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After teaching math (and a little computer science) for 14 years, Brian changed careers in 2006 with the idea that getting out of his comfort zone would be good. So now he works as a writer and programmer at Microsoft who specializes in PHP and Windows Azure. Brian is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 82 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

How to Choose Windows Azure Websites, Web Roles, or VMs

07.02.2012
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The June 7th update to Windows Azure introduced two new services (Widows Azure Websites and persistent VMs) that beg the question “When should I use a Windows Azure Website vs. a Web Role vs. a VM?” That’s exactly the question I’ll try to help you answer in this post. (I say “help you answer” because there is no simple, clear-cut answer in all cases. What I’ll try to do here is give you enough information to help you make an informed decision.)

The following table should give you some idea of what each option is ideal for:

Windows Azure Web Sites are ideal for… Windows Azure Web Roles are ideal for... Windows Azure Virtual Machines are ideal for...

Modern Web Apps
Perfect if your app consists of client-side markup and scripting and/or server-side scripting and a database. You can scale out or up as needed.

Multi-tier Applications
Applications that are composed of multiple tiers, each of which can be scaled independently (i.e. asynchronous background processing, like order processing) using both Web and Worker Roles.

Server Applications
Existing applications that leverage SQL Server, MySQL, MongoDB, Sharepoint Server, etc.

Continuous Development
Deploy directly from your source code repository using Git or Team Foundation Service.

Apps that require advanced administration
Applications that require admin access, remote desktop access, or running code with elevated privileges.

Existing line-of-business apps
Choose an image from the gallery or upload your own VHD.

Popular Open Source Apps
Launch a site with a few clicks using apps like WordPress, Joomla!, and Drupal.

Apps that require advanced networking
Applications that require network isolation with Windows Azure Connect or Windows Azure Virtual Network.

Windows or Linux
Support for Windows Server and community/commercial versions of Linux. Connect VMs with Cloud Services to take advantage of PaaS services.

Actually, I think the use cases for VMs are wide open. You can use them for just about anything you could imagine using a VM for. The tougher distinction (and decision) is between Web Sites and Web Roles. The following table should give you some idea of what Windows Azure features are available in Web Sites and Web Roles:

Feature

Web Sites

Web Roles

Access to services like Caching, Service Bus, Storage, SQL Azure Database

Yes

Yes

Support for ASP.NET, classic ASP, Node.js, PHP

Yes

Yes

Shared content and configuration

Yes

No

Deploy code with GIT, FTP

Yes

No

Near-instant deployment

Yes

No

Integrated MySQL-as-a-service support

Yes

Yes*

Multiple deployment environments (production and staging)

No

Yes

Network isolation

No

Yes

Remote desktop access to servers

No

Yes

Ability to run programs with elevated permissions

No

Yes

Ability to define/execute start-up tasks

No

Yes

Ability to use unsupported frameworks or libraries

No

Yes

Support for Windows Azure Connect/ Windows Azure Network

No

Yes

* Web or Worker Roles can integrate MySQL-as-a-service through ClearDB's offerings, but not as part of the Management Portal workflow.

As I said earlier, it’s impossible to provide a definitive answer to the question of which option you should use (Web Sites, Web Roles, or VMs). It really does depend on your application. With that said, I hope the information in the tables above helps you decide what is right for your application. Of course, if you have any questions and/or feedback, let us know in the comments.

Published at DZone with permission of Brian Swan, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)