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Elton Stoneman
This is the *old* blog. The new one is at blog.sixeyed.com

Since my last post on using CMS for semi-static API content, How about a new platform for your next API… a CMS?, I’ve been using the idea for centralized app configuration, and this post is the first in a series that will walk through how to do that, step-by-step.

The approach gives you a platform-independent, easily configurable way to specify your application configuration for different environments, with a built-in approval workflow, change auditing and the ability to easily rollback to previous settings.

It’s like Azure Web and Worker Roles where you can specify settings that change at runtime, but it's not specific to Azure - you can use it for any app that needs changeable config, provided it can access the Internet.

The series breaks down into four posts:

  1. Deploying Umbraco – the CMS that will store your configurable settings and the current values;
  2. Publishing your config – create a document type that encapsulates your settings and a template to expose them as JSON;
  3. Consuming your config – in .NET, a simple client that uses dynamic objects to access settings;
  4. Config lifecycle management – how to publish, audit, and rollback settings.

Let’s get started.

Deploying Umbraco

There’s an Umbraco package on Azure Websites, so deploying your own instance is easy – but there are a couple of things to watch out for, so this step-by-step will put you in a good place.

Create From Gallery

The easiest way to get started is with an Azure subscription, navigate to add a new Website and then Create From Gallery. Under CMS, you’ll see an Umbraco package (currently at version 7.1.3):

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Configure Your App

For high availability and scale, you’ll want your CMS on separate kit from anything else you have in Azure, so in the configuration of Umbraco I’d create a new SQL Azure database – which Umbraco will use to store all its content:

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You can use the free 20mb database option if you don’t have demanding NFRs, or if you’re just experimenting.

You’ll need to specify a password for a SQL Server account which the Umbraco service will use, and changing from the default username umbracouser is probably wise.

Specify Database Settings

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You can create a new database on an existing server if you have one, or create new. If you create a new server *do not* use the same username for the database server login as you used for the Umbraco account. If you do, the deployment will fail later. Think of this as the SQL Admin account that you can use for managing the db, the previous account was the service account Umbraco uses to connect.

Make Tea

If you have a fast kettle. It takes about two minutes for Azure to create and provision the website and the database.

Install Umbraco

So far we’ve deployed an empty instance of Umbraco using the Azure package, and now we need to browse to the site and complete installation.

My Website was called my-app-config, so to complete installation I browse to http://my-app-config.azurewebsites.net:

 

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Enter the credentials you want to use to login – this account will have full admin rights to the Umbraco instance. Note that between deploying your new Umbraco instance and completing installation in this step, anyone can browse to your website and complete the installation themselves with their own credentials, if they know the URL. Remote possibility, but it’s there.

From this page *do not* click the big green Install button. If you do, Umbraco will configure itself with a local SQL Server CE database (.sdf file on the Web server), and ignore the SQL Azure database you’ve carefully provisioned and may be paying for.

Instead, click on the Customize link and:

Configure Your Database

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You need to enter your SQL Azure database details here, so you’ll have to get the server name from the Azure Management Console. You don’t need to explicitly grant access to your Umbraco website for the database though.

Click Continue and you’ll be offered a “starter” website to install:

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If you don’t know Umbraco at all (but you are familiar with ASP.NET MVC) then a starter website is worthwhile to see how it all hangs together. But after a while you’ll have a bunch of artifacts in your CMS that you don’t want and you’ll have to work out which you can safely delete. So I’d click “No thanks, I do not want to install a starter website” and give yourself a clean Umbraco install.

When it completes, the installation will log you in to the welcome screen for managing Umbraco – which you can access from http://my-app-config.azurewebsites.net/umbraco:

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That’s It

Easy. Umbraco is installed, using a dedicated SQL Azure instance that you can separately scale, sync and backup, and ready for your content.

In the next post, we’ll define what our app config looks like, and publish some settings for the dev environment.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4, 2014 7:56 PM Umbraco , APIs | Back to top


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