Azure Tools Update Includes Profiling

The August release of Windows Azure tools for Visual Studio 2010 is now out, according to this blog entry from the Windows Azure team. Highlights include:

  • Profile applications running in Windows Azure.
  • Create ASP.Net MVC3 Web Roles.
  • Manage multiple service configurations in one cloud project.
  • Improved validation of Windows Azure packages.

The update looks pretty minor, but does include some nice features. My favorite is the first item in that list, profiling. The tool will examine your app while it's running in Azure, and help you find bottlenecks. Given the sluggish performance of many cloud-based apps, this is a welcome feature. The bummer is that it's only available in the Premium and Ultimate versions of VS 2010. No love for those of you who slum with the Professional version.

In a related story, the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit has been updated to reflect the new inclusions. The kit provides a nice, hands-on way to learn about Azure, for those of you looking into it.

By the way, if you haven't downloaded the April update yet, do that first. That ginormous update included support for, among other things, Windows Azure SDK 1.4 and Visual Studio 2010 SP1.

As always, I'm on Twitter at VSM_Keith.

Posted by Keith Ward on 08/04/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments

LightSwitch Blurs the Lines

A big part of my new duties with Visual Studio magazine is taking briefings with vendors. It's essential to get to know them, since that's where much of the innovation in the industry comes from. From scrappy start-ups to established "big dogs," the vendors help push development forward -- normally by making your job as a developer easier.

To that end, I recently talked with Infragistics about its LightSwitch plug-in called NetAdvantage for LightSwitch, which Executive Editor Kathleen Richards wrote about in her excellent coverage of LightSwitch's release.

I watched a demo of NetAdvantage for LightSwitch recently, and came away impressed -- with both LightSwitch and NetAdvantage for LightSwitch. It's clear that LightSwitch provides the means to build the kind of full-featured applications never before available without lots of hand-coding.

Certainly, you won't be able to build a sophisticated online CRM app in LightSwitch. But you will be able to build some impressive line-of-business apps, for example, without ever opening a code editor or writing a single method.

And with tools like NetAdvantage for LightSwitch, you'll be able to do even more. Jason Beres, vice president of product management at Infragistics, said that he believes that LightSwitch's greatest weakness may be its data visualization. So if you want anything beyond the most basic graphs and charts, you'll need to look to third-party tools or dig into code. Of course, if you like digging into code, why would you be using LightSwitch in the first place?

That's why NetAdvantage for LightSwitch comes with lots of data visualization tools; it's filling in those gaps, allowing non-devs to stay away from scary C# or VB.

Beres also said that he thinks LightSwitch's initial uptake will be strongest among developers. It could crossover big-time into the power user/dba/Access geek crowd as well -- if, Beres says, Microsoft puts some serious marketing muscle behind it. I think he's right. LightSwitch is an opportunity to reach a mostly-untapped market of people who want to build apps without coding.

What do you think? Will LightSwitch break down barriers and get more folks interested in dev? Will those people want to learn more and start to learn code? Let me know via e-mail or on Twitter (follow me at @VSM_Keith), or post in the comments.

Posted by Keith Ward on 08/02/2011 at 1:15 PM1 comments

Under New Management

Hello, World! That seems to be a fitting way to introduce myself to a developer audience. Welcome to my first official blog post as editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

I'm taking over from the inimitable Mike Desmond, who ran the magazine for a number of years, and  made it the indispensable resource for Microsoft .NET developers it is today. I'm greatly indebted to Mike, a good friend as well as colleague, for helping make my transition so smooth.

(For those wondering, Mike is sliding into my old spot over at MSDN Magazine. They're lucky to have him.)

I'll be writing, for the most part, about the software development industry, with a focus on Microsoft. But I don't want this blog to be a lecture; I much prefer conversations. For this to work, your feedback is not only requested, but essential. The give-and-take with readers is one of my favorite parts of the job, and I know from my time at MSDN Magazine that developers are some of the sharpest, most opinionated folks anywhere.

A bit of my background: As I mentioned, I worked at MSDN Magazine for awhile, and at TechNet Magazine before that. I've covered Microsoft and the IT space as a reporter/writer/editor for more than a decade now, at various publications within 1105 Media (the fine folks who publish this magazine).

I also make movies as a hobby, play sports, follow pro football and basketball to an unhealthy extent, and am addicted to coffee (you'll have to pry my Keurig from my cold, dead fingers) and gadgets. I may blog about some of that stuff from time to time, but I'll try and state it upfront if I do, so you can scroll on past if you're not interested.

Finally, I wanted to share a sliver of dev-related material. As you may know, PDC has been given a new name this year: It's the BUILD conference, and Microsoft promises we'll finally get the nitty-gritty about things like Windows 8, HTML 5/JavaScript, and the future of products like Silverlight. Pretty important stuff, huh?

But it doesn't seem like many in the industry are aware of the show. In the last several weeks, I've talked to several developers and vendors, and they didn't even know that Microsoft's PDC replacement this year is called BUILD. The marketing for the show, from what I can tell, is limited, if even these pros didn't recognize the name. I'm a bit shocked that this crucial developer show isn't being more widely promoted and publicized by Microsoft. Are you aware of it? Did you know it was called BUILD? Let me know your thoughts on the show, or anything else.

You can follow me on Twitter at VSM_Keith. Let's get this conversation going!

Posted by Keith Ward on 07/30/2011 at 1:15 PM2 comments

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