version of the video on channel 9 here

What’s in it?

  • Automated Install – Scripted install of all dependencies including Visual Studio 2010 Express and the Windows Azure SDK on Windows 8 Consumer Preview.
  • Project Templates – Client project templates for Windows 8 Metro Style apps in Dev 11 for both XAML/C# and HTML5/JS with a supporting server-side Windows Azure Project for Visual Studio 2010.
  • NuGet Packages – Throughout the development of the project templates we have extracted the functionality into NuGet Packages for example the WNSRecipe NuGet provides a simple managed API for authenticating against WNS, constructing notification payloads and posting the notification to WNS. This reduces the effort to send a Toast, Tile, Badge or Raw notification to about three lines of code. You can find a full list of the other packages created support Push Notifications and the sample ACS scenarios here and full source in the toolkit under /Libraries.
  • Samples  – Five sample applications demonstrating different ways Windows 8 Metro Style apps can use Push Notifications, ACS and Service Bus
  • Documentation – Extensive documentation including install, file new project walkthrough, samples and deployment to Windows Azure.

Want More?

If you would like to learn more about the Windows Push Notification Service and the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 check out the following videos.

Building Metro Style apps that use Windows Azure Service Bus

You can view/download the hi-def version of the video on channel 9 here

Sending Push Notifications to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 Devices using Windows Azure

You can view/download the hi-def version of the video on channel 9 here

Building Metro Style apps that use Push Notifications

You can view/download the hi-def version of the video on channel 9 here

Building Metro Style apps that use the Access Control Service

You can view/download the hi-def version of the video on channel 9 here

For more details, please refer to the following posts:

Please ping me on twitter to let me know if you have any feedback or questions @cloudnick

Enjoy,
Nick

Sample using Windows Azure Service Bus from a Windows 8 Metro Style App

I wanted to showcase a Sample application we recently distributed in the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8.  I will post a more detailed code based blog in the near future but for now I wanted to share with you how to get up and running with the Sample application.  Special thanks to Will Perry and the Windows Azure Service Bus  team for putting the sample together.

The Windows Azure Service Bus Sample browser application demonstrates how to send and receive messages from a Windows 8 Metro style application via Windows Azure Service Bus Queues, Topics and Subscriptions.

Windows Azure Service Bus Messaging provides cloud-based, message-oriented-middleware technologies including a full featured Message Queue with support for arbitrary content types, rich message properties, correlation, reliable binary transfer, and grouping. Service Bus Topics provide a set of new publish-and-subscribe capabilities and are based on the same backend infrastructure as Service Bus Queues. A Topic consists of a sequential message store just like a Queue, but allows for many concurrent and durable Subscriptions that can independently yield copies of the published messages to consumers. Each Subscription can define a set of rules with simple expressions that specify which messages from the published sequence are selected into the Subscription.

This sample consists of a sample library that creates an easy to use abstraction on top of the Windows Azure Service Bus REST APIs and a sample to demonstrate the usage of the Windows Azure Service Bus from a Windows 8 metro style using this sample library.

Important: Setting up the Windows Azure Service Bus Sample

Before running the application, you must first configure a Service Bus namespace and then configure the sample application to use this namespace. You can do this as follows.

  1. Navigate to the Windows Azure portal. You will be prompted for your Windows Live ID credentials if you are not already signed in.
  2. Click Service Bus, Access Control & Caching link in the left pane, and then select the Service Bus item under the Serviceselement. Service Bus
  3. Add a Service Namespace. A service namespace provides an application boundary for each application exposed through the Service Bus and is used to construct Service Bus endpoints for the application. To add a service namespace, click the New button on the upper ribbon bar. Service Bus
  4. On the left list, check all the available services. Enter a name for your service Namespace, select a Region for your service to run in, choose the Subscription and a Cache Size a click Create Namespace. Make sure to validate the availability of the name first. Service names must be globally unique as they are hosted in the cloud and accessible by whomever you decide to grant access. Service BusRecord the Value of your ServiceNamespace as you will later use this to configure the sample application.
  5. Once the namespace is active, click its name in the list of available namespaces to display the Service Namespace information page. Service Bus
  6. In the Properties right pane, locate the Service Bus section and click the Default Key Viewbutton. Service BusRecord the value shown for Default Issuer a Default Key, and click OK. You will need these values later when configuring your Web Role settings. Service BusNow that you have your Service Namespace, Default Issuer and Default Key you are ready to configure the application.
  7. Open Visual Studio 11.
  8. Open the Microsoft.Samples.ServiceBus.Metro.sln solution located in the Samples\ServiceBusfolder.
  9. Open App.xaml.cs, in the Microsoft.Samples.ServiceBus.SampleBrowser project and set the values for the Service Namespace, Default Issuer and Default Key where indicated in the following image. Service Bus
  10. Make sure that the start-up project of the solution is the Metro style app project. To set the startup Project right-click on the Microsoft.Samples.ServiceBus.SampleBrowser project in Solution Explorer and select Set as StartUp Project.
  11. Press F5to run the application. Service Bus
  12. Select one of the three options and follow the steps within the application to learn about using Service Bus from within a Windows 8 metro app. The following options are available:
    1. Simple Queues: Explore the basic functionality of a Service Bus Queue, including Create, Delete, Send and Receive operations. Please notice that Queue names must not contain spaces. Service Bus
    2. Simple Topics: Explore the basic functionality of a Service Bus Topic including Create, Subscribe, Send and Delete. Service Bus
    3. Peek Lock: Explore alternate receive semantics you can use when reading messages from Service Bus. Service Bus

If you would like to learn more please see this video on channel 9:

or download it directly from channel 9

Delivering Toast Tile and Badge Notifications to Windows 8 and Windows Phone using Windows Azure

Here is a recent talk I gave at TechDays Belgium.

Notifications extend the reach of your app to the desktop and device, but with a large user base timely delivery can be challenging without the right tools. In this session we’ll review the notification options available to Windows Phone and Windows Metro Style apps, demonstrate how you can deliver notifications using Windows Azure, and discuss features provided by Windows Azure to scale your notification solution. By the end of this session you will understand how to use Windows Azure to rapidly develop a notification enabled service for Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.

or watch direct from channel 9

Enjoy,
Nick

Delivering Notifications using Windows Azure and Windows Push Notification Service

Over the past little while I have had the pleasure of building the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8. The following is a re-post of my official post on the Windows Azure Blog.

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 is designed to make it easier for developers to create a Windows Metro style application that can harness the power of Windows Azure Compute and Storage. It includes a Windows 8 Cloud Application project template for Visual Studio that makes it easier for developers to create a Windows Metro style application that utilizes services in Windows Azure. This template generates a Windows Azure project, an ASP.NET MVC 3 project, and a Windows Metro style JavaScript application project.  Immediately out-of-the-box the client and cloud projects integrate to enable push notifications with the Windows Push Notification Service (WNS). In Addition, the Windows Azure project demonstrates how to use the WNS recipe and how to leverage Windows Azure Blob and Table storage.

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 is available for download.

Push Notification Cloud Service Architecture

For those of you who are familiar with working with Windows Phone 7 and the Microsoft Push Notification Service (MPNS), you will be happy to know that the Windows Push Notification service (WNS) is quite similar. Let’s take a look at a birds-eye architectural view of how WNS works.

Windows Push Notification Service and Windows Azure

The process of sending a notification requires few steps:

  1. Request a channel. Utilize the WinRT API to request a Channel Uri from WNS.  The Channel Uri will be the unique identifier you use to send notifications to an application instance.
  2. Register the channel with your Windows Azure cloud services. Once you have your channel you can then store your channel and associate it with any application specific data (e.g user profiles and such) until your services decide that it’s time to send a notification to the given channel
  3. Authenticate against WNS. To send notifications to your channel URI you are first required to Authenticate against WNS using OAuth2 to retrieve a token to be used for each subsequent notification that you push to WNS.
  4. Push notification to channel recipient. Once you have your channel, notification payload and WNS access token you can then perform an HttpWebRequest to post your notification to WNS for delivery to your client.

Fortunately, the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 accelerates development by providing a set of project templates that enable you to start delivering notifications from your Windows Azure cloud service with a simple file new project experience.  Let’s take a look at the toolkit components.

Toolkit Components

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 contains a rich set of assets including a Dependency Checker, Windows Push Notification Service recipe, Dev 11 project templates, VS 2010 project templates and Sample Applications.

Dependency Checker

The dependency checker is designed to help identify and install those missing dependencies required to develop both Windows Metro style apps on and Windows Azure solutions on Windows 8.

Windows Push Notification Service and Windows Azure

Dev 11 Windows Metro style app

The Dev 11 Windows Metro style app provides a simple UI and all the code required to demonstrate how to request a channel from WNS using the WinRT API.  For example, the following listing requests a Channel URI from WNS:

var push = Windows.Networking.PushNotifications;
var promise = push.PushNotificationChannelManager.createPushNotificationChannelForApplicationAsync();

promise.then(function (ch) {
var uri = ch.uri;
var expiry = ch.expirationTime;
updateChannelUri(uri, expiry);
});

Once you have your channel, you then need to register this channel to your Windows Azure cloud service. To do this, the sample app calls into updateChannelUri where we construct a simple JSON payload and POST this up to our WCF REST service running in Windows Azure using the WinJS.xhr API.

function updateChannelUri(channel, channelExpiration) {
if (channel) {
var serverUrl = "https://myservice.com/register";
var payload = { Expiry: channelExpiration.toString(),
URI: channel };

var xhr = new WinJS.xhr({
type: "POST",
url: serverUrl,
headers: { "Content-Type": "application/json; charset=utf-8" },
data: JSON.stringify(payload)
}).then(function (req) { … });
} }

VS 2010 Windows Azure Cloud Project Template

The Windows Azure Cloud project provided by the solution demonstrates several assets for building a Windows Azure service for delivering push notifications.  These assets include:

1.  A WCF REST service for your client applications to register channels and demonstrates how to store them in Windows Azure Table Storage using a TableServiceContext. In the following code listing you can see the simple WCF REST interface exposed by the project.

[ServiceContract]
public interface IWNSUserRegistrationService
{
[WebInvoke(Method = "POST", BodyStyle = WebMessageBodyStyle.Bare)]
void Register(WNSPushUserServiceRequest userChannel);

[WebInvoke(Method = "DELETE", BodyStyle = WebMessageBodyStyle.Bare)]
void Unregister(WNSPushUserServiceRequest userChannel);
}

2.  An ASP .NET MVC 3 portal to build and send Toast, Tile and Badge notifications to clients using the WNS recipe.

Send notifications using the Windows Push Notification Service and Windows Azure

3.  An example of how to utilize Blob Storage for Tile and Toast notification images.

Using Windows Azure Blob Storage for Tiles and Toast notifications

4.  A Windows Push Notification Recipe used by the portal that provides a simple managed API for authenticating against WNS, constructing payloads and posting the notification to WNS.

using Windows.Recipes.Push.Notifications;
using Windows.Recipes.Push.Notifications.Security;

...

//Construct a WNSAccessTokenProvider which will accquire an access token from WNS
IAccessTokenProvider _tokenProvider = new WNSAccessTokenProvider("ms-app%3A%2F%2FS-1-15-2-1633617344-1232597856-4562071667-7893084900-2692585271-282905334-531217761", "XEvTg3USjIpvdWLBFcv44sJHRKcid43QXWfNx3YiJ4g");

//Construct a toast notification for a given CchannelUrl
var toast = new ToastNotification(_tokenProvider)
{
ChannelUrl = "https://db3.notify.windows.com/?token=AQI8iP%2OtQE%3d";
ToastType = ToastType.ToastImageAndText02;
Image = "https://127.0.0.1/devstoreaccount1/tiles/WindowsAzureLogo.png";
Text = new List<string> {"Sending notifications from a Windows Azure WebRole"};
};

//Send the notification to WNS
NotificationSendResult result = toast.Send();

5.  As you can see the Windows Push Notification Recipe simplifies the amount of code required to send your notification down to 3 lines.

The net end result of each of these assets is a notification as demonstrated in the below screenshot of a Toast delivered using the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8.

Sending Toast notifications on Windows 8

As an exercise, it is recommended to spend some time using the website to explore the rich set of templates available to each of the Toast, Tile and Badge notification types.

Sample applications

At present there are also two sample applications included in the toolkit that demonstrate the usage of other Windows Azure features:

  1. PNWorker: This sample demonstrates how you can utlize Windows Azure Storage Queues to offload the work of delivering notifications to a Windows Azure Worker Role.  For more details please see the CodePlex documentation.
  2. ACSMetroClient: An example of how to use ACS in your Windows Metro style applications.  For more details please see this post by Vittorio Bertocci.
  3. Margie’s Travel: As seen in the demo keynote by John Shewchuk, Margie’s Travel is a sample application that shows how a Metro style app can work with Windows Azure. For more details please see this post by Wade Wegner. This sample application will ship shortly after the //build conferene.

Summary

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8 provides developers a rich set of re-useable assets that demonstrate how to start using Windows Azure quickly from Metro style applications in Windows 8.  To download the toolkit and see a step by step walkthrough please see the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows 8.

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