How to Speed up Windows Azure Deployments

The most common question I get asked about Windows Azure [aside from cost] is “How do I speed up my Deployment”. In this post I’d like to address this question and hit on a few things that most people don’t really think about in terms of what it means to deploy to Windows Azure.

Upgrade Hosted Service instead of New Deployment

Many people aren’t aware of this functionality and it can save you some serious time. Upgrading your service doesn’t shut off the Guest VM thus being able to deploy new bits to an existing hosted service is quicker. Perform an In-Place Upgrade.

Gotchas

Cannot:

  • Change the Type of Role that is Deployed: Web, Worker or VM Role
  • Increase the Size or Number of Instances of your Service
  • Change Configuration Settings or Values
  • Add/Change the number of Input or Internal Endpoints or their Values
  • Add/Change Certificates deployed to your instance
  • Add/Change Local Resources for your instance

Windows Azure - In-Place Upgrade

Limit Your Startup Tasks or Move to a VM Role

Startup tasks are one of my favorite additions to the Windows Azure Deployment Model. They introduced the ability to add required functionality to the Guest OS which would have been rather tedious or almost impossible to set up using C# during the Role Startup [Read more about the Windows Azure Role Startup Life Cycle].

Even though I love startup tasks so much you need to learn when enough is enough. Even though there is a timeout for startup tasks, any lengthy execution of a startup task does effect the startup time of your role.

Introducing the VM Role

With the Role Startup Cycle being a continuous process [occurs every time the role is recycled or scaled out]. The VM Role takes the repetition out of the process as additional functionality or components can be pre-loaded/configured then the entire VM can be uploaded in order to replace the typical Windows Azure Guest OS.

Learn how to Create a VM Role and get rid of all of the overhead of countless installations of the same software in your critical business application.

Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V

VIP Swap to Avoid Downtime or Update Deployment

The benefit of the VIP [Virtual IP] SWAP is it allows a brand new service to be deployed [in the staging slot of your Windows Azure Environment] then Upgraded to the Production Slot to be accessed by the World. This provides the benefit of minimal downtime as the VIP Swap operation does an internal DNS Change within the Windows Azure Platform. If the deployment requires a to change the physical deployment of your application [which cannot be performed during an in-place upgrade] the VIP swap is a perfect scenario to deploy an enhancement to your application.

To do a VIP Swap you must have at lease an application deployed to the Staging Slot. [Note: A deployment cannot be VIP swapped from Production to an empty Staging Slot.]

Windows Azure - VIP Swap

 

Windows Azure Accelerator for Web Roles

Although this functionality is not officially supported by Microsoft it provides the ability to quickly deploy or update multiple websites deployed to Windows Azure. If you overload your Web Roles by adding multiple Websites using the full IIS features in Windows Azure, this is definitely a no brainer.

image

The Windows Azure Accelerator for Web Roles deploys websites to a Windows Azure Storage account which is frequently polled by a Worker Process [overridden Run method in the RoleEntryPoint] in your Web Role. When changes are found in the Storage Account, the Worker Process pulls the new bits into the Directory in which the website is set up in IIS within your Windows Azure Web Role.

Keep in mind that the Windows Azure Accelerator for Web Roles is a solution that is deployed to the Web Role Instance, which means regardless of if you have an application deployed through it you will be playing for your instance to be deployed. The full time deployment of this Accelerator does give the advantage of a deployment time of mere seconds.

Conclusion

Hopefully this post has helped you understand how to potentially increase deployment times in Windows Azure.

Happy Clouding!