We just made some really awesome announcements about Windows Azure last week. One of those was a new service we have called Windows Azure Web Sites. Up until now, Windows Azure was about running dedicated hardware for your applications, but in a cloud environment. With this new feature we will make it easy and affordable to host simpler sites, ones that don’t needed dedicated hardware. A good example of that would be blogs, like this one.
The other great news is that during this preview period (and for the next 15 months of so) you can host 10 web sites for free. After that we will have pricing information available.
The new portal makes it really easy to create and deploy a site. You have the choice of just creating an empty application container that you can deploy your own bits to (via FTP, webdeloy, TFS or GIT push), or you can create an application based on a product in the gallery.
In this example I will be moving my blog from my own private hosting to Windows Azure Web Sites. I will also be moving from one platform to WordPress. Why WordPress? It is very feature complete, and it has the biggest community providing themes and plugins, which makes things much easier.
The first step is to go to WindowsAzure.com and sign up for a free trial. I have had posts on that in the past, and it is very easy to do. One note, you will need a credit card, but this is to prove you are a human. It will not be charged.
Once you are signed up for the free trial, you will be able to log into the new management portal at manage.windowsazure.com. When you login for the first time you won’t have any sites or services running, and your menu will be fairly empty. Click on the Web Sites menu item on the left.
Click on the big plus sign icon in the lower left that lets you create new sites. The menu will fly up. Go ahead and select ‘web sites’ and then ‘gallery’.
You will now have to give a name for your blog. In my case I am calling mine bhp-blog. This will be the host name for your site, with the full address ending in azurewebsites.net. So, the natural web address for this blog will be bhp-blog.azurewebsites.net.
WordPress uses a database to store all of your awesome content. So that you don’t have to go get a degree in database ninjaness, we will automatically create the database you need in your database server. And if you don’t have a server, we will create one of those for you as well. To create the database just select “Create a new MySQL database” in the dropdown.
You will also have to select which datacenter you want your site to run in. Right now, if you want to run it in the US, you can only run it in the East US datacenter. As we move to releasing sites into production we will expand into the rest of the datacenters.
Because we are creating a new db, we need to provide a name for the database. You will have to tell us which region (aka datacenter) to run the db in. Make sure you select the same location for both your site and database. By placing them in the same datacenter you will make sure they are close for great performance. You CAN put them in different datacenters, but you will slow your site down because of the latency of connection to datacenters across continents.
As soon as you click the checkbox and the final go button Windows Azure will start allocation resources, moving bits, and setting up your site. You will go back to the main menu, but this time, instead of being empty, it will show your new site. It should be in a ‘creating’ status, but if you blink you might miss it, since the creating process only takes a few moments.
Once the site is done being setup, and it is ready, you can click the browse button at the bottom of the screen (or just go to the URL you setup earlier) to visit your site. Since I used WordPress the site will start with the ‘welcome to your blog’ page, where you can start configuring your blog, adding posts, and becoming a famous blog-diva.
This whole process (once you have signed up for a free trial) maybe takes ten minutes, tops. So have fun, and let’s see what you can do! Let me know if you have any questions. You just read this post on the blog that I created in this post. How meta is that?