Book review: Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook

About a week ago PACKT published “Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook” by Neil Mackenzie. I got it from Amazon on Thursday and have been reading it these last couple of days. I’ll share my thoughts below.

azure_cookbook_cover

 

Cookbooks are rarely meant to be read cover-to-cover, so doing just that has been quite a dry read. Had this been a regular, educational book on Windows Azure I would say that it is missing a bit of spice; some war stories, some personal opinions or a pinch of humour would have done wonders for the reading experience. Thus, this isn’t the type of book you bring with you on vacation or read while commuting. It is meant to sit on a shelf next to your work station and to be consulted when you encounter a specific problem.

 

The book contains 80 or so recipes for solving various concrete tasks related to Windows Azure development. They are grouped into chapters on blobs, tables, queues, hosted services, diagnostics, the management API, SQL Azure and AppFabric. Within each chapter recipes are roughly sorted in order of increasing level of complexity and each recipe follows the same pattern:

  • An introduction to the problem / scenario
  • A list of prerequisites for the sample solution
  • Step-by-step instructions on building the sample solution
  • A summary of how the sample solution works

This feels like a sound approach and it works quite well.

 

In the preface of the book it says “If you are an experienced Windows Azure developer or architect who wants to understand advanced development techniques when building highly scalable services using the Windows Azure platform, then this book is for you.” However, if you are just starting starting out with Windows Azure, you shouldn’t let this put you off. There are quite a number of recipes in the book which will be of value to newcomers to the platform, and if you are just starting your first Azure project, you will find many recipes that are immediately applicable and very valuable.

I think this may be the book’s strongest point as well as its Achilles’ heel: If you have taken an introductory course to Windows Azure and been through the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit, you will, at least in theory, know much of the material in this book. That being said, for some recipes Mackenzie adds a “There’s more…” section which puts the material just covered into perspective or relates it to other parts of the Windows Azure Platform. This is my favourite section and is where even seasoned Windows Azure developers may find some valuable nuggets.

 

All-in-all I would highly recommend this book if you have had a general introduction to Windows Azure and is getting ready to get your hands dirty.

On the other hand, if you are an experienced Azure developer it won’t take you to the next level.