New Windows Azure book by Neil MacKenzie

A couple of months ago a new Azure book by Neil MacKenzie came out. Neil is a Microsoft MVP in the Windows Azure expertise, and a friend of mine. When I get stuck on a problem with Azure and can’t find an answer on Google, Bing, StackOverflow, or the MSDN Forums, I go to Neil, and he points me in the right direction. (He’s very kind, but I try not to abuse the privilege!) I knew he was writing a book, and was looking forward to buying a copy and writing a review.

So the book came out and shortly thereafter, his publisher contacted me and asked if I would write a review if he made an e-version available to me. Score! Although to be honest, even though I own a KindleDX, which displays tech books pretty well, I still prefer a printed copy, so I will end up buying the book.

I’ve worked in Windows Azure for over a year now, having migrated my company’s entire infrastructure to Azure last fall, and it’s been a great experience. When I spearheaded our migration, I was under a tight deadline, and I absorbed a lot of information in a short amount of time. Neil’s book has really deepened my knowledge, and I learned some things that I am looking forward to implementing in our infrastructure in the future.

So what does the book cover? Pretty much everything in Windows Azure, plus how to use SQL Azure and the different bits of the App Fabric. Here’s a list of the chapters:

  • Chapter 1: Controlling Access in the Windows Azure Platform
  • Chapter 2: Handling Blobs in Windows Azure
  • Chapter 3: Going NoSQL with Windows Azure tables
  • Chapter 4: Disconnecting with Windows Azure queues
  • Chapter 5: Developing Hosted Services with Windows Azure
  • Chapter 6: Digging into Windows Azure Diagnostics
  • Chapter 7: Managing Hosted Services with the Service Management API
  • Chapter 8: Using SQL Azure
  • Chapter 9: Looking at the Windows Azure App Fabric

One of the things I really like is Neil doesn’t just give you the basic code and basic concepts, he gives you the best way to use that information and covers the topics in-depth. For example, in Chapter 3 on using Windows Azure Table Storage, he doesn’t just provide the commands for reading and writing to the table, he shows you how to use generics to write something you can reuse. He also talks about how to use Fiddler to help diagnose problems with writing to Table Storage, discusses design considerations, and covers server side paging and continuation tokens.

All of the chapters have the same kind of deep knowledge and thorough coverage, and the writing is very clear. You can read the book from cover to cover or use it as a reference book and just read the bits that you need help with. I think it’s one of the best Azure books available right now, and a must-have for any developer wanting to learn Windows Azure or using Windows Azure already.

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