Installing CakePHP from the Windows Azure App Gallery

In my previous post Application Frameworks now part of the Windows Azure Web Sites Gallery I introduced the concept of ready to install application frameworks which can be provisioned as part of a new Windows Azure Web Site. The benefits include having a ready to go starting point for building out your application with a tested and fully capable package which includes common Application Settings as well as the proper configuration for IIS.

Today, I’m happy to announce a new addition to the App Frameworks section of the Windows Azure App Gallery, CakePHP. Let’s take a look at the steps to get CakePHP running in Windows Azure Web Sites using the new Gallery item.

Setup CakePHP on Windows Azure Web Sites

To follow along with the example below, sign up for a Windows Azure Free Trial.

In order to provision a Web Site from the Windows Azure App Gallery we must first sign into the Windows Azure Management Portal. Once you’ve logged into the portal you will see the command bar at the bottom of the browse, click New.

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This will open the drawer and enable you to select from a variety of different services which you can provision, for this example we’re interested in Web Sites. Select ComputeWeb Sites > Gallery.

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The gallery modal will pop up and allow you to select from a number of well-known open source CMS, Frameworks and other tools.  Select App Frameworks > CakePHP or scroll through the list to find CakePHP.

At the time of writing this article the CakePHP version in the Gallery was 2.3.6.

windowsazure-websites-gallery-appframework

Once CakePHP is selected, click the next arrow at the bottom of the screen to advance to the Configuration page in the wizard.

websites-configure-cakephp

In order to configure a secure deployment of CakePHP, the Cake Foundation suggests including a Security Salt and Cipher Seed. The Web Sites team has conveniently surfaced those settings to the Configuration page, which will get injected into the proper configuration setting in the app/Config/core.php file.

During the configuration, you can select an existing MySQL Database or create a new MySQL Database with your new site. If you needed to create a new MySQL Database, you will receive this screen which will ask for the database name, a region to deploy the database in [Note: It’s a good practice to deploy your database in the same region as your application to reduce latency], you will also need to accept the terms from our partner ClearDB who supplies the MySQL Databases in Windows Azure.

websites-mysql-cakephp-database

That’s it! After clicking the checkmark to complete the wizard your new Web Site will start to provision which includes a configured version of CakePHP which is a great starter point to your next CakePHP Application.

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Once the Status changes to Running, you’re ready to view your new site. You can do this as simply as clicking the BROWSE icon in the Command Bar.

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Congratulations, you have yourself a brand new CakePHP Installation in Windows Azure Web Sites.

WindowsAzure-WebSites-CakePHP

CakePHP is setup, Now what do I do?

Now that the CakePHP Framework is in place it’s time to start building an application. To do so, you’re going to need the source on your local machine.

Download your Web Site files with Git

With Windows Azure Web Sites you can deploy using many source control repositories, this includes Git. However, Git isn’t enabled by default when you create a site from the gallery, so lets find out how to enable Git Deployment (and in our case, a remote repository to clone from).

If you click into the details of your new Web Site in the Windows Azure Portal, you will see a Quick Glance section on the DASHBOARD. Click on Set up deployment from source control to create a new repository in your Windows Azure Web Site.

 

websites-set-up-source-control

Like I said above, there are many options for source control systems, select Local Git Repository then the next arrow to continue.

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It may take a few seconds for your repository to be created, so this notification will keep you amused in the meantime.

websites-create-git-repo

Once the repository is created, the portal should redirect to the DEPLOYMENTS tab. Copy the Git URL, you’ll need this to clone your repository on your local machine.

websites-copy-git-url

On your local machine, open Git Bash or your favourite Git command line utility, type the following pasting the git url you copied above in place of <git-url> below, then hit enter.

git clone <git-url>

local-clone-website-repo

You now have a local git repository of your CakePHP Application.

You may have noticed both the Vendor and Plugins directories are missing, this is because they are empty and Git does not track empty folders. Simply create the folder locally and place a file in the directories in order to upload third party code or plugins, respectively.

Download your Web Site files with FTP

To download your Web Site files with FTP you will need your favourite FTP tool, this could be a number of different tools including the command line. Here are the steps you will need to take to configure FTP downloads from your site, I’ll leave the actual downloading up to you.

On the DASHBOARD screen in the portal under the Quick Glance section, you will need to set (or reset, incase you forgot) your deployment credentials. Click on the link which allows you to set the deployment credentials.

websites-setup-deployment-credentials

Fill out the form providing your username, password and confirm password.

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Once you’ve set your credentials, scroll a down the Quick Glance section until you find your FTP or FTPS Host Name.

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Notice that your FTP User is a combination of the web site name and the user name provided above, the password is the password which was created when you set your deployment credentials.

Enjoy developing with CakePHP!

New Windows Azure SDK for PHP Feature: RunPHP (on Windows)

If you are developing PHP on Windows for use on Windows Azure, there is a fancy new feature which may catch your attention. First things first, let’s run through the basics of installing the Windows Azure SDK for PHP in order to set up your environment to get ready for PHP development for Windows Azure.

This new feature is part of the Windows Azure PowerShell and Windows Azure Emulators components which is downloadable through the Web Platform Installer.

Install Windows Azure PowerShell and Windows Azure Emulators for PHP

  1. Open Web Platform Installer via the Windows Azure PowerShell and Windows Azure Emulators deep link.
  2. Click Run.

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  3. Accept UAC prompt.

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  4. Click Install.

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  5. Click I Accept.

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  6. Go to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee.

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  7. Click Finish.

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How To: Use RunPHP to test a PHP Application on Windows

In order to understand how to use runphp, let’s quickly build a sample PHP application to show off the functionality of runphp.

Now that we have a simple application set up, let’s open a command prompt to use runphp. I will use Windows PowerShell to execute commands, in order to use runphp, PowerShell will need to be run as Administrator.

To run PowerShell as Administrator, right click on the PowerShell icon and select Run as Administrator.

Navigate to the path which contains your application, then execute the command runphp.

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There are a number of things going on when executing RunPHP, let’s enumerate the high level steps:

  1. Copies an apphost.config file to the current directory
  2. Runs appcmd.exe from IIS Express
    1. Creates a new Website based on the current directory
    2. Configures a HTTP Handler to map *.php files to php-cgi.exe interpreter
  3. Starts IIS Express and binds the website to an open port.

To view and test your website, open a browser visit the localhost address with the appropriate port which the website was bound to during the runphp process.

http://localhost:8080

Once you finish testing, you can shut down IIS Express by opening the PowerShell window and pressing the ‘Q’ key.

Now that you’ve finishing testing your application on your local machine, you can deploy to Windows Azure Web Sites.

Application Frameworks Now Part of the Windows Azure Web Sites Gallery

A recent addition to the Windows Azure Web Sites Gallery has me very excited, support for installing Web Application Frameworks. Installing a Web Application Framework from the Windows Azure Web Sites Gallery provides the benefit of speed and simplicity during setup by means of implicit configuration for Windows Azure Web Sites.

Let’s take a look at how we can set up Django, a Web Framework for Python applications, using the Windows Azure Management Portal.

Setting up Django on Windows Azure Web Sites

This article makes the assumption that you already have a Windows Azure Subscription. If this is not the case sign up for the 90 day free trial of Windows Azure.

  1. Log into the Windows Azure Management Portal.
  2. Click on the + New button
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  3. Select Compute > Web Site > From Gallery
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  4. Select App Frameworks
    gallery-appframeworks
  5. Click Next
    gallery-appframeworks-django
  6. Click Complete
    waws-django
  7. Click Browse
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  8. Start Building!

    Did you know there are Python Tools for Visual Studio?

    waws-django-works

Why is this useful?

Having these packages installable from the Windows Azure Web Site Gallery ensures that you’re receiving a great experience when using the Application Framework of your choice. Once the site is configured, simply download the files using FTP to begin development, or upload your application specific files from your local installation of the same framework.

Fix for WordPress Plugin Update Issues on Windows Azure Web Sites

Good News!

In a recent service update to Windows Azure Web Sites, the Windows Azure Web Sites team has updated the version of Wincache for PHP 5.3 sites to WinCache 1.3.4, which resolves this issue!

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A while back I posted an article called Workaround for deleted folder still exists in Windows Azure Web Sites, which talks about how to get around an issue specifically with WordPress plugin upgrading. Recently, on twitter there have been a few people running into this issue, so I thought I would go into a little bit more detail on the issue and how to work around it, permanently.

The Cause of the WP Plugin Issue

In order to dig to the root of the problem, let’s take a few steps back here and get a little bit better of an understanding of the different pieces at play.

PHP

PHP is an interpreted language, simply put it is not compiled into machine code, but instead read and executed step-by-step by an interpreter in this instance, the PHP runtime.

This means that every line would need to be read, interpreted and executed on each request. Which in computer science we understand is not very efficient. For this reason PHP can employ caching to avoid parsing every instruction on each request, instead it stores a certain amount of interpreted instructions in shared memory.

IIS

It’s no secret that Windows Azure Web Sites leverages IIS as it’s Web Server. IIS uses FastCGI to interact with the PHP Interpreter. With the Web Server being able to interact with an interpreter, we have the means to serve up PHP code on IIS. As stated above, PHP can leverage a cache in order to avoid parsing each line of a script, enter WinCache.

WinCache

WinCache is installed and enabled by default for PHP Runtimes maintained by the Windows Azure Web Sites team.

WinCache is a caching system which can be enabled for PHP application which run on Windows  leveraging IIS. This is done by Installing WinCache, then adding a reference to php_wincache.dll from within your php.ini file.

 

By default, Windows Azure Web Sites has PHP 5.3 installed with WinCache 1.1.

Now that we have a better understanding of the different pieces involved, let’s take a closer look at the issue at hand.

There is a bug in WinCache 1.1 [Bug #59352] which causes a lock on a folder which isn’t released until IIS is restarted, which is why this workaround is effective at fixing the issue.

How to Resolve the Plugin Updating Issue

The resolution is fairly simple. The bug has been fixed in a newer release of WinCache (version 1.3 which works with PHP 5.4).

Recently, PHP 5.4 was enabled in Windows Azure Web Sites making the fix as simple as following these steps to Enable PHP 5.4 in Windows Azure Web Sites.

Happy Coding!

Provisioning a MySQL Database from the Windows Azure Store

The Windows Azure Store is available as part of the Windows Azure Management Portal, a convenient resource for all of your Windows Azure needs, which can be accessed from a variety of Devices including your favorite iDevice, Surface, Windows Phone, Mac or PC.

At the time of writing, the Windows Azure Store is currently only available in the US.

Click on the + New in the Windows Azure Management Portal Taskbar, then select STORE.

CustomCMS-Store-TaskbarDrawer

The Store opens in a modal dialogue, either scroll down or filter to APP SERVICES to find ClearDB MySQL Database, then click the [next] arrow.

CustomCMS-Store-AppService-ClearDB

Select an appropriate database size (or stay with the Free plan and upgrade later once the site is live) and select the Subscription to charge. Provide a name for the Database (can be left with the default, a name will be assigned for automatically), select the region to provision the database in (whenever possible, try to provision the Web Site and database in the same region to avoid latency). Click the [next] arrow.

CustomCMS-Store-ClearDB-Create

The following screen will provide an overview of the monthly charges of the new MySQL Database. Be sure to review the terms of use and privacy statement, then click the [purchase] checkmark.

CustomCMS-Store-ClearDB-Purchase

After the Add-on has been provisioned, click on the Connection Info button in the Taskbar.

CustomCMS-Store-ClearDB-ConnectionInfo

Copy the connection string for use in your application. Alternatively, a newly created database can be added as a Linked Resource to an existing Windows Azure Web Site, the credentials will be surfaced under the connection string section of the CONFIGURE tab.

Brian Swan has an interesting solution for parsing a connection string from the connection string settings found in the CONFIGURE section of a Windows Azure Web Site in his blog entry getting database connection information in Windows Azure Web Sites

CustomCMS-Store-ClearDB-ConnectionInfo-Details

Stay Cloudy my Friends…

Continuous Deployment in Windows Azure Web Sites

Automation of tasks is one thing that I am an advocate of in my development projects. Getting functionality that is repeatable with a low risk of human error for a one time cost is a sound business decision and as a developer, keeps your hands on rolling more code for a greater percentage of your work day. It’s a Win-Win scenario.

The Windows Azure Web Sites team along side the Kudu team have added Continuous Deployment functionality in Windows Azure Web Sites with support for three familiar social source code repositories: CodePlex, GitHub and BitBucket. The team has also added support for Contiguous Integration using Team Foundation Service [a new Cloud Based offering of Team Foundation Server].

Windows Azure Web Sites now allows Continuous Deployment from Private Repositories from both GitHub and BitBucket.

In this post:

  1. Create a Windows Azure Web Site
    1. Enable Git Deployment
  2. Associate a Source Code Repository
    1. Associate a GitHub Repository to Windows Azure Web Sites
    2. Associate a BitBucket Repository to Windows Azure Web Sites

Create a Windows Azure Web Site

To avoid reinventing the wheel, you can follow instructions outlined on the Windows Azure Develop Center on how to Create a Windows Azure Web Site and Enable Git Deployment.

NOTE: If you do not need a MySQL database, or have decided to go with another database option, choose Quick Create from the Web Site menu instead of Create with Database.

Associate a Source Code Repository

In order to facilitate the Continuous Deployment it’s necessary to have a centralized location to pull the website code from, in this particular blog entry we’re going to use GitHub and BitBucket.

Initializing a Git Repository will redirect the Management Portal to the DEPLOYMENTS tab.

Now that Git has been enabled use the collapsible menus to select how you would like to deploy code to the new Windows Azure Web Site.

Associate a GitHub Repository to Windows Azure Web Sites

GitHub-Deployment-Accordion

Expand the item labeled Deploy from my GitHub repository.

GitHub-Deployment-Steps

Click on Authorize Windows Azure. This will open a window to federate with GitHub, you will need to approve the ability for Windows Azure to access your GitHub account.

GitHub-Authentication

Once access has been granted, the browser will redirected back to the Management Portal to a screen to select either a Public or Private repository.

GitHub-Select-Repository

After selecting the repository to be published, click on the check mark to start the deployment process.

If your repository is empty, push to GitHub to trigger deployment to Windows Azure.

GitHub-First-Deployment

Each subsequent push to GitHub will trigger a service hook and begin a deployment of the latest bits to the Web Site. Now that the deployment has been pulled into the Web Site, clicking on Browse in the Taskbar Drawer will launch the web application.

GitHub-Published-Custom-WordPress-Site

Associate a BitBucket Repository to Windows Azure Web Sites

BitBucket-Deployment-Accordion

Just like associating a GitHub account to a Windows Azure Web Site, expand the Deploy from my BitBucket repository. Authorize Windows Azure to access a BitBucket account by federating authentication through BitBucket.

BitBucket-Deployment-Steps

After clicking on Authorize Windows Azure, a prompt to authenticate with BitBucket.

BitBucket-Authentication

After signing into BitBucket a prompt to select the Public or Private repository to deploy to Windows Azure Web Sites.

BitBucket-Select-Repository

Unlike GitHub, BitBucket will require you push a change to the repository before the Service Hook will deploy code to the Windows Azure Web Site.

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Once a push has been made to the private BitBucket repository, the deployment will be pushed to the Web Site.

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In the taskbar drawer at the bottom of the browser viewport, click the Browse Button.

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A new window will open and the site will display the web files which were pulled into the Web Site.

Conclusion

Continuous Deployment is a great way to introduce new features or functionality to your customers in an automated fashion. With the new support for Private Repositories, Windows Azure Web Sites can help delivery stunning web sites which utilize either open source projects from public repositories, or provide clients with a customized solution from a private repository.

Stay Cloud my Friends…