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If you’ve not yet used WebMatrix, what are you waiting for?!?!?!? you’re missing out on a great IDE that helps you get a web site up and running in very little time. Whether you’re coding your site in PHP, Node.js, or ASP.NET, WebMatrix has you covered with all sorts of great features. One of the awesome features of WebMatrix is the number of templates it has baked in. Starter templates for any of the languages it supports are available, as are a number of practical templates for things like stores, personal sites, and so on. As of the latest release of Windows Azure Web Sites, all the awesome WebMatrix templates are now also available in the Web Sites application gallery. Below, you’ll see a screen shot of the web application gallery, with the Boilerplate template selected.

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Each of the WebMatrix gallery projects is  now duplicated for you as a Web Site application gallery entry. So even if you’re not yet using WebMatrix, you’ll still have the ability to start your site using one of its handy templates.

Impossible, you say?

See below for a screenshot from within the WebMatrix templates dialog, and you’re sure to notice the similarities that exist between the Application Gallery entries and those previously only available from directly within WebMatrix.

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As before, WebMatrix is fully supported as the easiest Windows Azure-based web development IDE. After you follow through with the creation of a site from the Application Gallery template list from within the Windows Azure portal, you can open the site live directly within WebMatrix. From directly within the portal’s dashboard of a new Boilerplate site, I can click the WebMatrix icon and the site will be opened up in the IDE.

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Now that it’s open, if I make any changes to the site, they’ll be uploaded right back into Windows Azure Web Sites, live for consumption by my site’s visitors. Below, you’ll see the site opened up in WebMatrix.

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If you’ve not already signed up, go ahead and sign up for a free trial of Windows Azure, and you’ll get 10 free sites (per region) to use for as long as you want. Grab yourself a free copy of WebMatrix, and you’ll have everything you need to build – and publish – your site directly into the cloud.

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I wanted to let you know about an event I’ll be speaking at in early April. Along with my good friend and mentor Scott Hunter, “el master’o’ASP.NET,” I'll be presenting at the Web Camps in Dallas, Texas. I’d love to see you there.

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Dallas isn’t the only stop for the Web Camps tour. Our other good buddy, Jon Galloway, has worked hard creating this year’s Web Camps content, and has been out on the road promoting all the awesome new stuff we’ve released with the ASP.NET framework and tools. Along with Mr. Hunter, I’ll be presenting demonstrations and content related to all of the awesome topics below:

  • Keynote: The ASP.NET Web Platform in Context
  • What’s new in ASP.NET 4.5 and Visual Studio 2012
  • Building and deploying websites with ASP.NET MVC 4
  • Creating HTML5 Applications with jQuery
  • Building a service layer with ASP.NET Web API
  • Leveraging your ASP.NET development skills to build apps for Office
  • Building and leveraging social web apps in ASP.NET
  • Building for the mobile web
  • Real-time communications with SignalR
  • Leveraging Windows Azure and Windows Azure Web Sites

 

So if you’re an ASP.NET developer, or you’ve been thinking about learning more about the new stuff available in the ASP.NET stack, come on out and join Scott Hunter and I on Friday, April 5 in Dallas, TX. We’ve got a whole series of these events lined up lots of other places, so check out the other areas where we’ll be heading and join us at one of those great events, too. 

 

Jon, myself, and the rest of the team welcome you to this great series of events. We hope to see you there!

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I’ve been asked a lot of great questions about Windows Azure Web Sites since the feature launched in June. Things like on-premise integration, connecting to service bus, and having multiple environments (like staging, production, etc), are all great questions that arise on a pretty regular cadence. With this post, I’m going to kick off a series on solving real-world problems for web site and PaaS owners that will try to address a lot of these questions and concerns. I’ve got a few blog posts in the hopper that will address some of these questions, rather than just cover how certain things are done. Those posts are great and all (and a lot of fun to write), but they don’t answer some real-world, practical questions I’ve been asked this year. Stay tuned to this area of my site, as I’ll be posting these articles over the next few weeks and probably into the new year. As I post each of these solutions I’ll update this post so you have a one-stop shop to go to when you need to solve one of these problems.

Posts in this Series

Multiple Environments with Windows Azure Web Sites
In this post I demonstrate how to have production and staging sites set up for your web site so that you can test your changes in a sandbox site before pushing your production site and potentially causing damage to it (and your reputation). If you’ve wondered how to gate your deployments using Windows Azure Web Sites, this is a good place to start. You’ll learn how to use Windows Azure Web Sites with a GitHub.com repository and some creative branching strategies to maintain multiple environments for a site.

Managing Multiple Windows Azure Web Site Environments using Visual Studio Publishing Profiles
This post takes the same sort of scenario as presented in the first article. Rather than use GitHub.com as a means to executing a series of gated environment deployments it focuses on the awesome features within Visual Studio for web publishing. Specifically, you’ll see how to use publishing profiles to deploy to multiple Windows Azure Web Sites, so that a team of peers responsible for releasing a site can do so without ever needing to leave Visual Studio.

This post also takes a look at the idea of release management and how this solution answers the question of doing proper release management with a cloud-hosted web site. If you’ve wondered how your SDLC could fit in the idea of continuously maintaining a series of environments for gating your releases using Visual Studio’s super-simple publishing features, this is a great place to start.

Connecting Windows Azure Web Sites to On-Premises Databases Using Windows Azure Service Bus
This post introduces the idea creating a hybrid cloud setup using a Windows Azure Web Site and the Windows Azure Service Bus, to demonstrate how a web site hosted in Windows Azure can connect to your on-premises enterprise database. If you’ve been wondering how to save data from your Windows Azure Web Site into your local database but didn’t know how to do it, or if you’re thinking of taking baby steps in your move toward cloud computing, this post could provide some good guidance on how to get started.

Continuous Delivery to Windows Azure Web Sites using TeamCity
My good friend Magnus put together a very extensive and informative blog post on using Windows Azure Web Sites with TeamCity. If you're a CI user, or a TeamCity user, you'll want to check this out, as it is a great recipe for implementing your CI builds against Windows Azure Web Sites. Magnus worked really hard on this blog post and started working on it for his Windows AzureConf talk, and I'm proud to see how it came together for him.

Jim O'Neil's Blog Series on Integrating Windows Azure Web Sites and Notifications
Jim's blog series - part 1, part 2, and part 3 - are great if you're looking into implementing instant messaging with your Windows Azure Web Site. This series is great, and I feel it shows off some amazing potential and adds a whole new dimension to what's possible on the platform. Take a look at these posts, they're quite inspiring.

G. Andrew Duthie’s Series on Back-end Data Services with Windows 8 Applications
The @devhammer himself has created an awesome series on putting your data in the cloud, so your Windows 8 applications have a common place from which to pull the data. In this series, he discusses how to use Windows Azure Web Sites to create an API that can be called by a Windows 8 application. If you’re delving into Windows 8 development and have been wondering how you could use Web Sites to create the APIs you’ll be calling, this series is a must-read.

Maarten Balliauw on Configuring IIS Methods for ASP.NET Web API with Windows Azure Web Sites
My good friend and dedicated MVP Maarten just wrote up a great post on configuring IIS within Windows Azure Web Sites to support additional HTTP methods like HEAD and PATCH using configuration files. If you’re trying to do some deeper Web API functionality and have struggled with getting these types of HTTP methods supported, this could solve your problem.

Branches, Team Foundation Services, and Windows Azure Web Sites
Wouter de Kort covers how to achieve the multiple-environment approach using Team Foundation Services online. If you're using TFS and you want to set up multiple branches that deploy to a variety of web sites, this article will help you get going. This is a great introduction to using TFS for multiple branches with Windows Azure Web Sites. 

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This week we announced support for nopCommerce in the Windows Azure Web Sites application gallery. Using the Windows Azure portal and with requiring zero lines of code, you can set up nopCommerce on Web Sites and get your online store up in minutes. You’ll have your very own products database, shopping cart, order history – the works. On the nopCommerce web site you can learn a lot more about the features nopCommerce offers. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to get your own store up and running on Windows Azure Web Sites.

I walked through this process today. As with other entries in the Web Sites application gallery, you really do have to do very little digging to figure out where to go to get started. It’s pretty much “start, new site, from gallery,” as you’ll see from the picture below. It shows you exactly which menu item to click in the Windows Azure portal to get started.

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The next step should be pretty self-explanatory. Select nopCommerce from the list of available applications.

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The next step will ask you for some database connection information. This is what will be set in your nopCommerce installation once the process is complete. I’m going to create a new database solely for use with my nopCommerce site I’m creating for this demonstration.

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The next screen is one that appears in a few other application gallery entries, too. It’s the “where do you want to store your data today?” screen. I’m creating a new SQL Server database in this screen so I need to provide the database name, specify a new server’s creation, and provide the database username and password. Don’t bother writing this down, there’s an app screen for that later in this post.

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Once I click OK here, my site is created. First, the portal tells me it’s creating the site:

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Once the site is up and running, Windows Azure lets me know:

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If I select my nopCommerce site and click the “Browse” button in the Windows Azure portal, the site will open up in a new browser instance and allow me the capability of specifying the database connection string it’ll use.

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Now, I’ll go back to the Windows Azure portal’s dashboard for my nopCommerce demo site. In that dashboard page I’ll click the link labeled “View connection strings,” and a dialog will open. In that dialog I’ll see the connection string for my database. I can copy that from the dialog…

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… and paste it into the nopCommerce setup window.

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Of course, I’ve blocked out my site’s real connection string in this picture, but the idea is – it doesn’t get much easier. Once I click the “Install” button in the nopCommerce setup page, the site and database schema, as well as some sample data points, will be installed automatically and the site configured to access the database. Once the setup process is complete, I’ll be redirected to my very own store site.

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In the navigation bar I’ll click on the “My Account” link, login, and then, at the very tip-top of my browser I’ll see a link to get to the Administration panel of my new nopCommerce store site.

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The administration portal for the nopCommerce product promises to give me just about everything I’d need to sell some stuff, know how my sales are doing, and so on. I can pretty much do whatever I need to do using their rich, extensive administration functionality.

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If you’ve been thinking of setting up a store, with a shopping cart, online, or you’ve been asked to do so and are more interested in getting it up and running quickly than you are with re-inventing the wheel by writing custom code, check out nopCommerce. Get your free Windows Azure trialwhich comes with 10 free web sites for free – right here, then set up your own nopCommerce site and have your products selling in your store.

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Next week I’ll be speaking at the Web Camps events in India. The web camps series, put together by my trusty teammate Jon Galloway, offers web developers a glimpse into all the new web-related stuff the ASP.NET and Visual Studio teams have been cooking. I’m looking forward to the trip, as I’ve never been further East than Sweden. My team has this habit of coming up with nifty out-of-office emails so I decided to make a map, originally thinking I’d jam the map into an email. The image ending up being pretty huge so I’m sparing the team the extra room in their mailboxes by sharing it here instead.

india-trip

This should be a pretty neat trip. I’m thankful for the opportunities I get like this to talk about and demonstrate the awesome work the engineers do here. They make that part of the job easy. When you love a product as much as I’ve loved ASP.NET and Visual Studio for this long, the idea of showing folks how to use it and to give them some new tricks is cake. This sort of thing – talking about how awesome our products are and about the awesomer people involved in their creation – is the best part of my job. 

What makes that part of job difficult is the missing-of-family while I’m on the road. My wife the most supportive woman you could have the luck to know and I’m the luckiest guy in the world for having her there to support me. My sons always miss me, so that’s the saddest part of every trip, but they know how it works so they’re usually pretty forgiving, as the code below demonstrates. Coming home to this familiar program is without a doubt the icing on the cake.

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So tomorrow I’ll start my first trip to the other side of the globe. Wish me luck, and if you’re in the area, come on out to learn some great stuff about ASP.NET, Windows Azure and Visual Studio!