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Introducing Windows Azure Mobile Services

AKA – The birth of ZUMO

Today is a proud day. Some months ago I left the Workflow team to join a new effort in Azure. We conceived a new project, codenamed ZUMO and our goal was to make Windows Azure even more compelling to mobile developers.

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We set about trying to get inside the mind of the modern app developer. We met with many individuals and companies building mobile apps on all kinds of platforms (many weren’t Microsoft-centric developers). We spent many hours building apps that connected to Azure to see things from the other side of the fence. We surveyed the windows phone developer community and met with groups and individuals working on their awesome app idea. We even attended a bunch of hackathons and coded with others throughout the night in San Francisco and Seattle. It was a blast.

It was obvious that the best apps are connected. Everybody we worked with wanted cloud capabilities for their application. It’s a key tenet of the modern application that we understand our users’ identity, and that we can send them timely updates via Push Notifications – even when they’re not using our app. And of course, people need powerful, structured storage options to achieve the collaborative and social features they want to deliver.

However, during this process we spotted a few interesting trends. Perhaps most interestingly, we found that as much as 2/3 of the groups and individuals we spoke to suffered from a sort-of cloudphobia. That is, they wanted backend capabilities like authentication, structured storage and push notifications for their app, but they were reluctant to add them. The more we talked with app developers about backend services the more we identified some distinct categories of persona:

1. The hobbyist

Photo Aug 08, 9 46 01 AMI’m sure you’ve met this guy. Maybe it’s you. The defining attribute of this persona is that they’re building apps in their spare time – it’s not their job. I’m surrounded by folks here at Microsoft who fall into this category. We find that this character has a limited time to spend working on his app and they may not have time to add the backend services they need for their application. Building services for apps isn’t easy. There’s no doubt that Windows Azure is incredibly powerful and has many capabilities, but if you’re laser focused on building your client and have limited time - maybe you can’t afford the time to spend learning the details of those capabilities.

 

2. The client-focused developer

Photo Aug 27, 1 08 05 PMThis persona’s differentiating attribute from the hobbyist, is that they have bet their livelihood on their app. Chances are they work at a startup. Maybe it’s one guy in a garage or ten people in a loft in San Francisco. One thing is for sure, this persona is very, very focused on building an awesome client experience. And they want to move quickly and ship the Minimum Viable Product to test the market and course correct. Since they’re betting their livelihood on their app, they want any backend services to be very reliable and highly available, without the hassle and worry of managing their own service components.

 

3. Backend developer

Photo Aug 08, 9 48 04 AMThis chap is quite a different beast. Probably an experienced web developer, he comes from a world of building services. He likely entered the app building game from a perspective of building a client or companion app for an existing web site or service. In any case, this persona is quite happy to sink deep into building out services, it’s where he’s happiest and he’s probably happy to write server code all day. This guy already loves Windows Azure and is unlikely to build an app without it.

We asked ourselves, what can we do to enable the more client-focused developers to add the features they need to complete their scenarios? How can we remove the impedances and make it super-easy for any type of developer to build the services their app needs, in hours – not weeks.

I’m delighted to introduce you to Windows Azure Mobile Services which we launched today and I encourage you to try our Quick Start to get a sense of just how easy it is to add a backend to your Windows 8 application*.

Step 1: Sign up for the Windows Azure Free Trial (if you already have an account you can request access to the preview)

Step 2: Login to the Windows Azure Management Portal

Step 3: Create a new Mobile Service and follow the Quick Start – we have a detailed tutorial right here – but you’re smart, I’m sure you can complete the quick start without needing to RTFM.

You should have a Windows 8 application connected to your new Mobile Service – live in Azure – in under five minutes!

And once you’re done with that, check out some of the tutorials that show:

- how easy it is to authenticate your users via Windows Live
- the power of server scripts to implement validation and authorization logic
- how to send push notifications to your users with Windows Notification Services

Also, why not check out Scott Guthrie’s 10 minute introduction video:

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* we’ll be adding support for Windows Phone, iOS and Android soon.

 
Josh Post By Josh Twist
10:23 PM
28 Aug 2012

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Comments are closed for this post.

Posted by Bruce McMillan @ 29 Aug 2012 9:02 AM
Hi Josh,

Is it possible to use these SDK / services with Vs2010 and Win 7 or has this been targetted specifically at win 8 / vs2012.

Would hate to have to upgrade to use a web service !

Rgds..

B..

Posted by Glenn Block @ 29 Aug 2012 7:05 PM
Congratulations Josh. This has been a monumental effort. It's great to see Zumo hitting the streets and I am looking forward to seeing it in the wild.

Take a breath now ;-)

Posted by John Schroedl @ 30 Aug 2012 3:39 PM
As someone who falls into the Hobbyist persona, I looked over the Azure Mobile Services page and here's my take-away: I can try this thing for 90 days and have some fun. After that, it's $80/month or "hit the bricks, pal". The pay-as-you-go option is damn confusing since it sounds like a hobby app would need a minimal database and that immediately taps my bank account and drains it dry over the coming year.

Is there REALLY an option a hobbyist will want to use and can understand w/o plunking down a wad of cash?

Posted by Josh @ 30 Aug 2012 8:49 PM
@Bruce, at present the SDK is built for WinRT so only works with Windows 8. We'll be adding support for more platforms soon. In fact, we already have a bunch of people building unofficial SDKs:

iOS: http://chrisrisner.com/Windows-Azure-Mobile-Services-and-iOS
WP7: http://kenegozi.com/blog/2012/08/29/using-azure-mobile-services-with-windows-phone

The Mobile Services HTTP API is pretty easy to use so building a client is reasonably straightforward.

@John you get 10 free Mobile Services beyond the free trial. Any subscription can have 10 free Mobile Services (not just the free trial). You will need a database, so if you don't have one as part of the free trial you can reuse a SQL Database or get one as low as $5/month.

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