Looking for a host suitable for .NET Framework apps? Windows Server virtual machines are almost your only option. The only public cloud PaaS product that offers a higher abstraction than virtual machines is Azure’s App Service. And that’s not really meant to run an entire enterprise portfolio. So … what to do? Don’t say “switch to .NET Core and run on all the Linux-based platforms” because that’s cheating. What can you do today? The best option you don’t know about is Pivotal Cloud Foundry (PCF). In this post, I’ll show you how to easily deploy and operate .NET apps in PCF on any infrastructure.
This is part five of a five part series. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed my exploration of workloads you might not expect to see on a cloud-native platform like PCF.
- Part 1 – Deploying and running Docker images
- Part 2 – Setting up TCP routable services
- Part 3 – Running batch and scheduled jobs
- Part 4 – Configuring data streaming apps
- Part 5 – Deploying .NET Framework apps to Windows Server
About PAS for Windows
Quickly, I want to tell you about Pivotal Application Service (PAS) for Windows. Recall that PCF is really made up of two software abstractions atop a sophisticated infrastructure management platform (BOSH): Pivotal Application Service (for apps) and Pivotal Container Service (for raw containers). PAS for Windows extends PAS with managed Windows Server instances. As an operator, you can deploy, patch, upgrade, and operate Windows Server instances entirely through automation. For developers, you get a on-demand, scalable host that supports remote debugging and much more. I feel pretty safe saying that this is better than whatever you’re doing today for Windows workloads!
Deploying a WCF application to PCF
Let’s do this. First, I confirmed that I had a Windows “stack” available to me. In my PCF environment, I ran a cf stacks command.
Yup, all good. I created a new Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) application targeting .NET Framework 4.0. All of your apps aren’t using the latest framework, so why should my sample? Note that you can run all types of classic .NET projects in PCF: ASP.NET Web Forms, MVC, Web API, WCF, console, and more.
My WCF service doesn’t need to change at all to run in PCF. To publish to PCF, I just need to provide a set of command line parameters, or, write a manifest with those parameters. My manifest looked like this:
- name: blog-demo-wcf
There’s a buildpack just for .NET apps on Windows and all I have to do is push the code itself. About fifteen seconds after typing cf push, my WCF service was packaged up and loaded into a Windows Server container.
Browsing the endpoint returned that familiar page of WCF service metadata.
Operating your .NET app on PCF
It’s one thing to deploy an app, it’s another thing to manage it. PCF makes that pretty easy. After deploying a .NET app, I see some helpful metadata. It shows me the stack, buildpack, and any environment variables visible to the app.
How long does it take you to get a new instance of your .NET app into production today? Weeks? Months? I just scaled up from one to three Windows container instances in less than ten seconds. I just love that.
Any app written in any language gets access to the same set of PCF functionality. Your .NET Framework apps get built-in log aggregation, metrics and monitoring, autoscaling, and more. All in a multi-tenant environment. And with straightforward access to anything in the marketplace through the Service Broker interface. Want your .NET Framework app to talk to Azure’s Cosmos DB or Google Cloud Spanner? Just use the broker.
Oh, and don’t forget that because PAS for Windows uses legit Windows Server containers, each app instance gets its own copy of the file system, registry, and GAC. You can see this by SSH-ing into the container. Yes, I said you could SSH in. It’s just a cf ssh command.
That’s a full Windows file system, and I can even spin up Powershell in there. Crazy times.