Windows Azure Accelerator for Worker Role – Update your workers faster

During the last couple of years I worked quite a lot with Windows Azure. There is no other choice if you work with the Microsoft DPE team, like we do at Southworks Smile

The thing is that we usually have to deal with last minute deployments to Azure that can take more than a minute <grin>. The good news is that some of that pain started to be eased lately.

  • First, the Azure team enabled Web Deploy. For development this helped a lot.
  • Then, we helped DPE to build the Windows Azure Accelerators for Web Roles, announced by Nate last week. I explained how the accelerator work in a previous post. We actually used the Web Role Accelerator to deploy (the social game announced on Wednesday). We have the game backend running in two small instances and we had everything ready for the announcement last week but of course there were tweaks on the game till the last minute. We did like 10 deployments in the last day before the release. 10 * 15 minutes per deploy is almost three hours. Instead using the accelerator each deploy took us 30 seconds. The dev team happy with getting 3 hours of our life back.
  • Now, to complete the whole picture I saw it might be a good idea to have the same thing but for Worker Roles

So I teamed with Alejandro Iglesias and Fernando Tubio from the Southworks crew and together we created the Windows Azure Accelerator for Worker Roles.

How it works?

You basically deploy the accelerator with your Windows Azure solution and the “shell” worker will be polling a blob storage container to find and load the “real worker roles”. We made it easy so you don’t have to change any line of code of your actual worker role. Simply throw the entry point assembly and its dependencies in the storage container, set the name of the entry point assembly in a file (__entrypoint.txt) and the accelerator will pick it up, unload the previous AppDomain (if any) and create a new AppDomain with the latest version.


How to use it?

You can find the project in github, there is a README in the home page that explain the steps to use it.  Download it and let us know what you think!

I would like to have a Visual Studio template to make it easier to integrate with existing solutions.


Published: July 22 2011

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