Preliminary Windows Azure Web Sites Review

June 8, 2012 — Leave a comment

On June 7th 2012, Web Sites a new Windows Azure service was released to simplify the publication of highly scalable web sites on Windows Azure. It allows you to start small and scale as the traffic grows.

WebSitesSoon after the services went live I started playing around with the Web Sites. Microsoft offers 10 free shared Web Sites for the first year. The offer seems very promising for companies who wish to have scalable website, without the complexities that come with the flexibility.

This service enables the developers to use different languages and open source apps and deploy them through an FTP, Git and TFS. Further more it easily integrates with other Windows Azure services like SQL Database, Caching, CDN and Storage.


Easily create new Web Sites

Using the Management portal can be accessed through http://manage.windowsazure.com the following screen shots will take you through the process of creating a new Web Site.

WebSitesList

The menu will slide up to reveal different services available.

Create-2

Select Web Site

Create-3

Select Quick Create, enter the subdomain name and choose a region

Create-4

The site will now showup in the Web Sites section of the Management Portal. Clicking on the subdomain name will open the details and management console for the specific Web Site.

Create-5

 

Seamlessly move applications from Shared to Dedicated Hosting

Under the Scale menu, you will be able to switch from Shared (default) to Reserved mode. Switching between modes will not break your site and will happen seamlessly. I have been able to move between the different modes without having any visible side effects.

Warning: switching between modes will reset the monitoring data

 

ScaleShared

ScaleReserved

 

Easily Scale Websites

In both modes, you have the choice of 1 to 3 instances, which can easily be adjusted using the available slider.

 

Shared Mode

It was noted that some applications like Orchard did not seem to run very fast  while the Web Site was in Shared mode.

ScaleShared

Reserved Mode

When using the Reserved mode, you are presented with 3 different configurations:

  • Small         1 core with 1.75 GB Memory
  • Medium     2 Core with 3.5 GB Memory
  • Large        4 Core with  7 GB Memory

ScaleReserved

 

Add Your Custom Domain Names

Adding a custom domain requires the Web Site to be using Reserved Instances. If your site is using Shared instances you will have to use the subdomain address to reach your Web Site.

Warning: configuring a CName to point to the subdomain provided by Windows Azure will not work unless the domain figures in the Site Urls as shown below.

 

Configure-HostNames-Reserved

 

Monitoring

The following in an overview of the available real-time monitoring for your Web Site

 

Monitor-WithData

 

Configuration

The following are the available configurations for your Web Site.
Both .Net and PHP are supported.

 

Configure-Top-Shared

Configure-AppSettings

Configure-COnnectionStrings

Configure-DefaultDocuments

 

Pricing

View the Web Site Pricing Details

Playing around with the newly released service I noticed that for the moment the Shared mode is free under the following conditions:

Each month, you will receive the following at no charge:

  • Web Sites: Up to 10 web sites
  • Data Transfers: 165 MB of outbound data transfers per day, per subscription; unlimited inbound data transfers
  • Storage: 1 GB
  • Relational Database: 20 MB of a third-party, MySQL database

Microsoft will advise well in advance of any changes to this offer. While the Shared mode is great for small sites or for exploratory / prototyping development, The Reserved mode only has 3 sizes. The Small instance costs 6 times more than an Extra Small Web Role instance. In some cases the Web Roles may be more suited to your needs.

Pricing Comparison Between Web Roles And Web Sites By Reserved Instance

Instance Size Web Site
$ / Instance Month
Web Roles
$
/ Instance Month
Difference Per Month Due to The Discount
Extra small
Shared CPU – 768 MB RAM
n/a $14.40 n/a
Small
1 CPUs -1.75 GB RAM
$57.60 $86.40 $28.80
Medium
2 CPUs – 3.5 GB RAM
$115.20 $172.80 $57.60
Large
4 CPUs – 7 GB RAM
$230.40 $345.60 $115.20
Extra Large
8 CPUs – 14 GB RAM
n/a $691.20 n/a

The Web Sites prices are currently at 33% off regular prices. Comparing the prices I did not factor in any other Windows Azure services because they are not required for regular website deployments in both types of environments.

During preview, all reserved instance hours will be billed using the current Cloud Services compute meter except we will bill 33% less compute hours to deliver the discounted pricing noted above.

Interesting  Information About Reserved Instance

With the reserved instance model, you can provision up to 100 web sites into the reserved instance size that meets your needs. The amount of storage included each month at no charge is increased to 10 GB. In addition, with the reserved instance model, you are not restricted in the amount of outbound data transfers you can use each day but you will be charged based on the normal terms of your offer, generally the standard Pay-As-You-Go rates.

    Note About Inactive Shared Instance Web Sites

For Web Sites in the shared instance model, we reserve the right to suspend service for non-use or inactivity. We will determine such non-use or inactivity in accordance with the following criteria: no administrative action or end-user access for over 90 days, or in accordance with other reasonable criteria as determined in our reasonable discretion from time to time. We will give you at least 30 days’ notice before suspending service.

    Summary

    Web Roles and Worker Roles give us a finer grain control over various aspects of the Instances. They also provide Production and Staging environments that can be exploited to deliver higher quality services to end users. Furthermore they provide administrators with Remote Desktop connectivity.

    On the other hand, Windows Azure Web Sites are perfect  for simple deployments that do not require custom configurations and where teams do not use Visual Studio. Consequently, it greatly abstracts the concept of Roles, in turn opening up the platform to a greater audience. Its also important to note that Windows Azure Web Sites can use and consume  other Windows Azure services like Windows Azure Storage Services.

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