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A brief overview of the Table service

3/10/2011 8:58:41 AM
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The Table service component of the Windows Azure storage services (which includes the BLOB service, Table service, and Queue service) is a very simple, highly scalable, cost-effective solution that can be used to store data. In many scenarios it can replace traditional SQL Server–based designs.

Note

Like all other storage services, the Table service is hosted within the Windows Azure data centers, leveraging the web role infrastructure. Access to the service is provided through an HTTP-based REST API.


The Table service provides you with the ability to create very simple tables that you can use to store serialized versions of your entities. Figure 1 shows how entities are stored in the Table service.

Figure 1. The Hawaiian shirts (which are represented as entities) are stored in the Products table. Tables are very similar to BLOB containers (but they hold entities rather than BLOBs). Like BLOB containers, tables are housed within your storage account. Here you can see that the Products and ShoppingCart tables live in the silverlightukstorage account.


In figure 1 you can see that there are two tables (Products and ShoppingCart) in a storage account (silverlightukstorage). The Products table could represent the product list for the Hawaiian Shirt Shop website , and each entity stored in the Products table (Red Shirt, Blue Shirt, and Blue Frilly Shirt) would represent different types of shirts.

It’s important to point out that although the Table service offers the ability to store data in tables, it’s an entity storage mechanism, not a relational database. That means it doesn’t offer the sort of functionality that you may be used to:

  • It can’t create foreign key relationships between tables.

  • It can’t perform server-side joins between tables.

  • It can’t create custom indexes on tables.

If you do require relational database storage, you can look at SQL Azure, which is a Windows Azure platform–hosted SQL Server database.

I always need a relational database, don’t I?

We’ve become a little conditioned to store data in a relational form, even when it’s not strictly necessary.

If you can expand your mind and accept that there are other ways of storing data, you can use the Table service to store your data in a highly scalable (and cheaper) fashion.

As you’ll see later in this book, many applications (including shopping carts, blogs, content management systems, and so on) could potentially use the simple Table service rather than a relational database.


Now that you know what the Table service is and isn’t, it’s nearly time to look at how entities are stored in the Table service. But before we do that, let’s take a look at how we’d normally represent data in non-Windows Azure environments.

Other -----------------
- BLOBs : Setting shared access permissions
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- Using local storage with BLOB storage (part 3) - Improving your handler to check the last modified time
- Using local storage with BLOB storage (part 2) - Updating your HTTP handler to use local storage & Checking properties of a BLOB without downloading it
- Using local storage with BLOB storage (part 1) - Using a local cache & Defining and accessing local storage
- Integrating BLOBs with your ASP.NET websites
- Downloading BLOBs
 
 
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