Creating the Perfect Front Door for Web App Development

Ask most any enterprise developer about their biggest challenges when building a website or service and they are likely to respond with “access control,” “making sure your site can be monitored,” or “putting in place a system for managing rolling updates.” Capabilities like these may not turn heads, but without them your service offering will not be commercially viable.

As companies move to more of a cloud-based architecture, one of the first things developers are faced with is putting these technical underpinnings in place. In a way it is a bit like ensuring that the electricity, plumbing, heating and mechanical systems are working in your home before having an open house.

Here within DPE, a couple of engineers who have been spearheading our efforts to help partners build Internet-scale, high-availability services have come up with a nice way to have Windows Azure do a lot of that work for you. They call it the Service Gateway.

At the core, the Service Gateway technology is really just application request routing (ARR) — a capability that is part of Windows Server/IIS. ARR is very powerful, but it can take a lot of work to set up servers and configure it, and this is where Azure can really help. The Service Gateway gives you a nice website, and Azure services let you configure and run ARR for your website. They have made it so that it is as easy to use as setting up a home router.

The two engineers on our DPE team are David Langworthy, who previously worked for a DARPA startup focused on improving network survivability, and James Baker, who was a technology consultant Down Under for 15 years, working primarily within the Embedded Linux space. At Microsoft, they have worked on Active Directory and used these ARR-based techniques to provide a front door for Azure Active Directory.

Using Azure, a developer can configure and deploy a Service Gateway in as little as five minutes. So anyone with a website — whether on Azure or AWS or wherever — might want to try spinning up a Service Gateway to see it in action.

For more of a behind the scenes perspective on the Service Gateway, listen in on the conversation I had with David and James in my office a few weeks ago.

As we look ahead to Build, we will be talking a lot more about this kind of approach and the importance of the emerging set of DevOps-oriented capabilities in Azure.

Looking forward to seeing many of you in San Francisco.