Posts Tagged 'LightSwitch'

LightSwitch Released!

Last week Microsoft announced that LightSwitch for Visual Studio, which had been in Beta2 since March, is now a released product.

Those of you who have been following this blog may know that I am a fan of LightSwitch. Okay maybe I’m not quite a fanboy, but I do like it! LightSwitch has been featured in a couple of previous posts I have made. No, this is not an advertisement and no, I do not work for Microsoft. When I see something that I think is cool (and maybe even useful) I like to pass it on!

Maybe it is not technically just for cloud computing. I contend, however, that LightSwitch is an enabling technology that effectively democratizes parts of “the cloud”. Why? Well, there has always been a segment of the overall cloud market that is specifically targeted at custom application development. This is usually Platform as a Service (PaaS), but not always. LightSwitch greatly enhances the productivity of professional custom application developers. In addition, LightSwitch puts custom application development (including prototyping) into the hands of folks whose primary job description is not “programmer”.

No doubt there will be some who are going to squawk about how crappy application generators are and how this, that, the other thing and that the aesthetics of the generated code suck. The only real way to build an application is to code everything out yourself, right? That may be true, but it is not the reality of today’s world for most.

There will be others who will say that because it is Microsoft it is crap and you really need to be doing Ruby on Rails or PHP or something else because it’s way better. Maybe they are right, maybe they aren’t. That’s okay. LightSwitch is probably not for them anyway.

But there are some of us out there in the real world who are just trying to get things done. In the past we may have used tools like dBase or Access. Sometimes that was the right tool for the job and it served our clients very well. A large percentage of our applications are “Forms Over Data” anyway. 

I see LightSwitch kind of in the same light, but perhaps a little better. After all it is .NET and we can always go ahead and customize our application using a familiar framework and toolset. There are some of us who are just trying to solve problems for ourselves and for our clients. We don’t have the luxury of hand-coding everything. LightSwitch may be for us.

LightSwitch can transparently deploy to Azure, Amazon EC2, on-premises servers or even the desktop. This significantly reduces the degree of vendor lock-in although, admittedly, you are still locked-in to Windows. Still, that is a fair degree of flexibility and does give a number of runtime choices from the same code base. So, while it may not technically be about cloud computing, LightSwitch does give us an easy route to the cloud.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Does LightSwitch make sense for you? Is it easy for you to use or do you see a need for Instructor Led Training in LightSwitch?

Kevin Kell

Interoperability in the Cloud

One of the nice things about cloud computing is that it allows for choice.

That is, I am free to choose from any and all available technologies at any time. Yes, vendor lock-in is a concern, but I am not really that concerned about it! Here’s why: In the cloud, there are almost always multiple ways to make something work. A bold assertion perhaps, but here is what I mean.

Let’s say you come from a Windows programming background. Let’s say you want to deploy a simple contact management application to the Cloud. Cool. The Azure Platform has you covered. You could easily create and deploy your app to Azure. Probably you need some kind of persistent storage and, being a relational database kind of person, you choose SQL Azure.

So, here is that app: http://mycontacts.cloudapp.net/ (you may see a certificate warning you can ignore — I assure you the site is safe!)

Now let’s say you really like the relational database that SQL Azure offers, but, for some reason, you don’t want to host your application on Windows Azure. Why not? Well, for one thing, it may be too expensive, at least for what you want to do right now. How can we reduce the startup cost? Sure, if this application goes viral you may need to scale it … but for now what? Maybe you could choose to deploy to an EC2 t1.micro Instance, monitor it, and see what happens.

So, here is that app: http://50.18.104.190/MyContacts/

If some readers recognize this application as one created with Visual Studio LightSwitch they are correct! The same app has been seamlessly deployed both to Azure and EC2 right from within Visual Studio. They both hit the same backend database on SQL Azure.

Here are the Economics:

Option:

Azure Small

Azure Extra Small

EC2 t1.micro

Hourly Cost

$0.12

$0.05

$0.03

Monthly Cost

$86.40

$36.00

$21.60

SQL Azure Monthly Cost

$9.99

$9.99

$9.99

Total:

$96.39

$45.99

$31.59

There are differences, of course. Azure is a PaaS whereas EC2 is IaaS. If you are unclear on the difference please refer to this excellent post by my colleague Chris Czarnecki.

The point is developers (and organizations) have choice in the cloud. Choice is a good thing. In the future perhaps I will port the front end to Java and host it on Google App Engine, but that is a topic for another time!

Go ahead … add yourself to my contacts. Let’s see how this thing scales!

Kevin

Creating an Azure Application without Writing Code

In Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing Introduction course when we introduce the topic of Platform as a Service (PaaS), we say that the vendor offerings can be broadly divided into two categories. There are PaaS for programmers which require custom programs to be written and there are PaaS for non-programmers which allow for application development without programming. We examine Azure as an example of the first kind and Force.com as an example of the second. Things can and do change quickly in the cloud, though!

Microsoft has recently released Beta 2 of their Visual Studio LightSwitch product. LightSwitch is positioned as a product non-programmers can use to build business applications without coding. If necessary, however, custom code can be added to the generated project. These applications are sometimes referred to as “forms over data” because they typically allow for the creation, retrieval, update and deletion (CRUD) of database records via a user form.

LightSwitch Beta 1 has been around for some time. What’s new with Beta 2, however, is the ability to deploy applications directly to Azure. So it seems Microsoft is moving towards providing a cloud application development option that is targeted towards developers who may not necessarily be hardcore programmers.

Getting started with LightSwitch is pretty straightforward. If you already have Visual Studio 2010 you need to make sure that you have SP1 installed. Then you can download and install LightSwitch.

Once installed there will be a LightSwitch project type available in Visual Studio. LightSwitch projects can be deployed to the desktop, the Web or to Azure. There is a publishing wizard which seamlessly handles deployment to Azure and migration of the database schema from the developer’s SQL Server Express Edition to SQL Azure.

This screencast walks through creating a simple LightSwitch project and deploying it to Azure:

The evolution of LightSwitch is an example of how vendor offerings can and do shift and change as the various players compete in the cloud. For a good grounding in cloud fundamentals Learning Tree offers a comprehensive hands-on introductory course. We also have an excellent course in cloud security as well as Azure programming for the more technically inclined!

I hope to see you at a Learning Tree education center soon!

Kevin


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