Windows Azure Lessons Learned: Quark Software

Category : Windows Azure
Date : December 15, 2009

WinAzure_h_rgbIn this episode of Azure Lessons Learned I chat with Stephan Friedl, Chief Architect at Quark Software.  Quark (of Quark XPress fame) has been built a new business called Quark Promote for small and medium business to design and print high-quality collateral (brochures, business cards, postcards etc) to promote their business. 

In and of itself this is an interesting Software + Services solution built with a compelling WPF design client and a high performance ASP.NET server.  Quark chose to deploy this solution using Windows Azure.  In that way they could build out their business to handle the numerous relationships they’ve setup neighborhood printers.  The architecture is service-based specifically so they could handle these type of relationships and host the solution on the partner’s site and in fact host on multiple sites from that same single multi-tenant solution running on the Windows Azure platform.

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Channel 9: Azure Lessons Learned: Quark Software




Windows Azure Lessons Learned: Kelley Blue Book

Category : Windows Azure
Date : December 7, 2009

WinAzure_h_rgbAs I mentioned, over the past few months I’ve been working on a number of activities related to the Windows Azure Platform.  In particular, I’ve been working with several partners as we prepared for the PDC’09 conference.  While we were preparing for the conference we welcomed a few partners to a deep-dive event in Redmond where they did some architectural reviews and met with various members of the product team in the final sprint to releasing solutions.  While they were in Redmond I took advantage to record a few videos for Channel 9.

Kelley Blue Book stands out as they were featured on the main stage during Bob Muglia’s keynote on day 1 of PDC (Andy comes on at about 1:27).  In this video with Andy Lapin, Director of Enterprise Architecture spent a few minutes showing off the site and then discussing some of the lessons the KBB team learned as they ported their site from a hosted facility to the Windows Azure Platform.

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Channel 9: Azure Lessons Learned: Kelley Blue Book

 




Catching Up and PDC’09: So many sessions; so little time

Category : Windows Azure
Date : December 7, 2009

PDC09-logo_vrt_CMYK I’ve been busy.  For the past 5 months or so I’ve been working on something completely different.  I moved out of the Dynamics world  and into the Azure world  .

In July I was asked to help out with the PDC planning.  David Aiken’s team were doing a great job with technical evangelism so I was mainly responsible for supporting the Microsoft field evangelists by engaging with key projects, helping to recruit target customers/partners, engaging customers and partners with feedback on business models and managing the all-up engagement pipeline across the TAPs, Metro and Bizspark.  As you can imagine with a mandate that wide I did a lot of cross-group work.  One of the key tasks was helping with partners in the PDC day 1 keynote (see my video of backstage PDC).  Another was helping with the partner-specific sessions (i.e. the Lunch sessions).

PDC was a blast.  I spent so much time with partners that in the end I only had time to get to 2 sessions (and that includes the one where I was speaker).  The time I spent meeting with partners was fantastic.  I shot almost 17GB of video for a Channel 9 series I’m putting together (more on that soon). 

Here’s a video I shot of a discussion I had with a couple of partners (Rob Fraser of Risk Metrics Group and Richard Prodger of Active Web Solutions) about what they found interesting about PDC this year.

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Catching Up and PDC’09: So many sessions; so little time

Since I didn’t get a chance to get to many of the sessions I’ll be watching them online.  All the sessions include full streaming or downloadable video and slide decks.  Here’s the complete list of Windows Azure Platform sessions:

Getting Started

Windows Azure

Codename “Dallas”

SQL Azure

Identity

Customer & Partner Showcases

 

As always comments are welcome below or directly via the contact form.

 




Dynamics Duo: Silverlight and Jazz Hands

Date : June 19, 2009

NineGuy Ok; so maybe I got a little overexcited in the final installment to this 5-part series.  <Jazz Hands!> This time around we spend time talking about how to use Silverlight to build experiences that will compel users to want to come back again and again while differentiating your application from those of your competitors.

In this episode we spend most of our time in the part of the demo related to the conference attendee portal.  The portal is meant to be the place where returning attendees go to review information about the conference (maps, weather, schedule, travel ,etc).  This would be similar to a SharePoint page but built with a consumer in mind so including animations, drag and drop and generally having more sizzle. <Jazz Hands!>

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Channel 9: Dynamics Duo: Silverlight and Jazz Hands

The information in the modules is coming directly from Dynamics CRM Online via web service calls.  That information is data-bound to the Silverlight controls we used to allow users to display and manipulate that information.  The ecosystem around Silverlight is exploding and as result there is a wide variety of controls that can be used to accelerate the design and development of solutions.  In our case, much of the UI work on the attendee portal is based on a control built by a team led by Martin Grayson.  Have a look at the various other controls available in the suite on the Blacklight showcase site. The full source code is available on CodePlex.  Nice work on these, Martin! <Jazz Hands!>  As we discussed in the last episode the separation of code and UI makes is easy for developers and designers to work together to build something cool really fast.

Girish promised to share the code for this on his blog here.

Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9:
https://channel9.msdn.com/posts/benriga/Dynamics-Duo-Silverlight-and-Jazz-Hands/

 

This episode is part of a 5-part series.  In this series we’ve tried to explain how you can combine the Microsoft Web Platform with Dynamics CRM to quickly build and deploy self-service solutions.  The full set of videos include:

  1. Dynamics Duo Rides Again
  2. Dynamics Duo: Everybody needs an Identity
  3. Dynamics Duo: Wide World Importers Code
  4. Dynamics Duo: Composition with Third-Party Web Services
  5. Dynamics Duo: Silverlight and Jazz Hands (this video)

Both Girish and I enjoyed recording this series.  We hope you enjoyed them as well.  If you have comments or suggestions for other topics, feel free to add comments below or email Girish or me (Ben) directly.

 

Sorry if I went a little over the top with all that Jazz Hands thing.  <Jazz Hands!>




Dynamics Duo: Composition with Third-Party Web Services

Date : June 18, 2009

NineGuyIn this episode we talk about a variety of topics including using Silverlight for UI, composing using 3rd party web services and storing complex information in Dynamics CRM.

We spend most of our time on the flight booking page. This page was built using Silverlight to demonstrate some of the simple experiences that can be designed. In this case the UI was built in Expression Blend. Designers and developers work together closely on projects. In fact, developers and designers work on the exact same project files but stay in their own environments; Developers stay in Visual Studio, Designers stay in Expression. We’ll talk a lot more time about Silverlight in the final episode of this series tomorrow.

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Dynamics Duo: Composition with Third-Party Web Services

In our example we use a third party web service run by ezGDS to present the conference attendee with a list of flight options. ezGDS takes care behind the scenes to retrieve that flight fare information from various global distribution systems including Amadeus, Worldspan, Sabre and others. The attendee sees none of that complexity since we’ve built all of that directly into our system. Even though the information coming back can be very complex, including ticket information and various inbound and outbound flight segments, Dynamics CRM easily handles storing this information in a custom entity.

 

Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9:
https://channel9.msdn.com/posts/benriga/Dynamics-Duo-Composition-with-Third-Party-Web-Services/

 




Dynamics Duo: Wide World Importers Code

Date : June 17, 2009

NineGuyIn this episode we dive into some of the real code behind Wide World Importers Conference site.  Girish walks us through the code-behind for the contact/profile and conference registration options pages.

There’s not really a lot of magic here.  In fact, I would say it’s quite simple to understand.  If you’ve used ASP.NET before it’s not much different when you’re writing for Windows Azure as we are here. 

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Dynamics Duo: Wide World Importers Code

The only difference is that here we’re sending the data to Dynamics CRM using the SDK.  That’s infinitely more useful for your customers as the information becomes actionable immediately.  We should mention that, in this case, we’re using a 3rd party toolkit by Microsoft Gold Partner, ADXSTUDIOShan McArthur and his team at ADXSTUDIO helped us to put this site together and their toolkit naturally uses the CRM SDK.  It abstracts the SDK it out a little more to make writing and reading the code even simpler.

We use the Live ID token that we’re getting from the Live ID service, as we discussed in the previous episode, to allow the user to retrieve and update their profile information.  It’s the unique key, of sorts, to their record in the CRM data store.

Girish promised in this episode to publish the code so expect to see that soon on his blog.  We’ll have to hold him to that. 

 

Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9:
http://blogs.msdn.com/benriga/archive/2009/06/16/dynamics-duo-wide-world-importers-code.aspx

 




Dynamics Duo: Everybody needs an Identity

Date : June 16, 2009

NineGuy In yesterday’s episode we very briefly touched the identity and authentication part of the demo where, on the self-service site, the attendee registers using Windows Live ID. In this episode we go a lot deeper.

Identity and authentication is hard. Simple, scalable and secure login capabilities require a great deal of experience to build and a great deal of effort to maintain and keep running. Windows Live ID provides you a proven solution for building identity-aware applications and is used today by over 460 million users.

In our case, since we’ve integrated Live ID into the system, we let Microsoft manage all the details related to identity and authentication. Live ID assigns each of our users a token that is specific to our site. That means Microsoft lets us know that the person coming to the site is the same person that registered. That token is unique to our site so that from the perspective of the user their privacy is protected (e.g. they cannot be tracked across multiple web sites). In fact, the token is the only thing the site will see. So even though the user may use an email address and password to login to Live ID the site never sees that unless the user explicitly provides that information (as in our example by typing it into a profile page).

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Dynamics Duo: Everybody needs an Identity

The simplicity of this is just amazing. As a developer I just have to register my site with Windows Live ID and then redirect my users to the Live ID login page whenever I need them to be authenticated. Live ID handles the authentication and then redirects back to a page that I’ve registered. You can even brand the Windows Live ID login page that your users will see so that it will appear as if it is your own login page. Nice!

While Windows Live ID does a great job of helping me as a conference organizer to identify and authenticate my conference attendees, we also need to authenticate the Windows Azure site to the Dynamics CRM site so that they can exchange information. We’re obviously not going to have CRM licenses for all our self-service users (the thousands of conference attendees in this case) so we use a certificate on the Windows Azure site to ensure that only that site has access to the CRM data. Once the certificate is on my Azure site, we use a Live ID service account to handle the authentication between the two servers.

 

Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9:
https://channel9.msdn.com/posts/benriga/Dynamics-Duo-Everybody-needs-an-Identity/

 




Dynamics Duo Rides again

Date : June 15, 2009

Girish and I dropped in to the new Channel 9 Studio (formerly Monaco) to record a few Channel 9 episodes around some demo code we’ve been working on for a few months.

In this series we’ll focus on self-service and specifically on building self-service sites that use Dynamics CRM on the back-end to enable customers, employees, citizens, etc. to get the information or perform the tasks they want without having to interact with a representative.

We’ve talked previously about using Dynamics CRM as a platform to build general purpose line-of-business applications. Typically these are for users that are behind the firewall. When we’re talking about self-service we mean the wide range of users that are out on the internet that need access to that same information in the CRM data store.

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Channel 9: Dynamics Duo Rides Again

In this episode we walk through the demo in some detail. The Wide World Importers Conference site we use here is the main site for a fictitious conference. The self-service part of this is entirely hosted on Windows Azure. As we walk through the registration process the information is retrieved and stored directly in Dynamics CRM Online. Naturally, as we’ve said in the past, Dynamics CRM is great at managing both contact and transactional information. We also look at how, by using 3rd party web services, we can compose new capabilities into our system. In this case we show how to integrate an internet flight booking service into the attendee registration process and then store that complex flight booking information in the Dynamics CRM data store. Finally we show how to use Silverlight to build a compelling user experience for a self-service portal. This one is pretty slick.

Dynamics CRM was customized here for the requirements of a conference organizer. In our case we used Dynamics CRM Online but it could easily have been CRM in an on-premises deployment (or hosted by any of the hundreds of Microsoft hosting partners) as long as CRM is set up in an internet facing deployment mode (IFD).

The self-service site is running on Windows Azure so we walked through the Windows Azure Portal for the site to show how Azure helps us to deploy, configure and manage the site. The interesting part comes when we talk about how to scale up or down a site to handle large or small numbers of end-users (depending on the need of the application). Here Girish and I got into a discussion of running a site like this from the perspective of capital expenditures (capex) versus operating expenditures (opex). There are many scenarios like the conference one where the site will go through peak periods of high demand but then drop back down to very low demand. In those cases buying the equipment to handle the peaks means you have a lot of expensive equipment running idle during the low periods. Azure solves that problem by giving the power you need when you need it for as long as you need it. Unlimited scale for rent, I guess you could say.

We’ll dive into each of the various pieces of the demo over the next few days so come back and have a look. Be sure to leave us your feedback below.

Watch in the embedded viewer above or on Channel 9:
https://channel9.msdn.com/posts/benriga/Dynamics-Duo-Rides-again/

 




Business Action Virtual Tour – Global Series of Events

Date : April 23, 2009


Business Action Virtual TourWe’ve had some great success with the Business Action World Tour events worldwide.  We’re now reprising that content virtually for those ISVs and developers who could not attend a physical event.  Be sure to register via the links at the bottom of the post.  Feel free to invite others…  you know wake the kids, call the neighbors, etc. 

We know that differentiating your line-of-business applications from those of your competitors has never been more important. If you’ve considered using Dynamics CRM as a line-of-business platform, Silverlight or WPF to build compelling experiences, Office or SharePoint to build on the familiar skills of your end-users or Partner-Hosting or Azure Services to extend you application to the cloud, well then this is the event for you.  We’re hosting a series of 4 online events (across multiple time zones) that will help you understand how we can help you do that as a valued Microsoft Partner.

Because of the anticipated high-demand, we encourage you to register immediately to ensure your attendance at this valuable event.  We’ve provided an overview below and the upcoming event dates and registration links at the bottom of this message. Be sure to register for all 4 online events.

A Line-of-Business Application Platform

Microsoft Dynamics CRMMicrosoft Dynamics CRM provides the platform for getting your line-of-business applications to market fast. Clearly applicable in CRM-type scenarios, Microsoft Dynamics CRM also supports a wide range of business applications with the essentials required for building, delivering and maintaining them in multi-tenant Software+Services environments.

This event will demonstrate the power of Dynamics CRM as a platform for developing line of business applications. It will also cover how solutions built on the Dynamics CRM platform benefit from other Microsoft technologies to provide compelling experiences, build on familiar skills and give your customers the power of choice.

Compelling Experiences

Microsoft SilverlightIncrease user productivity and accuracy by providing an attractive, easy to use application user interfaces on either the desktop or the web using one set of tools and knowledge. With Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) you’ll build the next-generation of Windows user experiences with deep support of data visualization, complex text content, rich media, dynamic interactive experiences, and branded or custom look and feel. With Silverlight you increase repeat visits and brand loyalty while dramatically reducing customer support costs through compelling, intuitive, high performance self-service web sites.

Familiar Skills

Microsoft OfficeIncrease the productivity of the users of your applications by providing a seamless and integrated end to end experience that empowers them to collaborate and get work done in familiar ways. Pull line-of-business processing directly into the Microsoft Office applications your users use day-in day-out. Unified communications across the Dynamics CRM and Office line of products, such as instant messaging, document sharing, and user presence, further promote and simplify ad hoc processes and keep people in the center of the workflow – where they belong.

Power of Choice

Azure Services PlatformWhether you are deploying behind the firewall or internet-facing applications, build and deploy those applications quickly and easily by capitalizing on the same personnel, development tools investments, and knowledge that already power your organization. When you build on the Dynamics CRM platform you’ll be prepared to deploy your line-of-business applications on-premises, in partner-hosted facilities or in Microsoft own Dynamics CRM Online data centers. When you build the internet-facing self-service applications that integrate with your line-of-business solution, the Azure Services Platform helps reduce IT-related costs, freeing up time and capital to focus on your core business.

Be sure to register for all 4 events below.

 

Line-of-Business Application Framework

Compelling Experiences

Familiar Skills

Power of Choice

Europe Middle East and Africa

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

North and South America

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

Asia/Pacific

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

Click to Register

Note: You are free to register for any time zone you choose. The content is the same for all time zones.  Note that you can only register for events in the future. 

 

Europe, Middle East and Africa (Mon Apr 27-Thu Apr 30)

  • 9:00 AM UTC – Dublin, London
  • 10:00 AM UTC+1 – Madrid, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Geneva, Copenhagen, Rome, Berlin, Prague, Stockholm, Budapest, Warsaw, Oslo
  • 11:00 AM UTC+2 – Cape Town, Athens, Helsinki, Istanbul, Cairo, Jerusalem, Beirut
  • 12:00 PM UTC+3 – Moscow, Kuwait City
  • 1:00 PM UTC+4 – Tehran, Dubai
  • 2:30 PM UTC+5:30 – Bangalore
  • 4:00 PM UTC+7 – Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta

North and South America (Mon Apr 27-Thu Apr 30)

  • 9:00 AM UTC-7 – Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Redmond
  • 10:00 AM UTC-6 – Calgary, Denver, Mexico City
  • 11:00 AM UTC-5 – Houston, Minneapolis, Chicago
  • 12:00 PM UTC-4 – Caracas, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Miami, New York
  • 1:00 PM UTC-3 – Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo

Asia/Pacific (Tue Apr 28 – Fri May 1)

  • 9:00 AM UTC+8 – Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai
  • 10:00 AM UTC+9 – Perth, Seoul, Tokyo
  • 11:00 AM UTC+10 – Sydney
  • 12:00 PM UTC+11 – Auckland

 


Gonna get me some Business Action

Date : February 24, 2009


Business_Action_World_logo_w_CRM_K-cropped We recently kicked off a worldwide tour events to help ISVs understand the potential of Dynamics CRM as a Line-of-Business Application platform.  We know that differentiating your line-of-business applications from those of your competitors has never been more important. If you’ve considered using Dynamics CRM as a line-of-business platform, Silverlight or WPF to build compelling experiences, Office or SharePoint to build on the familiar skills of your end-users or Partner-Hosting or Azure Services to extend you application to the cloud, well then this is the event for you.  We’re hosting a seminar near you that will help you understand how we can help you do that as a valued Microsoft Partner.

Because of the anticipated high-demand, we encourage you to register immediately so you can ensure your attendance at this valuable event.  To register, contact your your local Microsoft ISV Evangelist or Partner Account Manager.

I’ve provided an overview below and the upcoming event dates at the bottom of this message.

A Line-of-Business Application Platform

dyn-CRM-Online_ALT_rgb Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the platform for getting your line-of-business applications to market fast. Clearly applicable in CRM-type scenarios, Microsoft Dynamics CRM also supports a wide range of business applications with the essentials required for building, delivering and maintaining them in multi-tenant Software+Services environments.

This is a half-day overview event which will demonstrate the power of Dynamics CRM as a platform for developing line of business applications. It will also cover how solutions built on the Dynamics CRM platform benefit from other Microsoft technologies to provide compelling experiences, build on familiar skills and give your customers the power of choice.

Compelling Experiences

SL-logo Increase user productivity and accuracy by providing an attractive, easy to use application user interfaces on either the desktop or the web using one set of tools and knowledge. With Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) you’ll build the next-generation of Windows user experiences with deep support of data visualization, complex text content, rich media, dynamic interactive experiences, and branded or custom look and feel. With Silverlight you increase repeat visits and brand loyalty while dramatically reducing customer support costs through compelling, intuitive, high performance self-service web sites.

Familiar Skills

OfficeLogo Increase the productivity of the users of your applications by providing a seamless and integrated end to end experience that empowers them to collaborate and get work done in familiar ways. Pull line-of-business processing directly into the Microsoft Office applications your users use day-in day-out. Unified communications across the Dynamics CRM and Office line of products, such as instant messaging, document sharing, and user presence, further promote and simplify ad hoc processes and keep people in the center of the workflow – where they belong.

Power of Choice

azure-logo Whether you are deploying behind the firewall or internet-facing applications, build and deploy those applications quickly and easily by capitalizing on the same personnel, development tools investments, and knowledge that already power your organization. When you build on the Dynamics CRM platform you’ll be prepared to deploy your line-of-business applications on-premises, in partner-hosted facilities or in Microsoft own Dynamics CRM Online data centers. When you build the internet-facing self-service applications that integrate with your line-of-business solution, the Azure Services Platform helps reduce IT-related costs, freeing up time and capital to focus on your core business.

 

Dates:

Europe, Middle East, Africa

  • Istanbul, Turkey: Thu, Feb 26
  • Warsaw, Poland: Fri, Feb 27
  • Brussels, Belgium: Mon, Mar 02
  • Madrid, Spain: Wed, Mar 04
  • Munich, Germany: Fri, Mar 06

North America

  • Silicon Valley/Mountain View, CA, USA: Tue, Mar 03
  • Chicago, IL, USA: Thu, Mar 05
  • New York, NY, USA: Tue, Mar 10
  • Boston, MA, USA: Thu, Mar 12
  • Toronto, ON, Canada: Fri, Mar 13
  • Vancouver, BC, Canada: Fri, Mar 27

Asia/ Pacific

  • Auckland, New Zealand: Fri, Feb 27
  • Beijing, China: Fri, Mar 13

 


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