Scott Hanselman

Azure App Service Secrets and Web Site Hidden Gems

February 22, '17 Comments [16] Posted in Azure
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I just discovered that you can see a preview (almost like a daily build) of the Azure Portal if you go to https://preview.portal.azure.com instead of https://portal.azure.com. Sometimes the changes are big, sometimes they are subtle. It feels faster to me.

Azure Preview Portal

A few days ago I blogged that I had found a number of things in Azure that I wasn't previously aware of like "Metrics per instance (App Service)" which is DEEPLY useful if you run more than one Web App inside an App Service Plan. Remember, an App Service Plan is basically a VM and you can run as many Websites, docker containers, Azure Functions, Mobile Apps, Api Apps, Logic apps, and whatever you can fit in there. Density is the word of the day.

Azure App Service Secrets and Hidden Gems

A bunch of folks agreed that there were some real hidden gems worth exploring so I thought I'd take a moment and do just that. Here's a few of the things that I'm continuously amazed are included for free with App Service.

Console

The Console option under Development Tools

There's a web-based console that you can access from the Azure Portal to explore your apps!

Live HTML5 Console within the Azure Portal

This is basically an HTML 5 bash prompt. I find it useful to double check the contents of certain files in Production, and confirm environment variables are set. I also, for some reason, find it comforting to see that my "cloud web site" actually lives on Drive D:. It calms me to know the Cloud has a D Drive.

App Service Editor

App Service Editor

App Service Editor is the editor that's codenamed "Monaco" that powers Visual Studio Code. It's amazing and few people know about it. I use it to make quick updates to production, although you do need to be aware if you have Continuous Deployment enabled that your changes will get eventually overwritten.

It's like a whole "IDE in the Cloud"

Testing in Production - (A/B Testing)

This is an amazing feature that not enough people know about. So, I'm assuming you are aware of Staging Slots? These are things like dev-, test-, or staging- that you can pull from a different branch during CI/CD, or just a separate but near-identical website that runs on the same hardware. The REAL magic is the Testing in Production feature.

Once you have a slot - I have one here for the Staging Site for BabySmash - you have the option to just "swap" between staging and production...OR...you can set a percentage of traffic you want to go to each slot!

Note that traffic is pinned to a slot for the life of a client session, so you don't have to worry about folks bouncing around if you change the UI or something.

Why is this insanely powerful? You can even make - for example - a "beta" slot and have your customers opt-in to a beta! And you don't have to write any code to enable this! MyApp.com/?x-ms-routing-name=beta would get them there and MyApp.com?x-ms-routing-name=self always points to Production.

Testing in Production 

You could also write a PowerShell script that would slowly move traffic in increments. That way you could ramp up traffic to staging from 5% to 100% - assuming you see no errors or issues.

$siteName = "yourProductionSiteName"
$rule1 = New-Object Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Commands.Utilities.Websites.Services.WebEntities.RampUpRule
$rule1.ActionHostName = "yourSlotSiteName"
$rule1.ReroutePercentage = 10;
$rule1.Name = "stage"

$rule1.ChangeIntervalInMinutes = 10;
$rule1.ChangeStep = 5;
$rule1.MinReroutePercentage = 5;
$rule1.MaxReroutePercentage = 50;
$rule1.ChangeDecisionCallbackUrl = "callBackUrlOfyourChoice-OptionalThatDecidesIfYouShoudlKeepGoing"

Set-AzureWebsite $siteName -Slot Production -RoutingRules $rule1

All this stuff is built-in to the Standard Azure AppServicePlan.

Easy and Cheap Databases

A number of folks in the comments of my last post asked about the 20 websites I have running on my single App Service Plan. Some felt I may have been disingenuous about the pricing and assumed I have a bunch of SQL Server databases behind my sites, or that a site can't be useful without a SQL Server.

There's a few things there to answer. My sites are many different techs, Node.js, Ruby, C# and ASP.NET MVC, and static sites. For example:

  • Running the Ruby Middleman Static Site Generator on Microsoft Azure runs in the cloud when I check code into GitHub but deploys a static site.
  • The Hanselminutes Podcast uses WebMatrix and ASP.NET WebPage's "SQL Compact Edition." This database runs out of a single file that's stored locally.
  • One of my node.js sites uses SQL Lite for its data.
  • One ASP.NET application uses "Azure MySQL in-app" that is also included in Azure App Service. You get a single modest MySQL database that runs in the context of your App Service. It's not super fast and meant for development, but with a little caching it's very workable.
  • One node.js app thinks it is talking MongoDB but actually it's talking via MongoDB protocol support in Azure DocumentDB. You can create an Azure noSQL DocumentDB and point any app that speaks Mongo to it and it Just Works.

There's a number of options, including Easy Tables for your Mobile Apps. Check out http://mobile.azure.com to learn more about how you can get a VERY quick and easy backend for mobile (or web) apps.

Azure App Service Extensions

If you have used Git deploy to an Azure App Service, you likely noticed a "Sidecar" website that your app has. I have babysmash.com which is actually babysmash.azurewebsites.net, right? There's also babysmash.scm.azurewebsites.net that you can't access. That sidecar site (when I'm authenticated) has a ton of easy REST GET APIs I can call to get my process list, files, deployments, and lots more. This is all powered by Kudu, which is open source by the way.

The Azure Kudu sidecar site

Kudu's sidecar site is a "site extension." You can not only write your own Azure Site Extension (they are just NuGet packages!) but it turns out there are a TON of useful already vetted and published extensions you can add to your site today. Those extensions live at http://www.siteextensions.net but you add them directly from the Azure Portal. There's 84 at the time of this blog post.

Azure Site Extensions include:

  • phpMyAdmin - for Admin of MySQL over the web
  • Azure Let's Encrypt - Easy install of Let's Encrypt SSL certs!
  • Image Optimizer - Automatic squishing of your site's JPGs and PNGs because you know you forgot!
  • GoLang Support - Azure doesn't officially support Go in Azure Web Apps...but with this extension it works fine!
  • Jekyll - Easy static site generation in Azure
  • Brotli HTTP Compression

You get the idea.

Diagnostics

I just discovered this "uptime" blade within my Web Apps in the Azure Portal. It tells me my app's uptime and if it's not 100%, it tells my why not and when!

Azure Diagnostics and Uptime

Again, none of this stuff costs extra. You can add Site Extensions or explore your apps to the limit of the underlying App Service Plan. I'm doing all this on a single Standard 1 (S1) App Service Plan.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Penny Pinching in the Cloud: Running and Managing LOTS of Web Apps on a single Azure App Service

February 17, '17 Comments [20] Posted in Azure | nodejs
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I've blogged before about "penny pinching in the cloud." I'll update that series for 2017 soon, but the underlying concepts still apply. Many if you are still using bigger virtual machines than are needed when doing IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) or when doing PaaS (Platform as a Service) folks are doing "one website per App Service." That's super expensive.

Remember that you can fit as many web applications as memory and CPU will into an Azure App Service Plan. An "App Service Plan" in Azure is effectively the Virtual Machine under your Web Apps. You don't need to think about it as it's totally managed and hidden - but - if you choose think about it you'll be able to squeeze more out of it and you'll pay less.

For example, I have 20 web applications running in a plan I named "DefaultServerFarm." It's a Small Standard Plan (S1) and I pay about $70 a month. Some folks use a Basic (B1) plan if they don't need to scale out and that's about $50 a month. Both B1 and S1 support "unlimited" web apps within them, to the limits of memory. That's what allows me to run 20 modest (but real) sites on the one plan and that's what makes it a good deal from a pricing perspective for me.

I logged in to the Azure Portal recently and noticed the CPU percentage on my plan was higher than usual and higher than I'd like.

Why is that web app using so much CPU?

That's the CPU of the machine "under" my 20 sites. I can click here on my App Service Plan's "blade" to see the underlying sites, or just click "Apps" in the blade menu.

Running 20 apps in a Single Azure App Service

However, when I'm looking at an app that lives within my plan, there's two super powerful menu items to check out. One is  called "Metrics per instance (Apps)" and one is "Metrics per instance (App Service)." Click the latter option. For many of you it's going to become your favorite area in the Azure Portal. It was a game changer for me as it gave me the internal insight I needed to make sure I can get maximum density in my plan (thereby saving the most money).

Metrics per Instance - App Service Plan

I click here and see "Sites in App Service Plan."

20 sites in a single plan

I can see that over the last few days my CPU has been going up and up...

The CPU is going up and up over a few days

I can see by site:

A graph showing ALL 20 sites and their CPU

So now I can filter by site and I see that it's ONE site that's going nuts.

One site is using all the CPU

I can then dig in, go to the main CPU charge and see exactly when it started:

The site is using 2.12 days of CPU

I can change the scale

It started on Feb 11th

I had a Web Job stuck in a loop. I restarted and will be monitoring but for now, I'm in a much better place for this one app.

Now it's calming down

Now if I check the App Service Plan itself, I can see everything has calmed down.

Things have calmed down after the one rogue site was restarted

The point here is that even though it's "Platform as a Service" and we want a layer of abstraction, at no point are things HIDDEN from us. If you want to see the hardware, you can. If you want to see the process tree, you can. A good reminder.


Sponsor: Excited about the future in ASP.NET? The folks at Progress held an awesome webinar which gives a 360⁰ view of the new ASP.NET Core and how it compares to WebForms and MVC. Watch it now on demand!

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Connecting my Particle Photon Internet of Things device to the Azure IoT Hub

December 20, '16 Comments [17] Posted in Azure | Hardware
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Particle Photon connected to the cloudMy vacation continues. Yesterday I had shoulder surgery (adhesive capsulitis release) so today I'm messing around with Azure IoT Hub. I had some devices on my desk - some of which I had never really gotten around to exploring - and I thought I'd see if I could accomplish something.

I've got a Particle Photon here, as well as a Tessel 2, a LattePanda, Funduino, and Onion Omega. A few days ago I was able to get the Onion Omega to show my blood sugar on a small OLED screen, which was cool. Tonight I'm going to try to hook the Particle Photon up to the Azure IoT hub for monitoring.

The Photon is a tiny little device with Wi-Fi built-in. It's super easy to setup and it has a cloud-based IDE with tons of examples written in C and Node.js for you to use. Particle Photon also has a node.js based command line. From there you can list out your Photons, see their available functions, and even call functions over the internet! A hacker's delight, to be sure.

Here's a standard "blink an LED" Hello world on a Photon. This one creates a cloud function called "led" and binds it to the "ledToggle" method. Those cloud methods take a string, so there's no enum for the on/off command.

int led1 = D0;
int led2 = D7;
void setup() {
pinMode(led1, OUTPUT);
pinMode(led2, OUTPUT);
Spark.function("led",ledToggle);
digitalWrite(led1, LOW);
digitalWrite(led2, LOW);
}

void loop() {
}

int ledToggle(String command) {
if (command=="on") {
digitalWrite(led1,HIGH);
digitalWrite(led2,HIGH);
return 1;
}
else if (command=="off") {
digitalWrite(led1,LOW);
digitalWrite(led2,LOW);
return 0;
}
else {
return -1;
}
}

From the command line I can use the Particle command line interface (CLI) to enumerate my devices:

C:\Users\scott>particle list
hansel_photon [390039000647xxxxxxxxxxx] (Photon) is online
Functions:
int led(String args)

See how it doesn't just enumerate devices, but also cloud methods that hang off devices? LOVE THIS.

I can get a secret API Key from the Particle Photon's cloud based Console. Then using my Device ID and auth token I can call the method...with an HTTP request! How much easier could this be?

C:\Users\scott\>curl https://api.particle.io/v1/devices/390039000647xxxxxxxxx/led -d access_token=31fa2e6f --insecure -d arg="on"
{
"id": "390039000647xxxxxxxxx",
"last_app": "",
"connected": true,
"return_value": 1
}

At this moment the LED on the Particle Photon turns on. I'm going to change the code a little and add some telemetry using the Particle's online code editor.

Editing Particle Photon Code online

They've got a great online code editor, but I could also edit and compile the code locally:

C:\Users\scott\Desktop>particle compile photon webconnected.ino

Compiling code for photon

Including:
webconnected.ino
attempting to compile firmware
downloading binary from: /v1/binaries/5858b74667ddf87fb2a2df8f
saving to: photon_firmware_1482209089877.bin
Memory use:
text data bss dec hex filename
6156 12 1488 7656 1de8
Compile succeeded.
Saved firmware to: C:\Users\scott\Desktop\photon_firmware_1482209089877.bin

I'll change the code to announce an "Event" when I turn on the LED.

if (command=="on") {
digitalWrite(led1,HIGH);
digitalWrite(led2,HIGH);

String data = "Amazing! Some Data would be here! The light is on.";
Particle.publish("ledBlinked", data);

return 1;
}

I can head back over to the http://console.particle.io and see these events live on the web:

Particle Photon's have great online charts

Particle also supports integration with Google Cloud and Azure IoT Hub. Azure IoT Hub allows you to manage billions of devices and all their many billions of events. I just have a few, but we all have to start somewhere. ;)

I created a free Azure IoT Hub in my Azure Account...

Azure IoT Hub has charts and graphs built in

And made a shared access policy for my Particle Devices.

Be sure to set all the Access Policy Permissions you need

Then I told Particle about Azure in their Integrations system.

Particle has Azure IoT Hub integration built in

The Azure IoT SDKS on GitHub at https://github.com/Azure/azure-iot-sdks/releases have both a Windows-based Azure IoT Explorer and a command-line one called IoT Hub Explorer.

I logged in to the IoT Hub Explorer using the connection string from the Azure Portal:

iothub-explorer login "HostName=HanselIoT.azure-devices.net;SharedAccessKeyName=particle-iot-hub;SharedAccessKey=rdWUVMXs="

Then I'll run "iothub-explorer monitor-events" passing in the device ID and the connection string for the shared access policy. Monitor-events is cool because it'll hang and just output the events as they're flowing through the whole system.

IoTHub-Explorer monitor-events command line

So I'm able to call methods on the Particle using their cloud, and monitor events from within Azure IoT Hub. I can explore diagnostics data and query huge amounts of device-to-cloud data that would potentially flow in from my hardware devices.

The IoT Hub Limits are very generous for free/hobbyist users as we learn to develop. I haven't paid anything yet. However, it can scale to thousands of messages a second per unit! That means millions of messages a second if you need it.

I can definitely see how the the value an IoT Hub solution like this would add up quickly after you've got more than one device. Text files don't really scale. Even if I just IoT'ed up my house, it would be nice to have all that data flowing into a single hub I could manage and query securely.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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NoSQL .NET Core development using an local Azure DocumentDB Emulator

December 4, '16 Comments [26] Posted in ASP.NET MVC | Azure
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I was hanging out with Miguel de Icaza in New York a few weeks ago and he was sharing with me his ongoing love affair with a NoSQL Database called Azure DocumentDB. I've looked at it a few times over the last year or so and though it was cool but I didn't feel like using it for a few reasons:

  • Can't develop locally - I'm often in low-bandwidth or airplane situations
  • No MongoDB support - I have existing apps written in Node that use Mongo
  • No .NET Core support - I'm doing mostly cross-platform .NET Core apps

Miguel told me to take a closer look. Looks like things have changed! DocumentDB now has:

  • Free local DocumentDB Emulator - I asked and this is the SAME code that runs in Azure with just changes like using the local file system for persistence, etc. It's an "emulator" but it's really the essential same core engine code. There is no cost and no sign in for the local DocumentDB emulator.
  • MongoDB protocol support - This is amazing. I literally took an existing Node app, downloaded MongoChef and copied my collection over into Azure using a standard MongoDB connection string, then pointed my app at DocumentDB and it just worked. It's using DocumentDB for storage though, which gives me
    • Better Latency
    • Turnkey global geo-replication (like literally a few clicks)
    • A performance SLA with <10ms read and <15ms write (Service Level Agreement)
    • Metrics and Resource Management like every Azure Service
  • DocumentDB .NET Core Preview SDK that has feature parity with the .NET Framework SDK.

There's also Node, .NET, Python, Java, and C++ SDKs for DocumentDB so it's nice for gaming on Unity, Web Apps, or any .NET App...including Xamarin mobile apps on iOS and Android which is why Miguel is so hype on it.

Azure DocumentDB Local Quick Start

I wanted to see how quickly I could get started. I spoke with the PM for the project on Azure Friday and downloaded and installed the local emulator. The lead on the project said it's Windows for now but they are looking for cross-platform solutions. After it was installed it popped up my web browser with a local web page - I wish more development tools would have such clean Quick Starts. There's also a nice quick start on using DocumentDB with ASP.NET MVC.

NOTE: This is a 0.1.0 release. Definitely Alpha level. For example, the sample included looks like it had the package name changed at some point so it didn't line up. I had to change "Microsoft.Azure.Documents.Client": "0.1.0" to "Microsoft.Azure.DocumentDB.Core": "0.1.0-preview" so a little attention to detail issue there. I believe the intent is for stuff to Just Work. ;)

Nice DocumentDB Quick Start

The sample app is a pretty standard "ToDo" app:

ASP.NET MVC ToDo App using Azure Document DB local emulator

The local Emulator also includes a web-based local Data Explorer:

image

A Todo Item is really just a POCO (Plain Old CLR Object) like this:

namespace todo.Models
{
    using Newtonsoft.Json;

    public class Item
    {
        [JsonProperty(PropertyName = "id")]
        public string Id { get; set; }

        [JsonProperty(PropertyName = "name")]
        public string Name { get; set; }

        [JsonProperty(PropertyName = "description")]
        public string Description { get; set; }

        [JsonProperty(PropertyName = "isComplete")]
        public bool Completed { get; set; }
    }
}

The MVC Controller in the sample uses an underlying repository pattern so the code is super simple at that layer - as an example:

[ActionName("Index")]
public async Task<IActionResult> Index()
{
var items = await DocumentDBRepository<Item>.GetItemsAsync(d => !d.Completed);
return View(items);
}

[HttpPost]
[ActionName("Create")]
[ValidateAntiForgeryToken]
public async Task<ActionResult> CreateAsync([Bind("Id,Name,Description,Completed")] Item item)
{
if (ModelState.IsValid)
{
await DocumentDBRepository<Item>.CreateItemAsync(item);
return RedirectToAction("Index");
}

return View(item);
}

The Repository itself that's abstracting away the complexities is itself not that complex. It's like 120 lines of code, and really more like 60 when you remove whitespace and curly braces. And half of that is just initialization and setup. It's also DocumentDBRepository<T> so it's a generic you can change to meet your tastes and use it however you'd like.

The only thing that stands out to me in this sample is the loop in GetItemsAsync that's hiding potential paging/chunking. It's nice you can pass in a predicate but I'll want to go and put in some paging logic for large collections.

public static async Task<T> GetItemAsync(string id)
{
    try
    {
        Document document = await client.ReadDocumentAsync(UriFactory.CreateDocumentUri(DatabaseId, CollectionId, id));
        return (T)(dynamic)document;
    }
    catch (DocumentClientException e)
    {
        if (e.StatusCode == System.Net.HttpStatusCode.NotFound){
            return null;
        }
        else {
            throw;
        }
    }
}

public static async Task<IEnumerable<T>> GetItemsAsync(Expression<Func<T, bool>> predicate)
{
    IDocumentQuery<T> query = client.CreateDocumentQuery<T>(
        UriFactory.CreateDocumentCollectionUri(DatabaseId, CollectionId),
        new FeedOptions { MaxItemCount = -1 })
        .Where(predicate)
        .AsDocumentQuery();

    List<T> results = new List<T>();
    while (query.HasMoreResults){
        results.AddRange(await query.ExecuteNextAsync<T>());
    }

    return results;
}

public static async Task<Document> CreateItemAsync(T item)
{
    return await client.CreateDocumentAsync(UriFactory.CreateDocumentCollectionUri(DatabaseId, CollectionId), item);
}

public static async Task<Document> UpdateItemAsync(string id, T item)
{
    return await client.ReplaceDocumentAsync(UriFactory.CreateDocumentUri(DatabaseId, CollectionId, id), item);
}

public static async Task DeleteItemAsync(string id)
{
    await client.DeleteDocumentAsync(UriFactory.CreateDocumentUri(DatabaseId, CollectionId, id));
}

I'm going to keep playing with this but so far I'm pretty happy I can get this far while on an airplane. It's really easy (given I'm preferring NoSQL over SQL lately) to just through objects at it and store them.

In another post I'm going to look at RavenDB, another great NoSQL Document Database that works on .NET Core that s also Open Source.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Publishing ASP.NET Core 1.1 applications to Azure using git deploy

November 23, '16 Comments [19] Posted in ASP.NET | Azure
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I took an ASP.NET Core 1.0 application and updated its package references to ASP.NET 1.1 today. I also updated to my SDK to the Current (not the LTS - Long Term Support version). Everything worked great building and running locally, but then I made a new Web App in Azure and did a quick git deploy.

Deploying ASP.NET Core 1.1 to Azure

Basically:

c:\aspnetcore11app> azure site create "aspnetcore11test" --location "West US" --git
c:\aspnetcore11app> git add .
c:\aspnetcore11app> git commit -m "initial"
c:\aspnetcore11app> git push azure master

Then I watched the logs go by. You can watch them at the command line or from within the Azure Portal under "Log Stream."

The deployment failed when Azure was building the app and got this error:

Build started 11/25/2016 6:51:54 AM.
2016-11-25T06:51:55         1>Project "D:\home\site\repository\aspnet1.1.xproj" on node 1 (Publish target(s)).
2016-11-25T06:51:55         1>D:\home\site\repository\aspnet1.1.xproj(7,3): error MSB4019: The imported project "D:\Program Files (x86)\dotnet\sdk\1.0.0-preview3-004056\Extensions\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v14.0\DotNet\Microsoft.DotNet.Props" was not found. Confirm that the path in the <Import> declaration is correct, and that the file exists on disk.
2016-11-25T06:51:55         1>Done Building Project "D:\home\site\repository\aspnet1.1.xproj" (Publish target(s)) -- FAILED.
2016-11-25T06:51:55    

See where it says "1.0.0-preview3-004056" in there? Looks like Azure Web Apps has some build that isn't the one that I have. Theirs has the new csproj/msbuild stuff and I'm staying a few steps back waiting for things to bake.

Remember that unless you specify the SDK version, .NET Core will use whatever is the latest one on the box.

Well, what do I have locally?

C:\aspnetcore11app>dotnet --version
1.0.0-preview2-1-003177

OK, then that's what I need to use so I'll make a global.json at the root of my project, then move my code into a folder under "src" for example.

{
"projects": [ "src", "test" ],
"sdk": {
"version": "1.0.0-preview2-1-003177"
}
}

Here I'm "pinning" the same SDK version. This will tell Azure (or you, if I gave you the code) to use this SDK version when building.

Now I'll redeploy with a git add, commit, and push. It works.

I think this should be easier, but I'm not sure how it should be easier. Does this mean that everyone should have a global.json with a preferred version? If you have no preferred version should Azure give a smarter error if it has an incompatible newer one?

The learning here for me is that not having a global.json basically says "*.*" to any cloud build servers and you'll get whatever latest SDK they have. It could stop working any day.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.