The various options for scaling in Azure

Image credit: Microsoft

I’ve been spending some time looking through Microsoft’s Azure offerings as of late. With the company championing services and products that can be used across any hardware running any operating system, developers are being recommended to move business logic of their apps into the cloud. Whilst server-side logic has been a staple of cross platform development for decades, the often trumpeted feature of moving to the cloud is scalability.

In this piece I’ll be taking a look at the different options available in the Azure cloud for scaling services and infrastructure, and where they are most beneficial.

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Custom live tiles in Windows Runtime apps – in Azure and Local

Custom live tiles

Live tiles have long been a key differentiator for the modern Windows platform. Since their introduction in Windows Phone 7 Microsoft sold live tiles as “dynamically updated… breaking the mould of static icons” (source). The hope from many developers was to be able to create customised panels of information that would draw users into the app or present them with a simple overview of the information that mattered. The reality is that using Microsoft’s standard tools presents a very simple experience whereby some text, a number of images, and possibly a count can be displayed on a live tile at any one point.

Even with the expansion of live tiles in to the Windows 8 platform the standard templates available to developers often lead to a start screen of similar tiles that do not differ visually from one another. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that similarity, but there are a lot of situations the normal tile templates do not account for. For instance showing a graph of information, or a customised layout to avoid having white text over a light background image cannot be done in with the normal templates.

In Windows Phone 7 and 8 apps, based on the Silverlight framework, developers could use an image rendering method to transform XAML into a locally stored image, then update the tile in a background task. In Windows Runtime apps (or universal apps if you prefer) this is no longer supported. So how can we create customised live tiles to match a user’s expectations?

This post will explore the 3 methods of updating tiles with custom images, through foreground C# code, through background native C++ tasks, and by using remotely store tiles in an Azure component.

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