For the last week or so, I’ve been reading the Windows Azure Development Cookbook written by a fellow Azure MVP, Neil Mackenzie. I was actually rather pleased when Packt asked if I would be willing to review the book as I’d been meaning to pick up a copy and read through it but hadn’t yet.
I should admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the front matter or explanation of the book and just dove right in. I mention this only because it was a bit jolting due to the fact that (as could easily be gleaned from the title) this is a cookbook. This means that there is not a lot of un-necessary ensemble, but rather a collection of highly focused technical nuggets. While this structure became obvious rather quickly, I decided to continue on and read it straight through just to see what I learned.
I appreciated the fact that the book was devoid of a large section of text dedicated to the now-worn-out question of “what is cloud computing”. Nor was there any prologue describing Windows Azure to be found. Instead, the assumption (I presume) is that if you’ve picked up the book, you likely know the answer to both of those questions (within reason) and simply need help getting past some of nuances of the platform. If this describes you, this book is for you.
Light on fluff, heavy on details, this is a solid book that deals with a number of real-world issues using the Azure platform. This book works great as a reference tool: have a problem, look it up in the index or table of contents, read the recipe, put it back on the shelf.
One of the things that impressed me about the book was Neil’s work to point the reader to external resources. There were a number of places where there is something along the lines of “for a more detailed explanation of topic X, visit person Y’s website at http://….” [and, in case you are wondering, this comment was not influenced by Neil’s excellent external references on blob storage interactions… at least not much] Further, I thought that the pointing of the reader to external tools and libraries that were not necessarily required to solve the stated problem but add significant value to the actual solution was great (such as the library for handling connection failures when working with SQL Azure and AppFabric). It is attention to detail such as this that gives the reader confidence that the author wasn’t just pounding out tasks to meet a deadline but rather was sharing solutions that he had used to solve real-world problems.
Taking a more critical view of the book, I’d mention just a few things. The first is that there are a number of key points that begin with “Note:” or something similar that have key tips that are very important to the success of the recipe however (at least in the eBook version I have) they are easily lost in the rest of the text. This is likely due to the format/structure of the book and the intention is for you to read one recipe end-to-end and be done rather than reading start to finish as I did, but I would encourage the reader to be sure to read the entire recipe text and not just copy/paste the code. Neil often uses the code to teach concepts and if you just copy the code you will miss this instruction.
My second criticism is that there are a number of places in the text where the author says something along the lines of “xyz is related to this. See the Using XYZ recipe for details”. While not possible in the print copy, it would have been great in the eBook version for these to be hyperlinks to the referenced section
Being that it is a first edition, there are also a few places where there are minor errors such as task numbers not lining up exactly with the numbers used in the related “how it works” section, but in such cases it was rather easy to intuit what was being referred to and didn’t detract from the book.
All told, it is a good book and I’d quickly recommend it as a reference tool for Azure developers.
In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent a copy of the book and asked to read it and post a review.