Developing Microsoft SharePoint Applications Using Windows Azure – #bookreview

Developing Microsoft SharePoint Applications Using Windows Azure
By Steve Fox
(Microsoft Press, $34.99)

“Windows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform,” notes Dr. Steve Fox, a director on Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team. And: “SharePoint is a web-based collaborative platform for enterprise computing and the web.”

Dr. Fox’s new book is not intended for beginners. You can’t dive into it comfortably unless you already have some familiarity with web development concepts and .NET Framework development in C#.

However, if you are in the process of learning to use Azure and SharePoint and hope to develop SharePoint applications, this book can be a key guidebook  that helps you gather knowledge and experience more quickly.

It is “specifically written for SharePoint developers who are looking to expand their knowledge into the terrain of the cloud—specifically that of Windows Azure,” the author writes.

A secondary goal of the book is “to help Microsoft .NET Framework and ASP.NET developers understand how they can take advantage of Windows Azure and SharePoint together,” he adds.

The 313-page book is divided into 10 chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Welcome to SharePoint and Windows Azure
  • Chapter 2: Getting Started with SharePoint and Windows Azure
  • Chapter 3: Consuming SQL Azure Data
  • Chapter 4: SQL Azure and Advanced Web Part Development
  • Chapter 5: Using Windows Azure BLOB Storage in SharePoint Solutions
  • Chapter 6: Integrating WCF Services and SharePoint
  • Chapter 7: Using SQL Azure for Business Intelligence
  • Chapter 8: Using the Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus with SharePoint
  • Chapter 9: Using Windows Azure WCF Services in SharePoint and Office
  • Chapter 10: Securing Your SharePoint and Windows Azure Solutions

Chapter summaries, additional references and a nine-page index are included. And there are links on Microsoft’s site to download the book’s code examples, as well as additional code walkthroughs.

At least two ways are spelled out to set up your SharePoint developer environment. The “safer approach,” according to Dr. Fox, is to “use a virtual machine hosted in Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V for all of your application development.”

If you prefer to install everything natively, the system requirements are a bit extensive. For SharePoint 2010, you will need:

  1. A Windows 64-bit compliant operating system (Windows Server 2008 R2, or Windows 7)
  2. Microsoft SharePoint Foundation 2010 (the free version of SharePoint, usable for the exercises in this book) or SharePoint Server 2010
  3. Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010
  4. Microsoft Office (Professional Plus) 2010
  5. Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
  6. The Microsoft .NET Framework 4
  7. SQL Server 2008 R2 (Express version will work)

For Windows Azure, you will need: 

  1. Windows Azure Tools and SDK, downloadable from Microsoft
  2. Windows Azure AppFabric SDK, downloadable from Microsoft

The latter part of the book also has some focus on developing Windows Phone 7 applications, and those require the Windows 7 Developer tools.

The author suspects many people will choose the virtual machine route at first, and his book includes a straightforward guide for installing and setting up a Hyper-V image.

Some of the key development topics Steve Fox covers are:

  • Delivering data from Windows Azure Marketplace DataMarket into SharePoint and Microsoft Office Applications.
  • Using Microsoft Business Connectivity Services to connect to SQL Azure data.
  • Creating advanced web parts to surface SQL Azure data in Bing Maps, using the SharePoint client object model.
  • Managing files in Windows Azure using BLOB (binary large object) storage.
  • Deploying WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) services to Windows Azure.
  • Building business intelligence solutions using SQL Azure and Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services.

Developing Microsoft SharePoint Applications Using Windows Azure has a specific and narrow focus within the realm of cloud computing. But it is written well and has an adequate number of screenshots and code examples to help you learn and understand the concepts.

You will need, however,  to also follow some links and make judicious use of the book’s “Additional References” sections. “[t]o help ramp up your learning,” the author urges.

Si Dunn

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