Building and Deploying Applications for Windows Azure : Activating the Storage Account Account

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The second service available when you register to the Windows Azure Services Platform is the Storage Account. It provides a web space for uploading files (blob storage), for organizing simple data (tables storage), and for sending/receiving simple messages (queue storage). To enable your Storage Account, follow these steps:
Log into the Windows Azure Developer Portal and go to the services page shown in Figure 2;

Click New Service; when the Create New Service page is loaded, click Storage Account.

Provide a label and a description for your account; then click Next.

Type the public name that will be part of your account’s URL and check for its availability, leaving unchanged the location options. Figure 1 shows an example.

Figure 1. Specifying the public name for the Storage Account.

Now click Create so that the Storage Account creation is finalized. When you create the Storage Account, a Shared Key is also generated. This is a unique identifier that you need for accessing the storage from client applications and that is for login purposes. You can check this out by clicking the new account name on the left of the page, under the Windows Azure title. As mentioned when discussing local tests, a local developer account is also created and replicates locally what you can do with the online services. The local developer account has a built-in storage account with a prefixed user name (devstoreac-count1) and shared key, so for this you need to do nothing. About the online services, the Storage Account has the following endpoints:

In the preceding bulleted list, publicname stands for the account public name you provided a few steps ago. Such endpoints are the way you access contents in the Storage Account via Http (or Https if available). For the local developer account, the endpoints will be the following (requires the Windows Azure Simulation Environment running):

  • for the blob storage

  • for the queue storage

  • for the tables storage

Because both the online and local services do not offer tools for managing contents on the Storage Account, you need to recur to external client tools or to build your own tool utilizing the Windows Azure SDK API. Fortunately there are several free tools, such as the Windows Azure Management Console Snap-in that is related to blobs and queues.

Learning Videos

Microsoft produced several free “How-do-I” videos about learning to manage the Storage Account features. You can find them here:

Using the Windows Azure Management Console Snap-In

Often you need to store files for your applications when deployed to Windows Azure. This can be accomplished in two ways, both as an administration task and programmatically. If you need to store files programmatically, look at the additional Windows Azure examples located on MSDN Code Gallery here: samples and search for the StorageClient sample application, which implements code taking advantage of the REST APIs for managing the blob storage programmatically. If you instead need to upload files to the Blob storage as a simple repository for your applications, an easy way is installing the Windows Azure Management Console Snap-In. This can be found on Code Gallery and as well here: Download the compressed archive and extract it to a folder. Now run the StartHere.cmd file, which contains scripts for building the application and for installing the snap-in to the Microsoft Management Console in Windows.

Important Note

The installation process requires the .NET Framework 3.5 SP 1 be installed on your machine. This is because the component is distributed in source code and the setup procedure will build the binary library for you. If you are running Windows 7 you do not need to install the framework.

When you run the utility, it looks like Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Windows Azure MMC running.

The first step is establishing a connection to the local developer account or to the online services. For example, right-click on Azure Account and select the New Connection command. Now fill the text boxes in the dialog with your account name and key, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Adding a new online connection.

You notice that Service URLs will be automatically populated for you when writing the account name. When you click OK the connection is established, in this case to the online Storage Account. If you need a connection to the local developer account, simply select the Local Connection command. (You will not be prompted for credentials.) When ready, click on the BLOB Containers item in the left tree view control. This shows existing containers and enables you to add new containers. Basically a container is just a folder where you can upload files. In the Windows Azure terminology, files are called blobs. Figure 4 shows what I have on my Storage Account, which is a container named videos and where there is one file stored, as you can see at the bottom of the application.

Figure 4. Showing containers and blobs in the Storage Account.

On the right side of the application, you can find a pane offering common commands. You can add a new container, upload an existing one, remove containers, or just upload and delete blobs. It is worth mentioning that when you create a new container you can make it public or private. If you mark it as private, you need your shared key to access it every time. If your container will store files that must be reached by all users, it will be marked as public. You can check this out by clicking the Add Container command from the right pane. Also notice that container names must be lowercase. If you try to type uppercase characters, they will be automatically converted into lowercase. After you have uploaded blobs to the Storage Account, you can access them simply via Http URLs. Continuing the example of my account, represented in Figure 4, to access the VideoForAzure.Wmv file, you simply need the following URL: If it is a media or browsable content, you can type the address in your Web browser address bar or just use the URL in your applications according to your needs. In case your blobs are stored within the local developer account, you simply invoke them with the local URL, keeping in mind that the Windows Azure Simulation Environment must be running:

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