Free & Easy way to learning Windows Azure

On June 7th, Microsoft announced big improvements to their cloud offering – Windows Azure platform. The new features announced included “Free” Websites, Linux Virtual Machines, Media streaming & Big Data (Hadoop on cloud). You can watch the day’s keynote by Scott Guthrie here.

Having heard this news, few from local Dev community asked me through social networking on whether they can begin Windows Azure programming using the “free” edition of Visual Studio called as Visual Studio Express. After an email to my contacts in Microsoft I found out the answer to be “YES”. I tried it out myself in a clean Windows 7 machine, it was a simple process that took just few clicks to get everything installed. The instructions are given below:

1. First step is to visit Windows Azure .NET Developer Center and click on the big blue “install” button.

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2. It will prompt you, whether you need to go with Visual Studio 2010 or Visual Studio 2012 (Release Candidate). Depending on your choice a small bootstrap executable will get downloaded.

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3. The executable that gets downloaded is called Web Platform Installer, which is smart enough to figure out dependencies that needs to be installed for Azure SDK to work. If it detects an existing Visual Studio installation the installer downloads & installs only the Windows Azure SDK bits & templates for Visual Studio. In my case where I took these screenshots there was no Visual Studio, so it included to download and install “Visual Web Developer 2010 Express” apart from other required files – seen below.

web platform installer 4.0

4. Once everything is downloaded & installed, you can launch Visual Web Developer 2010 Express. Go to Visual C# (or Visual Basic), Cloud and you will see the “Windows Azure Cloud Service” template. You are all set to writing your first Azure app.

Visual Web Developer 2010 Express with Windows Azure template

In the same Web Installer, if you had selected “Visual Studio 2012” you will have “Visual Studio Express 2012 RC for Web” installed on your machine. With that too, you can program for Windows Azure cloud service. As shown below, you get the necessary template in Visual Studio->New Project window:

Visual Studio 2012 RC for Web with Windows Azure template

This post was meant to be just a pointer on how to get the free tools to begin Windows Azure programming. You will find all necessary documentation, how to & learning materials in Windows Azure Dev Center.

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