Creating an Azure Application without Writing Code

In Learning Tree’s Cloud Computing Introduction course when we introduce the topic of Platform as a Service (PaaS), we say that the vendor offerings can be broadly divided into two categories. There are PaaS for programmers which require custom programs to be written and there are PaaS for non-programmers which allow for application development without programming. We examine Azure as an example of the first kind and Force.com as an example of the second. Things can and do change quickly in the cloud, though!

Microsoft has recently released Beta 2 of their Visual Studio LightSwitch product. LightSwitch is positioned as a product non-programmers can use to build business applications without coding. If necessary, however, custom code can be added to the generated project. These applications are sometimes referred to as “forms over data” because they typically allow for the creation, retrieval, update and deletion (CRUD) of database records via a user form.

LightSwitch Beta 1 has been around for some time. What’s new with Beta 2, however, is the ability to deploy applications directly to Azure. So it seems Microsoft is moving towards providing a cloud application development option that is targeted towards developers who may not necessarily be hardcore programmers.

Getting started with LightSwitch is pretty straightforward. If you already have Visual Studio 2010 you need to make sure that you have SP1 installed. Then you can download and install LightSwitch.

Once installed there will be a LightSwitch project type available in Visual Studio. LightSwitch projects can be deployed to the desktop, the Web or to Azure. There is a publishing wizard which seamlessly handles deployment to Azure and migration of the database schema from the developer’s SQL Server Express Edition to SQL Azure.

This screencast walks through creating a simple LightSwitch project and deploying it to Azure:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfvhoRDlRV0&hl=en&fs=1]

The evolution of LightSwitch is an example of how vendor offerings can and do shift and change as the various players compete in the cloud. For a good grounding in cloud fundamentals Learning Tree offers a comprehensive hands-on introductory course. We also have an excellent course in cloud security as well as Azure programming for the more technically inclined!

I hope to see you at a Learning Tree education center soon!

Kevin

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