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Charles Young at SWAG CloudBurst conference in Stockholm

Solidsoft’s Charles Young recently presented at the recent SWAG CloudBurst conference in Stockholm.

 

Brad Gaster commented:

“Enterprise architecture was a huge topic at CloudBurst, with many talks covering what cloud means for the enterprise. One of the most inspiring talks was executed by Charles Young, a London-based Windows Azure/BizTalk architect, who made a great point – “Cloud democratizes enterprise development.”

Mr. Young’s talks on enterprise patterns in the cloud using Windows Azure were some of the most well-received of the event. We chatted afterwards, and he enthusiastically commended Microsoft on our open direction with Windows Azure and reiterated how that direction is one he and many other enterprise architects appreciate, for it provides a host of new opportunities in their consultancies.

He also expressed great interest in SignalR and commented that my session’s introduction of the topic as a real-time solution gave him some new ideas on how his company could solve a potential upcoming project issue. Charles’ enthusiasm is contagious, and his commitment to pushing the Windows Azure platform’s enterprise capabilities should be commended.”


Filed under: Azure, Soloution Development Tagged: Architecture
Written by Solidsoft at 21:46

Graphs, Nodes and Edges!

As CTO of an award winning Microsoft Software Services consultancy I spend the early hours of each morning catching up on the blogs and technology papers from the previous day/week/month. – my wife refers to it as ‘feeding the monster’. An item that caught my attention this morning was one around the Windows Azure AD Developer Preview – now over the last few years I have been involved with a number of Central Government projects where Identity Management has been a major issue/component.

Typically for me my usual recourse in this area is to Kim Cameron’s identity blog or twitter feed.  I wasn’t disappointed with a couple of new articles Yes to SCIM , Yes to Graph and Diagram No.2, No Hub, No Centre. What intrigued me was the use of the word Graph and Graph API. To that end, more for my own benefit than anything else, I thought I’d blog about Graph in particular and in this context..

So to quote Kim:

the central importance of graph technology in being able to manage connectedness – something that is at the core of the digital universe.  Treating the world as a graph allows us to have a unified approach to querying and manipulating interconnected objects of many different kinds that exist in many different relationships to each other.

So in my world for the last 40 plus years a graph  has tended to be mean charts full of results. Of course that is not really true and as one definition puts it: a graph is mathematical structures used to model pairwise relations between objects from a certain collection. Now what I’m interested in today is Graph as used when referring to networks and the like. So some simple definitions are the order of the day here:

Graph: A graph is a way of specifying relationships among a collection of ‘things’. This collection in these terms is referred to as a a node.

Node: A node is a collection of objects that are connected by links called edges.

Edge: An edge is a link between neighbouring nodes.

 

 

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Diagram 1

 

This is a three node graph with three edges. The nodes – A, B and C are connected to their neighbours by edges. Note: this is referred to as an undirected graph. Where the edges have arrows would then the graph would be directed.

In the context I’m looking at today a graph can be seen as a mathematical model of network structures. With this in mind we can swap out  our simple model  and replace it with an imaginary companies office network:

image

Diagram 2

This particular graph brings in two other important aspects: Paths and Cycles.

A path  is a sequence of nodes and edges that provide a route between nodes. For example the route from 1 to 3 has 3 possible paths: 1 to 3, 1 to 4 to 3 and 1 to 2 to 3.

A cycle  is a group of nodes that form a circle in a graph. So 1 to 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 is a cycle as is 2 to 3 to 4 to 2…

The importance of these is that by design should 1 edge fail the nodes can still communicate all be it in a more indirect way. This approach started with ARPNET in 1970 and is the basis of the internet today.

Graph API  This takes me full circle back to where I started my thinking – what is a Graph API. So in this context it is an API I can call that will provide me with the nodes, edges for a particular network to allow me query it to understand it and where needed give me  the paths and cycles.

Now that is interesting as it goes but where does the Identity thing come in? Well a network does not have to be a network of servers or offices as we said at the start it is about nodes – a collection of objects. Those objects can easily be the attributes of people or their identities.

A good example of this type of Graph API is the Facebook Graph API using this we are able to explore our ‘friends’ network and just like in diagram 2 we can discover the paths and cycles in this network.

So one of the things the Windows Azure AD Developer Preview is giving us is a Graph API -a REST-based directory graph API onto our AD. Which is something that is quite exciting. Watch this space in the coming months as we delve into this and it’


Filed under: Identity, Windows Azure AD Developer Preview

Written by Solidsoft at 07:20

Entity Framework 5.0 – Performance Considerations

Here are some interesting links that give a good view of how EF version 5.0 improves performance:

 


Filed under: Data Access, Entity Framework
Written by Solidsoft at 16:30

Modern Solution Development–The Conundrum

The world of solution development has become much more complicated over the last 20 years – not in the solutions that are needed but in the tools we have to deliver these solutions. The nature of the internet and most recently the advent of the cloud have accelerated this even more.

When I first started in software development many years ago it was really a simple choice of what language – C, C++, Pascal or VB…where mainstream and what database – Oracle, SQL, Sybase or Access were mainstream. Changes came every 3 years without much change in between. In 2000 Microsoft launched .Net and added C#. Again the world still reved at 2.5 to 3 year intervals.

The importance of this time gap was that it allowed developers to acquire and hone the skills they needed to deliver solutions. Now we have 2 and 3 monthly updates with 6 monthly majors! It means the developer community has to constantly stay on top of these releases.

For example the Entity Framework is one of these items that causes great debate in the development community.  The following table details all of the different versions we’ve had so far.

Release Summary
EF 5 Release Candidate This release includes the latest preview of features coming in the EF 5 and can be used in Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Studio 11 to write applications that target .NET 4.0 and .NET 4.5.
   
EF 4.3.1 This patch release included some bug fixes to the EF 4.3 release and introduced better LocalDb support for folks using EF 4.3 with Visual Studio 11.
   
EF 4.3 The EF 4.3 release included the new Code First Migrations feature that allows a database created by Code First to be incrementally changed as your Code First model evolves.
   
EF 4.2 This release includes bug fixes to the EF 4.1.1 release.
   
EF 4.1.1 In addition to bug fixes this patch release introduced some components to make it easier for design time tooling to work with a Code First model. These components are used by Code First Migrations (included in EF 4.3) and the EF Power Tools.
   
EF 4.1 The EF 4.1 release was the first to be published on NuGet. This release included the simplified DbContext API and the Code First workflow.
   
EF 4 This release was included in .NET Framework 4 and Visual Studio 2010. New features in this release included POCO support, lazy loading, testability improvements, customizable code generation and the Model First workflow.
  Although it was the second release of Entity Framework it was named EF 4 to align with the .NET Framework version that it shipped with. After this release we started making Entity Framework available on NuGet and adopted semantic versioning since we were no longer tied to the ,NET Framework Version.
   
EF (or EF 3.5) The initial release of Entity Framework was included in .NET 3.5 SP1 and Visual Studio 2008 SP1. This release provided basic O/RM support using the Database First workflow.

 

The conundrum I mentioned at the start is when making architectural and project decisions causes us quite a bit of debate and that debate, unfortunately, can be based on out of date information.

A consultant who has just come off a 9 month project of intense development may be starting the next one without the down time to get up to speed on the latest versions of tried and tested software. Therefore their input into the debate may be less than helpful.

So where does this leave us – well it means we have to plan for our consultants to get that ‘downtime’ to be able to maintain their skill level.

Now back to my Entity Framework example it is very simple: what are the performance considerations  around using Entity Framework? Over the last few years there have been many articles around this issue and the associated considerations and of course continual improvement by Microsoft in offering advice or changing it per version.

For Entity framework 4 Microsoft provides a number of Performance Considerations for Entity Framework 4 with the latest or rather next version – 5.0 – even more information is provided at Performance Considerations for Entity Framework 5 . What is clear from this is our views and approaches can not stand still but must always be up to date.

Finally, we also have to consider the world of Microsoft certifications – how can we judge their value when within 6 months the basis for them could be out of date! Our world is moving fast and so must we…..


Filed under: Data Access, Entity Framework, Soloution Development
Written by Solidsoft at 15:54

Solidsoft Listed Among Top Finalists for the 2012 Microsoft Public Sector Government Partner of the Year Award

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Basingstoke, June 25, 2012: Today, Solidsoft announced it has been selected as a finalist for the Microsoft Public Sector Government Partner of the Year Award.

“Microsoft is pleased to recognise its partner, Solidsoft as a Finalist in the Public Sector, Government Partner of the Year Award, “says Joel Cherkis, Government General Manager, Worldwide Public Sector.  “Solidsoft combine strong application, integration and Cloud skills, enabling them to deliver compelling government solutions with speed and impact to the UK customers they serve. “

Awards were presented in multiple categories, with winners chosen from a set of nearly 3,000 entrants worldwide. The Public Sector, Government Partner of the Year Award recognises a partner who exhibited excellence in providing innovative and unique services or solutions based on Microsoft technologies to government customers. The winner demonstrated industry knowledge and expertise, as well as consistent, high-quality, predictable service or solutions to government customers. They demonstrated business leadership and success through strong growth in new customer additions and revenue, and effective engagement with Microsoft by using the Microsoft Partner Network to develop, create demand for, and sell their software solutions or services.

“We are proud to recognise our 2012 Partner Award finalists for their outstanding commitments to solving customer challenges,” said Jon Roskill, Corporate Vice President, Worldwide Partner Group, Microsoft Corp. “Our partners are critical to our success as a company, and it is their creativity and innovative thinking in solving the unique needs of our customers that serves as the foundation for mutual, long-term success. We congratulate this year’s finalists on their achievements and look forward to following their continued success in the future.”

Solidsoft is a UK based custom software development consultancy, established in 1993 with its head office in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Solidsoft’s focus is the development of innovative, unique solutions that cannot be bought off the shelf. Mark Usher, Sales and Marketing Director, Solidsoft adds “We are specialists in the delivery of complex, internet based solutions with sophisticated integration requirements that run on the Microsoft Windows Azure platform”. Solidsoft provide solutions across all vertical sectors; Usher adds “our mission is to help our customers to succeed in their efforts to architect and develop custom software solutions, integrate their systems and optimise their processes”

The Microsoft Partner Awards recognise Microsoft partners that have developed and delivered exceptional Microsoft-based solutions. Microsoft have previously recognised Solidsoft’s achievements: 2006 Business Process and Integration Solutions Sales and Marketing Partner of the Year, and also in 2006 Business Process and Integration Solutions Technology Innovation Partner of the Year Finalist; 2008 Business Process and Integration Solutions Partner of the Year Finalist; 2010 Custom Development Solutions, Application Infrastructure Development Partner of the Year Finalist, and notability last year as Microsoft’s 2011 Application Integration Partner of the Year.


Filed under: Awards, Azure
Written by Solidsoft at 11:34

Azure–Weekly Updates (24/6/12)

I thought it would be good to provide a roundup of some of the more interesting Azure posts from the last week:


Filed under: Azure, Hadoop, Identity, Web Matrix
Written by Solidsoft at 06:43

Understanding the Big Picture–Microsoft Windows Azure

With the spring release of the latest Microsoft Windows Azure things got a lot simpler:

image

 

We can now see the roles that each of these ‘as-a-services’ have to play. As the picture above shows (taken from the Azure Training kit) we can start to put some clear water between the roles.

As a software development consultancy Solidsoft is in business to provide solutions to be business problems our customers have. The problem maybe the need to simply reduce hosting costs or as complex as the re-write of a major piece of bespoke software that runs the business. Typically in this climate it is about doing more with less or doing more with what they have. Azure allows us to meet these demands quickly and most cost effectively.

So how to best utilise these roles?

image

In my view IaaS is all about migration – the migration from on-premises to cloud with little or no change to the underlying applications merely a re-provisioning into the cloud to take advantage of what Azure offers.

PaaS is about innovation, development, re-development, extension and integration. The ability to deliver new more innovative solutions to problems more quickly, cheaply and more robust and scalable. To drive business value by getting those systems working together offering new services to both the customer and employee alike.

SaaS is about providing the ready-meal of software packages there ready to be consumed such as Office 365. 

But one thing is very clear these are not simply silos but building blocks, tools and facilities that can be mixed and matched to provide solutions to real business problem. Not forgetting we can also include on-premises in that solution.

The power of being able to migrate some on-premises systems to Azure, integrate them using Azure Cloud Services and even position the outcome as a SaaS solution in it’s own right should not be under-estimated.

A few years ago a colleague of mine at Solidsoft stated ‘we were in the job of dream making for businesses – making their dreams a reality’ today with Azure we are much, much closer to that sentiment.

Need your business dreams realising? Contact Solidsoft.


Filed under: Azure
Written by Solidsoft at 06:57

Join Solidsoft’s Charles Young and Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie at Microsoft Cloud Day

Friday the 22nd June is Microsoft Cloud Day in the UK. Our very own Charles Young, Azure Evangelist at Solidsoft, will be presenting along with the illustrious likes of Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie,  Corporate Vice President in the Microsoft Server and Tools Business  and Steve (Planky) Plank, Microsoft UK Azure Evangelist.

Charles will be presenting “Designing Business Solutions on Azure: Thinking architecturally for the cloud”

Windows Azure brings new opportunities and new challenges to business solution architects.  Why make strategic investments in the cloud?  What are the real-world drivers and constraints that govern cloud-based architecture?  How do cloud-based designs differ from traditional on-premises approaches, and what roles do ‘hybrid’ architectures play? This session will explore solution architecture for cloud-based business applications.  Drawing on real-world lessons and insights across several projects, it will investigate the major architectural themes that govern and direct the design of Windows Azure-based business solutions.  It will compare and contrast cloud-based architectures with traditional approaches and describe how solution architects can help their organisations move to the cloud

More details can be found here….


Filed under: Azure, Conference
Written by Solidsoft at 05:46

Azure–Spring release

On June the 7th Microsoft launched the latest update to Azure for some reason dubbed ‘Spring release’ strange as in the UK we would be only 14 days from Mid-summers day!

New features and a much better portal abound and this blog will merely allude to the wonders that are in this release.

In no particular order:

Web Sites

Microsoft are now providing a quicker and more easy way to deploy web sites to the highly scalable cloud environment. Furthermore they are even providing for free the chance to deploy 10 small web sites. This offer extends for 12 months.

Virtual Machines

Microsoft now provide an IaaS platform on to which we can deploy Virtual Machines and Virtual Hard drives.

Big Data

Petabyte scale data storage fully compatible, enterprise ready Hadoop service.

Media Services

Create, manage and distribute media in the cloud. Media services provides encoding, streaming and full analytics.

 

For much more info go to Microsoft Azure or contact the Azure experts at Solidsoft.


Filed under: Uncategorized
Written by Solidsoft at 16:54

Living with Windows 8

So I’ve now been living with Windows 8 on my main laptop and on my ‘Build’ slate for the last few months so I thought it was time to share my experiences.

In the main I can say that it is all good, in fact I’d go as far as to say it’s probably the best Windows so far. I have fully come to terms with the Metro interface both as a super start menu for my laptop/desktop and as something more on my slate.

For me the key features are:

Start-up speed

At last we are up there with the Mac – I even find a cold start-up faster than a ‘hibernate’ start-up

The Metro Interface

After years of clutter, strange apps such as ‘Fences’ to make my desktop work for me Microsoft have solved it at a stroke! Not only have I got the Start Menu I’ve graved but with Apps thrown in I can get the info I need quickly and with minimum trouble. The to clutter my desktop with short cuts is greatly reduced (my aim is to do it completely)

Search

This is now search on steroids – not just fast but fast across everything be is apps, files or settings. The joy of just typing something on the start menu and getting to it almost immediately – try something such as ‘Wireless settings’ and search settings!

Windows Desktop (Windows 7.5??)

A new tour-de-force with the newly designed explorer with it’s ribbon, the ability to start VHD’s and ISO’s with a double click or the addition of Hyper-V to the desktop machine. There are so many more in this excellent forward moving release.

Of course there are a few not quite so good things:

IE10

Very buggy at the moment but I’m sure will be good by release

Metro Apps

Like the curates egg – good in parts – most in preview stage. The good are very good the worst don’t run!

Media Centre

Microsoft have removed it and are making it a paid add on along with DVD playing.

In summary this is a major step forward in some areas and a well honed update in others. I like it!


Filed under: Windows 8
Written by Solidsoft at 16:34
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