SitePoint and Microsoft live Q&A: Session 2, Azure Mobile Services & Notifications

Team SitePoint is proud to announce the second of four live Q&A sessions with Microsoft. Each 30 minute session focuses on a specific aspect of Microsoft products, the second of which is this Thursday, 26th March at 9am AEST (click here to find your timezone) on follow-up questions for Azure Mobile Services and Notifications. Don’t forget to read the first thread :slight_smile:

This session will be facilitated by myself and all questions answered by Microsoft Evangelist Andrew Coates (linkedin | twitter | blog). Andrew Coates has been a Developer Evangelist at Microsoft for over ten years. During that time he’s focused on .Net development on the desktop, in the cloud, on the web and, most recently, on mobile devices. Andrew has a number of apps in various stores and generally has far too much fun doing his job to honestly be able to call it work.

Because they are only 30 minutes each, we’re assembling questions before hand as well as on the day. To ensure your question is answered, please submit it using this form or reply to this thread.

What is Azure? Writing a back end for disparate front-end clients including iOS, Android, Windows and HTML has never been easier with Microsoft Azure Mobile Services (MAMS), but the RESTful WebAPI pieces are only a small part of the story. MAMS provides a rich suite of common services including Authentication against corporate and social identity providers, Notifications that scale to the millions across Apple, Google and Microsoft notifications services and an offline data sync framework that works across all the major mobile platforms. Read all about Azure in the first Q&A thread.

We’ll be giving away 8 Power Packs over the course of all 4 Q&A sessions for the ‘best question asked’ and ‘most engaged user in a Q&A session.’ To be in the running, don’t forget to fill out the survey with your questions.

Contest Rules:

  1. See our full Terms & Conditions.
  2. There are a total of 8 PowerBanks as described in the image above. Each session will contain two winners.
  3. A judging panel consisting of SitePoint staff will judge SitePoint Forum members, 2 in each Microsoft session, based on the quality of questions asked and the quality of their participation in the session. The judges decision is final.
  4. The winners will be contacted via Private Message and in the event they do not respond, will be contacted via email where there email is known. Winners will need to provide a valid mailing address.
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Welcome everybody to our second live Q&A with Microsoft Evangelist Andrew Coates. Today we’re talking all things Azure Mobile Services, with a focus on Notifications.

If you remember from our previous Q&A, @AndrewCoates is a powerhouse of knowledge on all things Azure. Welcome back, Andrew :smile:

Let’s kick off with this question from Ciaran: Is there a version of Azure that can be set up and used inside an organisation, so that it can be used internally? Something like Google for work for example.

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Building off that, what about government agencies that need intranet and public setups. Security? What sort of government version of this exists? Does it exist? Is it easy to get that?

The Windows Azure Pack allows you to run some of the Azure capabilities in a private data centre - see http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/products/windows-azure-pack/.
You can do VMs (IaaS), Web PaaS and Database as a service.
There a good whitepaper at

Thanks Jasmine - looking forward to another fun session

We have a really fun question from Chris via email, "What is the most prominent feature, either current or upcoming, that you believe makes Azure stand out from the crowd?"

I’m curious too, anything exciting in the works for Azure?

Hope I’m not OT as you’re covering mobile services today but I’m curious to hear how notifications work on Azure?

Lots of Government departments around the world are using public cloud infrastructure. Each juridstiction has slightly different circumstances, but in general there has been a move to adopt the cloud to take advantage of the elasticity, the speed to deployment and the economies of scale that the public cloud provides.

Some governments are setting up their own data centres to provide this across their departments, but many are taking advantage of the existing cloud infrastructure.

There’s been lots of work done on security and my colleague, Rocky Heckman wrote a couple of excellent pieces: http://www.lalaninja.com.au/2012/04/11/its-my-data-not-yours/ and http://www.lalaninja.com.au/2012/05/21/cloud-as-security-boundary/

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Excellent; thank you, Andrew.

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Is there anything that makes push notifications different on Azure Mobile Services?

As I said on Monday, there’s always something new coming out :slight_smile:

To me, the thing that makes Azure stand out is its plethora of services from media to identity, to mobile notifications, to caching and more. Most impotantly though, the integration and management of these services makes using them at any scale, from individual to huge enterprise, easier and more efficient.

You’ve mentioned scalability a number of times last session as well. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Hi Andrew! How do notifications actually work on Azure?

The Azure Notification Hubs (used by Mobile Services) are (I think) unique because they wrap the complexity of communicating with the three major notifications services from Apple, Google and Windows. You can send the one notification to the service and have it distributed, at massive scale, to all three. If you wanted to write and maintain that infrastructure yourself, you’d spend lots of your time keeping up wit what’s changed and making fixes. The beauty of having someone else (in this case, Microsoft) do all that is that you can get on with writing your unique application, and leave the common stuff to someone else.

(I’m wearing my TechEd 2013 shirt today and it says “only write the code that only you can write”)

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I like that :smiley:

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Great! Thank you for that Andrew.

Words of wisdom!

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Welcome back Andrew

Somewhat related, “load”

i.e. if Mega notifications occur within a short period of time, are they queued or are more resources thrown at them?

I guess it wouldn’t matter much for non-time-critical notifications but it might if something was more urgent.

There’s some great documentation and information on the architecture and technology of Notification Hubs.

Scott Gutherie did a comprehensive blog post when it was released:
http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/broadcast-push-notifications-to-millions-of-mobile-devices-using-windows-azure-notification-hubs
There’s the Notification Hubs home page: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/notification-hubs/

Essentially, you get the user of your app to register for notifications with the service, and then when you want to send a notification you send a message to the service, and it handles the complexity of sending the notification to the appropriate registered users.

@ntarpin I’m a n00b, so I can only include 2 links per reply. Hereare the other 2 I was going to include:

The documentation home page (complete with video): http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/services/notification-hubs/
and the MSDN documentation: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/azure/jj927170.aspx

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