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Building a Scalable, Multi-Tenant Application for Windows Azure : On-Boarding for Trials and New Customers

6/14/2011 9:01:46 AM
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Whenever a new subscriber signs up for the Surveys service, the application must perform configuration tasks to enable the new account. Tailspin wants to automate as much of this process as possible to simplify the on-boarding process for new customers and minimize the costs associated with setting up a new subscriber. The on-boarding process touches many components of the Surveys application, and this section describes how the on-boarding process affects those components.


The on-boarding process touches many components in the Surveys application.

1. Basic Subscription Information

The following table describes the basic information that every subscriber provides when they sign up for the Surveys service.

Subscriber NameAdatum Ltd.The commercial name of the subscriber. The application uses this as part of customization of the subscriber’s pages on the Surveys websites. The Subscriber can also provide a corporate logo.
Subscriber AliasadatumA unique alias used within the application to identify the subscriber. For example, it forms part of the URL for the subscriber’s web pages. The application generates a value based on the Subscriber Name, but it allows the subscriber to override this suggestion.
Subscription TypeTrial, Individual, Standard, PremiumThe subscription type determines the feature set available to the subscriber and may affect what additional on-boarding information must be collected from the subscriber.
Payment DetailsCredit card detailsApart from a trial subscription, all other subscription types are paid subscriptions. The application uses a third-party solution to handle credit card payments.

Apart from credit card details, all this information is stored in Windows Azure™ storage; it is used throughout the on-boarding process and while the subscription is active.

2. Authentication and Authorization Information

Each of these alternatives requires different information from the subscriber as part of the on-boarding process, and each alternative is associated with a different subscription type. For example, the Individual subscription type uses a social identity provider, such as Windows Live® ID or Google ID, for authentication, and the Premium subscription type uses the subscriber’s own identity provider.

2.1. Provisioning a Trust Relationship with the Subscriber’s Identity Provider

One of the features of the Premium subscription type is integration with the subscriber’s identity provider. The on-boarding process collects the information needed to configure the trust relationship between subscriber’s Security Token Service (STS) and the Tailspin federation provider (FP) STS. The following table describes this information.

Subscriber Federation-Metadata URLhttps://login.adatum.net/FederationMetadata/2007-06/FederationMetadata.xmlThis should be a public endpoint. An alternative is to enable the subscriber to manually upload this data.
Administrator identifier (email or Security Account Manager Account Name)john@adatum.comThe Surveys application creates a rule in its FP to map this identifier to the administrator role in the Surveys application.
User identifier claim typehttp://schemas.xmlsoap.org/ws/2005/05/identity/claims/nameThis is the claim type that the subscriber’s STS will issue to identify a user.
Subscriber’s public keyadatum.cerThe subscriber can provide a certificate if they want to encrypt their tokens.
Claims transformation rulesGroup:Domain Users => Role:Survey CreatorThese rules map a subscriber’s claim types to claim types understood by the Surveys application.

The Surveys application will use this data to add the appropriate configuration information to the Tailspin FP STS. The on-boarding process will also make the Tailspin FP federation metadata available to the subscriber because the subscriber may need it to configure the trust relationship in their STS.

The application does not yet implement this functionality. Tailspin could decide to use ADFS, ACS, or a custom STS as its federation provider. As part of the on-boarding process, the Surveys application will have to programmatically create the trust relationship between the Tailspin FP STS and the customer’s identity provider, and programmatically add any claims transformation rules to the Tailspin STS.

2.2. Provisioning Authentication and Authorization for Basic Subscribers

Subscribers to the Standard subscription type cannot integrate the Surveys application with their own STS. Instead, they can define their own users in the Surveys application. During the on-boarding process, they provide details for the administrator account that will have full access to everything in their account, including billing information. They can later define additional users who are members of the Survey Creator role, who can only create surveys and analyze the results.

2.3. Provisioning Authentication and Authorization for Individual Subscribers

Individual subscribers use a third-party, social identity, such as a Windows Live ID, OpenID, or Google ID, to authenticate with the Surveys application. During the on-boarding process, they must provide details of the identity they will use. This identity has administrator rights for the account and is the only identity that can be used to access the account.

You could automatically suggest a location based on the user’s IP address by using a service such as http://ipinfodb.com/ip_location_api.php.

3. Geo Location Information

During the on-boarding process, the subscriber selects the geographic location where the Surveys application will host their account. The list of locations to choose from is the list of locations where there are currently Windows Azure data centers. This geographic location identifies the location of the Subscriber website instance that the subscriber will use and where the application stores all the data associated with the account. It is also the default location for hosting the subscriber’s surveys, although the subscriber can opt to host individual surveys in alternate geographical locations.

4. Database Information

During the sign-up process, subscribers can also opt to provision a SQL Azure™ database to store and analyze their survey data. The application creates this database in the same geographical locations as the subscribers’ accounts. The application uses the subscriber alias to generate the database name and the database user name. The application also generates a random password. The application saves the database connection string in Windows Azure storage, together with the other subscriber account data.


The SQL Azure database is still owned and paid for by Tailspin. Tailspin charges subscribers for this service.
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