Creating and Using Custom Performance Counters in Windows Azure

Building software, especially software running on servers, requires some way to look “inside” the running application. Using the debugger is one way, but you cannot use a debugger on production applications. A better way is to use performance counters. These give you a way to see things, like how hard the CPU working, but also how many orders have been processed by your system. The first performance counter is provided by the system, the latter you can build yourself. Before Azure SDK 1.3 you couldn’t create your own performance counters because your code doesn’t get write access to the region of the registry where you register your custom performance counters. But with elevated startup tasks this is easy. In the blog post I will show you how you can create a startup task to create custom performance counters, and how to use them in your role. Commence by creating a new Visual Studio Cloud project. Add a single worker role. We’ll use this role to illustrate using a performance counter. Add another project, now a Console project (call it InstallPerfCounters). We’ll use this console application as the startup task. Implement the InstallPerfCounters console project as follows: Code Snippet class Program {   static void Main(string[] args)   {     const string categoryName = "U2U";     const string categoryHelp = "U2U demo counters";       if (!PerformanceCounterCategory.Exists(categoryName))     {       var counters = new System.Diagnostics.CounterCreationDataCollection();       counters.Add(new CounterCreationData       {         CounterName = "# secs/running",         CounterHelp = "How long has this been running",         CounterType = PerformanceCounterType.NumberOfItems32       });         var category = PerformanceCounterCategory.Create(categoryName,         categoryHelp, PerformanceCounterCategoryType.MultiInstance, counters);     }   } } This uses the same kind of code you would use anywhere else to create new performance counters. Now we need to install this as a startup task. Add a folder to the worker role project, calling it startup. We need to add two files here, one the console project we just made, and a command file. To copy the executable, let’s make first sure we’re using the release version at all time. Open the configuration manager: Select Release as the configuration: Build your project, ensuring everything compiles nicely. Now right-click the startup folder from the worker role project and select Add Existing Item… Browse to the release folder of the console project, select the executable and choose Add As Link from the drop-down: This should add the executable to the startup folder. Select it, and select Copy Always in the properties folder: Now we are ready to add the command file. Don’t use Visual Studio for this, because it will add the Byte Order Mark which is not supported by Azure. The easiest way to do this is by right-clicking the startup folder, and select “Open Folder in Windows Explorer”. Then right-click the folder’s contents, and add a new text document: Rename it to installcmd.cmd. Go back to Visual Studio. In Solution Explorer select “Show All Files”: The installcmd.cmd should appear, you can now right-click it and select “Include in project”. Edit it to the following contents: Code Snippet %~dp0InstallPerfCounters.exe /q /log %~dp0pc_install.htm exit /b 0   Now open the ServiceDefinition.csdef file from your cloud project and add a startup task: Code Snippet <Startup>   <Task commandLine="startup\installCmd.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple" /> </Startup>   This should take care of installing the performance counter. Now let’s use it in our worker role. First we need to create the performance counter instance, and then update it. In this simple example we’ll make the counter increment once each second. So implement the worker role’s run as follows: Code Snippet public override void Run() {   // This is a sample worker implementation. Replace with your logic.   Trace.TraceInformation("UsingPerfCounters entry point called");     const string categoryName = "U2U";     PerformanceCounter secsRunning = new PerformanceCounter()   {     CategoryName = categoryName,     CounterName = "# secs/running",     MachineName = "." /* current machine */,     InstanceName = Environment.MachineName,     ReadOnly = false   };   var counterExists = PerformanceCounterCategory.Exists(categoryName);     while (true)   {     Thread.Sleep(TimeSpan.FromSeconds(1));     if (counterExists)     {       secsRunning.Increment();     }     Trace.WriteLine("Working", "Information");   } }   Publish this solution in Azure, not forgetting to turn on Remove desktop. Also note that I turn in IntelliTrace, whichh is great for debugging those nasty deployment problems… When you complete publishing you can now remote desktop to the instance and use PerfMon to look at your custom performance counter. Or you can use Azure Diagnostics….

Silverlight and the Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus

This blog post will show you how to allow a Silverlight application to call a service over the Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus. The problem you need to solve is that Silverlight will look for a “clientaccesspolicy.xml” at the root uri of the service. When I tried it myself I couldn’t find any “how to” on this topic so I decided to turn this into a blog post. If anyone else has this blogged, sorry I am such a bad internet searcher . So, you’ve just build a nice Silverlight application that uses some WCF service you’re hosting locally. You’ve done all the steps to make it work on your machine, including the “clientaccesspolicy.xml” to enable cross-domain communication. The only thing is that you want to keep hosting the service locally and/or move it to another machine without updating the Silverlight client. You’ve heard that the Windows Azure Service Bus allows you to do this more easily so you decide to use it. This is your current service configuration (notice the localhost address!). Code Snippet <service name="SilverlightAndAppFabric.TheService" >   <endpoint name="HELLO"             address="http://localhost:1234/rest"             behaviorConfiguration="REST"             binding="webHttpBinding"             bindingConfiguration="default"             contract="SilverlightAndAppFabric.IHello" /> </service> What you now need to do is to move it to the AppFabric Service bus. This is easy. Of course you need to get a subscription for Windows Azure and set up the AppFabric service bus… Look for somewhere else on this, there’s lots of this around. Then you change the address, binding and behavior like this: You need an endpoint behavior, because your service needs to authenticate to the service bus (so they can send you the bill): Code Snippet <endpointBehaviors>   <behavior name="REST">     <webHttp />     <transportClientEndpointBehavior>       <clientCredentials>         <sharedSecret           issuerName="owner"           issuerSecret="---your secret key here please---" />       </clientCredentials>     </transportClientEndpointBehavior>   </behavior> </endpointBehaviors> You (might) need a binding configuration to allow clients to access your service anonymously: Code Snippet <webHttpRelayBinding>   <binding name="default" >     <security relayClientAuthenticationType="None">     </security>   </binding> </webHttpRelayBinding>   And of course you need to change the endpoint to use the WebHttpRelayBinding: Code Snippet <endpoint name="HELLO"           address=""           behaviorConfiguration="REST"           binding="webHttpRelayBinding"           bindingConfiguration="default"           contract="SilverlightAndAppFabric.IHello" />   This should to the trick. Yes, when you try the REST service using Internet Explorer you get back the intended result. Now you update the address in your Silverlight application to use the service bus endpoint: This is the old call: Code Snippet wc.DownloadStringAsync(new Uri("http://localhost:1234/rest/hello"));   And you change it to: Code Snippet wc.DownloadStringAsync(new Uri(""));   Please note the switch to https and the service bus address. You run your Silverlight client and it fails with some strange security error! The problem is that Silverlight will try to access the clientaccesspolicy.xml file from your new address. Since this is now the service bus this will not work. To solve it you simply add another REST endpoint that will return the clientaccesspolicy from this Uri. Start with the service contract: Code Snippet [ServiceContract] public interface IClientAccessPolicy {   [OperationContract]   [WebGet(UriTemplate = "clientaccesspolicy.xml")]   Message GetPolicyFile(); } Implement it: Code Snippet public Message GetPolicyFile() {   WebOperationContext.Current.OutgoingRequest.ContentType = "text/xml";     using (FileStream stream = File.Open("clientaccesspolicy.xml", FileMode.Open))   {     using (XmlReader xmlReader = XmlReader.Create(stream))     {       Message m = Message.CreateMessage(MessageVersion.None, "", xmlReader);       using (MessageBuffer buffer = m.CreateBufferedCopy(1000))       {         return buffer.CreateMessage();       }     }   } }   And make sure it returns the right policy. This is what gave me a lot of headache, so here it is: Code Snippet <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?> <access-policy>   <cross-domain-access>     <policy>       <allow-from http-request-headers="*">         <domain uri="http://*"/>         <domain uri="https://*"/>       </allow-from>       <grant-to>         <resource path="/" include-subpaths="true"/>       </grant-to>     </policy>   </cross-domain-access> </access-policy>   Pay special attention to the allow-from element. By default this will allow SOAP calls, not REST calls. For explanations read the documentation. You might want to edit it anyway. Now add a similar REST endpoint, making sure the clientaccesspolicy is at the root level: Code Snippet <endpoint name="CLIENTACCESSPOLICY"           address=""           behaviorConfiguration="REST"           binding="webHttpRelayBinding"           bindingConfiguration="default"           contract="SilverlightAndAppFabric.IClientAccessPolicy" />   Done! A working example (you will have to change the client credentials to your own) can be downloaded from the U2U site here.

Azure Inter-role communication using callback instead of queues

I’m currently playing with Azure and the Azure training kit, and I learned something cool today. When you work with Azure you can setup multiple worker roles for your Azure application. If you want to make these roles talk to one another you can use the queuing mechanism which is part of Azure. But you can also use WCF dual interface mechanism. Imagine you want to build a chat application using Azure and WCF. In this case you define a worker role that exposes a dual interface like this: Code Snippet [ServiceContract(     Namespace = "urn:WindowsAzurePlatformKit:Labs:AzureTalk:2009:10",     CallbackContract = typeof(IClientNotification),     SessionMode = SessionMode.Required)] public interface IChatService {   /// <summary>   /// Called by client to announce they are connected at this chat endpoint.   /// </summary>   /// <param name="userName">The user name of the client.</param>   /// <returns>The ClientInformation object for the new session.</returns>   [OperationContract(IsInitiating = true)]   ClientInformation Register(string userName);     /// <summary>   /// Sends a message to a user.   /// </summary>   /// <param name="message">The message to send.</param>   /// <param name="sessionId">The recipient's session ID.</param>   [OperationContract(IsInitiating = false)]   void SendMessage(string message, string sessionId);     /// <summary>   /// Returns a list of connected clients.   /// </summary>   /// <returns>The list of active sessions.</returns>   [OperationContract(IsInitiating = false)]   IEnumerable<ClientInformation> GetConnectedClients(); } The IClientNotification interface is the call-back interface which is implemented by the client of the service. The client calls the Register method on the server, which then can keep track of the client by using the callback interface: Code Snippet IClientNotification callback =   OperationContext.Current.GetCallbackChannel<IClientNotification>();   If you host the service as a single instance, all clients will register to the same service, so this service can easily track each client. But if you grow and start using multiple instances of your service in Azure, each client will register to a single instance, so each instance will know only about its own clients. If two clients, registered to different instances, want to communicate, the services will have to handle the communication for this. The solution is easy, make them also expose the IClientNotification callback service interface using internal endpoints, so they can communicate to each other: Code Snippet public class ChatService : IChatService, IClientNotification   Of course each service will have to be able to find the other service instances. This you can do with the RoleEnvironment class, which you can use in your worker role class: Code Snippet var current = RoleEnvironment.CurrentRoleInstance; var endPoints = current.Role.Instances                 .Where(instance => instance != current)                 .Select(instance => instance.InstanceEndpoints["NotificationService"]);   This does require the worker role to define an internal endpoint. You can do this in Visual Studio 2010. Select the worker role’s properties, go to the endpoint tab and enter an internal endpoint: The rest of the code is straightforward (of your comfortable with WCF that is) and can be found in the Azure Training Kit (look for the Worker Role Communication lab).