Top 5 Cool New Things with Windows Azure Web Sites

One of the best things about working on Windows Azure Web Sites (WAWS) is seeing the rapid changes we introduce as we learn more about what our customers need in order to create world class web applications and web sites. 

Since we launched the WAWS preview a few months ago, we have introduced lots of new features and tweaks. Below is a roundup of some of our top new features: 

1)   .NET 4.5 support

.NET 4.5 includes many improvements for web development and for the .NET framework in general. New features such as MVC 4 and Web API are now available for WAWS users (more information available here).

Applications built with Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5 can now be pushed to WAWS directly from Visual Studio using Web Deploy (‘Publish’ option on your Web project).

           Figure 1: Deploying a 4.5 Web app from VS2012

You can also specify the .NET version for your application in the Windows Azure management portal by clicking the ‘CONFIGURE’ tab and selecting the ‘.NET FRAMEWORK VERSION’ button.

          Figure 2: Specifying the .NET version on the Windows Azure Management Portal

2)   Shared Tier

When we introduced WAWS in June 2012, we allowed for two types of sites.

-       Free, sites running on a multi-tenant environment with limited resources (memory, egress, CPU time) and no CNAME support.

-       Reserved, sites running on a dedicated VM. This option has pay-as-you-go resource consumption model and allows for CNAME mapping.

More information about our pricing models is here

As users were trying out WAWS they provided us with a lot of feedback on the high entry price for CNAME mapping ($56) for 1 CPU reserved instance. To address that we recently announced our Shared model, in this model, the user pays $0.013 per hour ($9.60) a month and receives the ability to map a CNAME and an a-record. Shared site run in a multi-tenant environment receiving a much larger quota of resources (memory, CPU time and idle time out). Shared sites are not blocked when the users exceed their egress quota, unlike free sites. To move a site to Shared mode, use the ‘SCALE’ tab and select the ‘SHARED’ option. 

   Figure 3: Moving a site to a Shared hosting mode

3)   Improved Domain Management Support

As we gathered more feedback we learned that our customers need the ability to map “naked” URLs to WAWS sites (i.e. mydomain.com vs. www.mydomain.com) we also learned that our customers can benefit from a more guided approach to mapping custom domain names. To implement those requirements we added the new ‘Manage Domains’ option on the ‘CONFIGURE’ tab. This option allows the user to map as many custom domain names as needed to an individual websites. 

           Figure 4: Manage Domains button on the CONFIGURE tab

           Figure 5: Manage Domains button on the CONFIGURE tab

4)   Python Django Support

Another one of our core commitments to our customers is ever-increasing the diversity of languages and frameworks available on WAWS. To start down that path we have partnered with the Python Tools for Visual Studio (PTVS) team to deliver Django support for WAWS.

Django is a very popular framework for web development that uses the Python language. Django is used by many large websites and has a vibrant community. The PTVS team has supplied a Django project type for Visual Studio that can now be quickly synchronized with a WAWS site.

Configuring Python for WAWS requires setting up handler mappings and some app settings.

Instructions on how to configure Python for WAWS are available here.

  Figure 6: App settings and handler mappings in the CONFIGURE tab for a Django site.

          Figure 7: Django site in Visual Studio

5)   More Options for Continuous Integration

When we launched Windows Azure Web Sites, we provided support for continuous integration using Team Foundation Service and for synching Git repositories from a client machine into WAWS sites. One of the main points of feedback from our customers was the need to integrate with online code repositories such as CodePlex and GitHub. In the recent management portal release we have enabled our users to do just that. WAWS sites can now be deployed directly from CodePlex, GitHub and BitBucket repositories. To enable this functionality choose the ‘Set up Git Publishing’ option on your site’s ‘DASHBOARD’ tab and when the ‘DEPLOYMENTS’ tab appears, select the type of repository you would like to integrate with.

           Figure 8: Setting up Git publishing

         Figure 9: Setting up a deployment option for your site

Hope you find this quick overview useful. I encourage you to use these features, and keep sending us your feedback and questions on the Windows Azure Web Sites Preview Forum.