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Windows Azure cloud services - Roles and config files

Windows Azure cloud service, is in simple terms an application designed to be hosted in a Cloud with a configuration file that defines how the service should be run.

Two files decide the settings for the cloud service - Service definition  file(.csdef) & Service configuration file (.cscfg)

Service definition file:

This file defines the settings that will be sued for configuring a cloud service. It defines the following settings
Sites - Definition of websites or applications hosted in IIS7
InputEndPoints - End points used for contacting the cloud service
InternalEndPoints - Endpoints for role instances to talk to each other
Configuration Settings - Settings specific for a role
Certificates - Defines certificates used by a role
Local Resources - Details of local storage, this will be a reserved directory in the file system of the virtual machine in which a role is running
Imports - Defines the modules to be imported for a role. For eg: to enable the RDP connection to a VM, we need to import the modules RemoteAccess & RemoteForwarder. To enable dignostics, we need to import the module named Diagnostics
Startup - used to define startup tasks that will be executed when the role starts

The Service definition file is packages along with the application in the .cspkg file used for creating/updating a cloud service

Service configuration file:

The values of the settings defined in the service definition files are updated in the service configuration file. For eg: The number of role instances,Remote desktop settings like username, encrypted passwords and other application specific configuration values. This file is uploaded separately and is not included in the application package. We can also change the values even when the cloud service is running

Cloud service roles:

Two types of roles are supported in Windows Azure cloud service

Web role: It is a role customized for web applications.If you select this role type IIS 7 comes pre installed with the VM. It is most commonly used for hosting the web frontend.

Worker Role: This role is mainly used for the background processing for web role. Long running processes or intermittent tasks should be configured to be executed in this role


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