Understanding Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 Windows Azure Support

Windows Azure support of Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 was unveiled at the LeWeb'10 conference in Paris. Let’s look in more details at the Windows Azure support in Kentico CMS.  

PrintNOTE: This blog post was updated in February 2011 to reflect several changes we applied on Kentico CMS 5.5R2 to better support Windows Azure Platform!

Kentico Software sees the cloud computing as an important step  for our customers and Microsoft Azure as the ideal delivery vehicle. More about cloud computing and Windows Azure in this blog post: Cloud Computing and Windows Azure Platform.


Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 and Windows Azure

The release of Kentico CMS 5.5 R2 provides single instance customers an opportunity to move their CMS systems to the cloud.

When we had started our work on the Windows Azure platform support, we set as our main goal that we will not divide our development into standard Kentico CMS and its Windows Azure version! So, there will not be any differences between standard Kentico CMS and its Windows Azure version!!!

The goal is sometimes quite difficult to reach, as there are several differences between the traditional ASP.NET and Windows Azure platform. Due to these differences and some still missing features, the Windows Azure version of Kentico CMS 5.5R2 has the following limitations:

-          Due to the problems with session state providers and web-farms synchronization, this version only supports SINGLE INSTANCE.

-          Due to the lack of the file-system, we are not supporting following features/operations which require direct access to the file system – import/export. Other file-system based features like Smart search, Media libraries or Web Analytics are supported via Windows Azure Drive.

-          Manual setup and deployment into Windows Azure. With this release, we provide you with Windows Azure Deployment Guide covering all necessary steps.

But the Windows Azure version of Kentico CMS 5.5R2 is still the same as the standard version. There are no other changes; there is no different user interface or user experience, etc. Your customers will not see any difference between Windows Azure and the standard version!

The price of the Windows Azure version of Kentico CMS 5.5R2 is the same as for the standard Kentico CMS, more about the licensing in this blog post: Simplified Cloud Licensing.


Kentico CMS 6.0

We are working very hard on version 6.0, where we would like to solve all Windows Azure issues and prepare workarounds for the missing Windows Azure features. With version 6.0, you will get:

-          Version 6.0 has completely rewritten file-system support (without any impact on the current websites), so Kentico CMS 6.0 recognizes if it is running on Windows Azure or on the standard Windows server platform. When running on Windows Azure, we are automatically using SQL Azure for any data and Azure storages for files operations.

-          We are developing our own session providers, so we will be able to support multiple instances and web farms.

-          Microsoft promised that SQL Fulltext will be available for Windows Azure in the near future. But we are not waiting for that and we have customized our Smart search to be running on Windows Azure.

-          You will get an automatic installation to the Windows Azure, which will be part of the standard Kentico CMS installation as we can see on the figure below:


The Windows Azure version of Kentico CMS 6.0 will contain all features of Kentico CMS 6.0 including the On-line marketing support. This version will be released at Q2/Q3 2011.

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Michal Neuwirth commented on

Hi all,

thanks for your questions. Based on them we are preparing detailed information about Windows Azure itself and our support of it and it will be published in few days.

At this time we discovered that Windows Azure SDK 1.3 is different from version SDK 1.2 (which Kentico CMS 5.5R2 supports now) with several breaking changes. We are working on it.

Anthony commented on

Rabi N: You cannot do so with Kentico CMS 5.5R2. As alternative you can rent/buy required number of servers.

Michal: I got questions for you.

How about upgrading and hotfixing Azure instance? Seems like I have to create a new package every time I want to update. Thats OK, but can you show (for version 6) how to perform upgrade without interrupting the service aka no downtime?

Are you planning to include some backup/restore functionality inside Kentico (it might be a seperate program because CMS may fail) this would be really nice in Azure as there are no Backup and Restore products or direct support in Azure itself, this is a show stopper for us.

Will you simplify scaling out in Azure? As I understand it you have to create a WebFarm or add a server to a WebFarm, which is not automatic and very slow. I do expect the cloud application to be able to scale-out automatically, without user/administrator intervention. That's 100% cloud support, anything else is just like Kentico 5.5R2 :=)
For example: I create a new website, define maximum number of servers (instances) based on my license limitations, define threshold for starting/ending instance and voilà it works. That would be something.

Rabi N commented on

Can you provide detail how to implement scalable cms solution using kentico and azure ? As above post says that kentico has limitation it does not support multiple instance. So, how we can create scalable scoluiont alternatively ?

Eric Visser commented on

I try to move our website to Azure.
I scanned the dev. Guide for “How to prepare and deploy your website to Windows Azure”.
where do I find the article? Thansk -eric

Michal Neuwirth commented on

Hi all,

Kentico company is transparent for our customers and we want to inform you about possible pitfalls with Windows Azure. We think, it's better to inform you, then to make an announcement without any additional information and solve "problems" with limited features via "forums" as others do ....

Regarding the MediaLibraries, we are speaking about the module "MediaLibrary" not about mediafiles in general. You are able to store any mediafile in the document tree, as the attachement etc. in the cloud.

I understand that you don't care about the file-system. Kentico CMS (and other CMSs) uses built-in 3rd party components, which are file-system based and we have to either modify them or try to find "any cloud based". It's problem of SmartSearch (based on Lucene.Net) and Import/Export (using ZIP). So, we are looking for the way, how to offer you these features as soon as possible.

keith patton commented on

The response here is quite unsatisfactory. again I ask what is th point of offereing azure support with such a limited set of features. Azure doesn't have a file system? No, by design, this is the cloud! The real point is that kentico doesn't support cloud storage mechanisms until v6 at earliest. I think you need to get hold of tge marketing dept on this one!

We are currently building our own hooks into cloud storage so that kentico editor can pull and push media files to and from the cloud. Thus is the type of sensible solution to a real problem I believe you should be focussed on rather than adding more and more modules to the core cms.

Anthony commented on

Thanks for clarification Michal.

We don't really care about some file system support in Azure. We only care that import/export, Smart search or Media libraries don’t work in there. Or do they?

What I and probably others expect from "Azure support" is fully working CMS without any limitation. Current support seems like the very basic one, as you weren’t able to implement the features in a way the Azure environment requires it (or limit you). I got a feeling like “there is no native support for this and this, so we don’t care. Kentico just can’t work as usual, but it’s still fully supported?!”

If you want to say that Azure is not mature yet, then I don’t understand this at all. I am not saying it’s a wrong way to go Cloud. I am big supporter of Cloud! I am just saying this is false advertisement.

I have also noticed interesting cloud reference in last newsletter: “Cloud is the big topic in these days. We already have some clients who run Kentico in Amazon EC2 and now we are adding also support for Windows Azure“.
Did you realize that in case of EC2 you just rent a virtual machine running Windows and there is absolutely no reason for the Kentico not to run in there, also you didn’t have to do (and you didn’t) anything at all to support EC2 (or any other virtual machine). Or is there any extra integration between Amazon Cloud Services and Kentico?
But in case of Windows Azure you are speaking of something completely different, you actually have to do something… Unless you were speaking about VM role where again, you don’t have to do anything at all to support it as it’s almost the same as EC2.

Michal Neuwirth commented on

It's not so easy to answer all comments. So just few facts:
1) Windows Azure doesn't support any file-system based operations. So, any system has to use SQL Azure or Azure storage. 5.5R2 supports at this time SQL Azure.
2) Microsoft released Azure drive which enables to use a VHD file in Windows Azure. We are testing it with Kentico CMS 5.5R2
3) You pay money for the size of SQL Azure and Azure Storage
4) You don't pay for the communication between application and SQL Azure when running in one datacenter.
5) You PAY for the communication between application and Azure storage even when you are running inside one data center.
6) SQL Azure doesn't support Full-text yet.

Keith patton commented on

I completely agree, it's useless. Kentico, can you please provide an example were Azure hosting with Kentcio CMS 5.5 R2 would make any sense at all? It seems like all you are saying is that it would be sort of supported as an expensive single instance proposition with a limited feature set!?

You should basically say wait until v6. That's what we're telling our clients.

Anthony commented on

Correct me if I am wrong but this kind of so called Azure support is completely useless. What website will you be able to run and what website will actually benefit from this cloud at all? I don't have to mention that the price for cloud is way too much for small projects (I don't even think the price is OK for our bigger projects anyway).

Would it be possible to publish a single reference of website running this version inside of a Azure cloud? Because I just don't believe it,sorry :-)

Michal Neuwirth commented on

Version 5.5R2 supports only SQL Azure. Using Azure Blob storages requires deep changes in Kentico CMS which are implemented in version 6.0.

Keith Patton commented on

Is the Azure support initially limited to SQL Azure. Are attachments going to be stored in Azure blob storage? Obviously SQL Azure is quite an expensive way to store imagery and video so unless you are using Azure blob storage this approach will not be feasible or cost effective for many, particularly given the single instance limitation, why would you do this??