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The basics of BLOBs : Getting started with development storage

3/2/2011 10:29:54 PM
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Development storage hosts all three storage services (BLOB, Queue, and Table storage services) and exposes local endpoints that implement the same APIs as the live service. The production version of the storage services and the development version are two completely different animals. They might expose the same APIs, but the development version is greatly simplified and suitable only for local development.

When you’ve finished developing your application against your local development storage, you can easily switch to using the live environment by just changing configuration.

1. SQL Server backing store

Because the development environments and the data centers of Windows Azure are drastically different (we don’t have replicated storage arrays on laptops), the SDK can provide only a simulation of the live storage environment. Although development storage and BLOB storage are API–compatible, the underlying implementations are understandably different.

In the development storage version of BLOB storage, SQL Server is used as the backing store.

Installation issues

By default, the development storage database is created in the SQLEXPRESS named instance of SQL Server on your development machine. This instance is normally installed as part of the Visual Studio installation, which is why the SDK assumes that this instance is present. If you need or want to install the database onto a different SQL Server instance, you can use a tool in the SDK called DSInit.exe. You might want to do this if you prefer to run a full-blown version of SQL Server on your machine or if you skipped installing the SQLEXPRESS instance during the Visual Studio installation.


If you want, you can even run queries against the database to ensure that your data is stored as you expected. Figure 1 shows all the tables representing the various storage services in the SQL Server implementation.

Figure 1. Development storage database in SQL Server


Although the development storage system uses SQL Server (as shown in figure 1), the real BLOB storage system uses a higher performing, more scalable, custom solution that makes the best use of the Windows Azure infrastructure. You can be assured that your BLOBs aren’t stored in some SQL Server table in the live system.

2. Getting around in the development storage UI

The development storage service is automatically started whenever you run a web or worker role project in Visual Studio. The startup of development storage occurs at the same time as the startup of the development fabric. If you right-click the Cloud Services icon in the status bar and select Show Development Storage UI, the Development Storage UI is displayed, as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. Development storage command and control center. You can start, stop, and mess around with all your storage services from here.


The development storage UI shows you the current status of your services and lets you stop and start them if you need to. Although development storage and the development storage UI are automatically launched when you run your application in Visual Studio, you can start them manually using the command line. This can be useful if you’re interacting with the storage services from an application that’s not hosted in the cloud (a normal WPF application that just uses the BLOB storage service).

Starting and shutting down development storage manually

To start development storage manually, you can use the following command:

C:\Program Files\Windows Azure SDK\v1.1\bin\devstore\dsservice.exe

To shut down the service, you can use this command:

C:\Program Files\Windows Azure SDK\v1.1\bin\devstore\dsservice.exe/shutdown


With the basics of both BLOB storage and development storage under your belt, get ready! It’s time to write your first application that talks to the BLOB service.

Other -----------------
- A closer look at the BLOB storage service
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