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Configuring an Azure project

After you install an Azure project and prepare the cloud environment, you need to configure your project before the actual deployment.

Azure SDK version

Before you start configuring your Azure project, check that you have Azure SDK version 2.5 installed for your version of Visual Studio. Each version of Kentico is compatible only with the specified version of Azure SDK.

Adding application settings in an Azure project

Generally, you can add settings for your Azure application either in the web.config file or in the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.

However, when you need to modify setting values in the web.config file, you have to deploy the whole project again. When you need to modify setting values configured in the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file, you can modify them on the Azure Management Portal in Cloud services -> Configure tab. Therefore, we recommend that you configure your application mainly using the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.

To add new settings to the configuration file:

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Double-click CMSApp role in CMSAzure/Roles.
  3. Switch to the Settings tab.
  4. Click Add Setting.

When you add or remove settings this way, Visual Studio ensures that all necessary files (ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg, ServiceConfiguration.Local.cscfg and ServiceDefinition.csdef) are modified according to your changes.

Whenever you add or remove settings, you have to deploy your project to the cloud. Therefore, you should decide in advance which functionality you need to configure in your Azure project.

Basic configuration

These configuration tasks are necessary to perform for every Microsoft Azure project.

Setting the Azure blob storage access keys

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Open the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.
  3. Access the Azure Management Portal in a browser and log in.
  4. Click Storage.
  5. Select your storage.
  6. Click Manage access keys on the bottom panel.

    The access keys for a blob storage

  7. Copy the Storage account name and enter it as a value of CMSAzureAccountName setting in CMSApp role section in the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.

  8. Copy the Primary access key and enter it as a value of CMSAzureSharedKey setting in CMSApp role section in the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.

    <Role name="CMSApp">
    	<ConfigurationSettings>
    		<Setting name="CMSAzureAccountName" value="YourStorageName"/>
    		<Setting name="CMSAzureSharedKey" value="YourPrimaryAccessKey"/>
    	</ConfigurationSettings>
    </Role>

    Replace YourStorageName and YourPrimaryAccessKey with your own values.
    .

  9. Save the configuration file.

You have connected your Azure project with the Azure blob storage.

Setting the keys after the deployment

If you do not set the storage access keys before you deploy the Azure project to the cloud, you can do it after the deployment as well in the Azure Management Portal. Navigate to Cloud services -> select your service -> Configure, where you can copy the Storage account name and Primary access key as values of the CMSAzureAccountName and CMSAzureSharedKey settings for the roles.

On this page

Configuring smart search

Before you deploy your Azure project to the cloud, you must decide whether you want to utilize the smart search functionality or not. You have the following options:

Configuring the SmartSearchWorker role

If you want to use the SmartSearchWorker role and utilize the smart search functionality, configure the Storage account name and Primary access key for this role.

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Open the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.
  3. Copy the CMSAzureAccountName and CMSAzureSharedKey keys (which you set when configuring the storage access keys) with their values from the CMSApp role section to the SmartSearchWorker role section:

    <Role name="SmartSearchWorker">
    	<ConfigurationSettings>
    		<Setting name="CMSAzureAccountName" value="YourStorageName"/>
    		<Setting name="CMSAzureSharedKey" value="YourPrimaryAccessKey"/>
    	</ConfigurationSettings>
    </Role>

    Replace YourStorageName and YourPrimaryAccessKey with your own values.
    .

  4. Save the configuration file.

You have configured the SmartSearchWorker role to work on Microsoft Azure. If you do not need to perform any other configuration tasks, continue to Deploying an Azure project.

Configuring the processing of smart search tasks in CMSApp web role

If you would not utilize the whole worker role, but you do not want to lose the smart search functionality entirely, you can set that the search tasks will be processed by the main CMSApp web role. This solution can be used by small projects only, as the smart search tasks affect the performance of the web role.

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Remove the SmartSearchWorker role from CMSAzure/Roles.
  3. Open the web.config file from the CMSApp project.
  4. Add the CMSProcessSearchTasksByScheduler key to the <appSettings> section:

    <add key="CMSProcessSearchTasksByScheduler" value="true" />
  5. Save the web.config file.

The smart search tasks will now be processed by the CMSApp web role. The SmartSearchWorker role will not be deployed to the hosting environment, so the costs of running your application on Microsoft Azure will be lower. If you do not need to perform any other configuration tasks, continue to Deploying an Azure project.

Disabling smart search functionality

If you are certain that you will not need the Smart search module in your project:

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Remove the SmartSearchWorker role from CMSAzure/Roles.

Disabling the smart search completely reduces the number of roles that need to be hosted, so the costs of running your application on Microsoft Azure will be lower. If you do not need to perform any other configuration tasks, continue to Deploying an Azure project.

Advanced configuration (more web roles)

When you use more than one instance of the CMSApp web role, the system considers these instances as web farm servers. Therefore, you need to configure your project according to the instructions in this section.

Configuring the number of instances

You can set up the number of instances used for the CMSApp role, which represents the Kentico application. This determines the number of virtual machines dedicated to the website. The number of instances influences the performance and load handling capacity of the application. 

To set the number of instances used for the CMSApp role, change the value of the count attribute of the role's <Instances> element:

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Open the ServiceConfiguration.Cloud.cscfg file.
  3. Change the <Instances count="1" /> setting to the required number of instances:

    <Role name="CMSApp">
      <Instances count="2" />
      <ConfigurationSettings>
        ...
      </ConfigurationSettings>
    </Role>
  4. Save the configuration file.

Each instance is represented by a separate web farm server within the Kentico system. The creation and management of the servers is handled automatically, and you do not have to perform any further configuration.

You can also change the number of used instances on the Azure Management Portal in Cloud services -> Scale tab.

SmartSearchWorker role

Do NOT increase the number of instances for the SmartSearchWorker role. Due to the way smart search indexes are processed, the required tasks must be performed by a single instance.

Instance licensing

The Kentico license used for your domain must allow at least as many web farm servers as the amount of instances set for the role. See http://www.kentico.com for pricing information.

Configuring cache and session state data

If you want your Azure application to use two or more web role instances, choose where to store session state information. Synchronizing data between instances is facilitated through web farm tasks. The synchronization tasks are created automatically, so not further configuration is needed in this case.

Storing session state information:

  • In Microsoft Azure SQL Database - easy to set up, suitable for small projects or projects with read access to web pages.
  • In Microsoft Azure Cache Service - create the Azure Cache Service and configure it to store session state information.

Storing session state information in Azure SQL Database

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Right-click the CMSApp project and select Manage NuGet packages.
  3. Install the Microsoft ASP.NET Universal Providers package.
  4. Open the web.config file.
  5. Follow the instructions in the code comments of the sessionState section.

After this, your project is configured to store session state information in the Microsoft Azure SQL Database.

Storing session state information in Azure Cache Service

Previously, Microsoft Azure used AppFabric caching for synchronizing data and storing session state information. This solution is no longer supported. Instead, we recommend that you use the Microsoft Azure Cache Service.

Follow the instruction in How to Use Azure Managed Cache Service on MSDN to create and configure a new cache. Continue to How To: Store ASP.NET Session State in the Cache to configure your project to store session state information in the cache.

Additional configurations

You can perform the configurations in this section in any phase of project development.

Configuring sizes of the CMSApp web role

The size of a web role determines the number of CPU cores, the memory capacity, and the local file system size that is allocated to a running instance. You can change the size of the web role anytime, however, note that full redeployment is required after the change.

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Open the ServiceDefinition.csdef file.
  3. Set the vmsize attribute of the WebRole element to the size that you desire.
    <WebRole name="CMSApp" vmsize="Large">

Configuring external Windows services

By default, external Windows services (Scheduler and Health monitor) that come with Kentico do not run in the Azure environment. However, you can make a few adjustments to the Visual Studio project to make the services work. After performing the steps described in this section, the Scheduler service will run as part of the SmartSearchWorker role and the Health monitoring service will run as part of the CMSApp role.

Prerequisites for the Health monitoring service

For the Health monitoring service to work in your Azure project, the Azure Cloud Service and SQL Server must share the same Affinity group and also, the SQL server must have the Windows Azure Services setting enabled. You can enable this option on the Azure Management Portal if you select SQL Databases -> Servers -> select your server -> Configure.

If you have not configured the Cloud Services and SQL Server to share the same Affinity group, you cannot change that. You can either:

  • Delete the services and create them anew while using the same Affinity group.
    OR
  • You can follow this procedure after you configure your Azure project as described in this (Configuring external Windows services) section:
    1. Deploy your project to the Azure environment.
    2. Add the Virtual IP address of the Cloud Service, into which you have deployed your project, into the list of allowed IP addresses of your SQL server:
      1. Find the Virtual IP address in Cloud Service -> select your service -> Dashboard.
      2. Insert this value in SQL Databases -> Servers -> select your server -> Configure.

    3. Deploy your Azure project once again.

 

To enable external services in your Azure project:

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Open the CMSAzure/ServiceDefinition.csdef file and uncomment the following code:

    Scheduler
    <Startup>
    	<Task commandLine="InstallSchedulerService.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple" />
    </Startup>
    Health monitoring
    <Startup>
          <Task commandLine="InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd" executionContext="elevated" taskType="simple" />
    </Startup>
  3. Open the web.config file in the CMSApp project and copy the value of CMSApplicationName key.
  4. Open the SmartSearchWorker/InstallSchedulerService.cmd file (CMSApp_AppCode/InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd) and replace <ApplicationName> with the value of the CMSApplicationName key.

    • For example, if the value of the CMSApplicationName key is:

      <add key="CMSApplicationName" value="My Web Site/Kentico8" />
    • then the appropriate line would be:

      SET _applicationIdentifier=My Web Site/Kentico8
    • You can also use the value of the CMSApplicationGuid key, but note that the services will use this value in their names.

  5. Choose a password for a new administrator account, which will be created on your Microsoft Azure machine by the InstallSchedulerService.cmd (InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd) script. Replace <YourPassword> with the chosen password:

    SET _adminPassword=QyCZ5HDj
  6. Open the Visual Studio's Properties Window (by selecting View -> Properties Window in the main menu or by pressing F4).
  7. Set the Copy to Output Directory property to Copy always for the following files:
    • CMSApp/Web.config
    • CMSApp/App_Data/CMSModules/WinServices/services.xml
    • CMSApp/App_Data/CMSModules/HealthMonitoring/Counters.xpc
    • CMSApp_AppCode/InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd
    • SmartSearchWorker/InstallSchedulerService.cmd
     

Once the application is deployed and starts for the first time, the InstallSchedulerService.cmd and InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd scripts register the services into the system and start them. You will then be able to manage them via remote desktop.

Deploying a project without a database

If you deploy your Azure project without a database (you perhaps intend to install the database later using the web installer), the Windows services will not be started and will not run even after you install the database.

To start the Windows services after you additionally install the database, restart the instances of the cloud service:

  1. Open the Azure Management Portal.
  2. Select your Cloud Service.
  3. Switch to the Instances tab.
  4. Select the instance and click Reboot in the bottom panel.
  5. Reboot all other instances including the worker role.

The restart will cause the Windows services to start properly and the performance counters to be registered.

Known issue

If you encounter the following error while publishing your Azure project from Visual Studio:

  • Could not copy the file "InstallHealthMonitoringService.cmd" because it was not found.

try publishing your project once again. This error sometimes occurs when you build your Azure solution in the release configuration and subsequently publish the project.

Configuring monitoring for cloud services

You can monitor the performance of your cloud services in the Azure Management Portal, when you select your cloud service and switch to the Monitor page. The Azure platform offers two monitoring modes, Minimal and Verbose.

  • Minimal - the default monitoring mode for new cloud services. Allows you to monitor the following metrics: CPU Percentage, Data In, Data Out, Disk Read Throughput, and Disk Write Throughput.
  • Verbose - provides more monitoring options, but requires access to the Azure blob storage. You need to provide storage access keys and configure the diagnostics connection string for your roles.

You can find more information about the monitoring options in How to Monitor Cloud Services.

To configure your Azure project to enable verbose monitoring:

  1. Open your Azure project in Visual Studio.
  2. Right-click the CMSApp role in the solution explorer and select Add Diagnostics Configuration, which adds a diagnostics configuration file to the solution. See Configuring Diagnostics for Azure Cloud Services for more instructions.
  3. Double click the CMSApp role.
  4. On the Configuration tab, make sure that the Enable Diagnostics option is selected.
  5. Click Configure...
  6. On the General tab of the Diagnostics configuration dialog box, click Configure.
  7. Select your Subscription and Storage account, where the diagnostics data will be stored.
  8. Close both configuration dialog boxes.
  9. Repeat this procedure also for the SmartSearchWorker role.

After you deploy your project, you can switch to the Verbose monitoring mode in the Azure Management Portal when you select your cloud service and switch to the Configure tab. You can also change the diagnostics connection string on the Configure tab in the Diagnostics Connection Strings section.