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Cloud Security: Article

Using SQL Azure for SOA Quality Testing

SQL Azure provides affordable and rapid collaboration across SOA Test teams using SOAPSonar

I. INTRODUCTION
Throwing its hat in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) ring, Microsoft has joined the likes for Salesforce.com and Google with its annoucement of Microsoft Azure Platform. Microsoft Windows Azure Platform provides three primary components:

  1. Windows Azure: A cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform.
  2. SQL Azure: A cloud hosted relational database that removes the burdens of RDBMS installation, patching, upgrades and overall software management for relational databases.
  3. AppFabric: A platform that enables users to build and manage applications easily both on-premises and in the cloud.

To better understand the components offered by MS Azure, we registered for MS Azure Platform and browsed through the three components. SQL Azure turned out to be the easiest one to configure and do something useful with, so we built a mashup that utilizes MS SQL Azure as a centeral repository for SOA Testing. In this article, we share our impressions of SQL Azure and how to automate SOA quality assurance by building test cases that use data from a SQL Azure instance.

II. BENEFITS OF USING SQL AZURE FOR SOA TESTING

By using a cloud-based RDBMS, such as MS SQL Azure, developer and testors can gain the following benefits:

  • Better Collaboration across testors by sharing test data within and across enterprise boundaries and geographies.
  • Ease of Management by eliminating the burden of downloading, installing, patching and managing a Database used for storing SOA test data values.
  • Increased Nimbleness by eliminating resources contention and scheduling bottlenecks by "spinning up" new instance of Database servers within minutes for SOA Testing teams.
  • Cost Reduction inherently associated with on-demand and elastic nature of cloud computing by eliminating on-premise hardware and software.

III. SETUP AND INSTALLATION OVERVIEW
To understand SQL Azure and its utility for collaborative SOA Testing, we built a mash up between SQL Azure, a target web service IsValidEmail(email address) and SOAPSonar, a SOA Testing tool from Crosscheck Network.  Figure 1 shows the overall setup scenario where SQL Azure is used to maintain and share test data consumed by geographically disparate SOA testers tasked with testing services for a SOA deployment.

Figure 1:  SQL Azure setup for collaborative SOA testing

Figure 1: SQL Azure setup for collaborative SOA testing

We started by registering for an Azure account and creating a SQL Azure Database. After setting firewall rules that permit remote access, we installed Microsoft SQL Management Studio and connected to the SQL Azure Database. With SQL Management Studio, we were able to create tables and insert data into the tables. We then installed SOAPSonar and imported the publicly available WSDL containing a single test service, IsValidOperation(email), that checks for the validity of an email address. The details of SQL Azure setup and data automation for SOA testing configuration are provided below along with details of issues that we encountered along the way.

III. SQL AZURE SETUP
The SQL Azure setup involves acquiring an Azure account, creating a Database instance, configuring firewall rules for remote access, creating tables and inserting data in the tables. These steps are explained is detail below.

Azure Account Registration: Windows Azure platform, provides an introductory SQL Azure Web edition instance with 1GB of storage. Standard rate for the web edition beyond the 3 months is $9.99/month. Setup is simple and straight forward. You can get started by obtaining an Azure Account.

Database Creation: Once you have your account, you can create a database using the online SQL Azure Web Interface.

Figure 2: SQL Azure Create Database Server Interface

The Location field in Figure 2 above provides two options: i) South Central US and ii) East Asia. This indicates that SQL Azure is primed for low-latency, regional content delivery at least for a couple of regions.

Firewall Configuration: One of the areas to watch out for is the Firewall settings below. You will need to check the "Allow Microsoft Service access to this server" check box that will add a Firewall rule as shown in Figure 3 below.

Figure 3: SQL Azure Database Firewall settings for internal access

In addition to firewall rule shown in Figure 3 that enables you to test connectivity within the cloud environment, you must also add a new rule that enables your external network/machine/laptop - acting as a client to communicate with your SQL Azure Server instance. Add Rule shows your local address range that should be permitted to communicate with the SQL Azure Server. If you don't enable such a firewall rule, you'll get an error, such as:

Error initializing Data Source

SQLServer::Server=tcp:yourAzureSQLServer.database.windows.net;

Database=YourDB;UserID=YourAdminUser;Password=YourPassword;

Trusted_Connection=False;Encrypt=True;.

Cannot open server 'yourAzureSQLServer' requested by the login.

Client with IP address 'xx.xxx.xxx.xxx' is not allowed to access the server.

Login failed for user 'yourAdmin'.

Database Management: SQL Azure exposes rudimentary database create and drop functions. One of the useful features is Connection Strings as shown in bottom left of Figure 4 below. This is a handy feature that provides you with a copy of the connection string that you can paste in your application to connect to a SQL Azure database instance.

Figure 4: SQL Azure Database Management functions

We are accostomed to the rich, internet-based, phpMyAdmin console for managing MySQL databases including the ability to create, drop, and update tables, browse data and write adhoc SQL queries. We expected similar functionality available through the internet console for Micrsoft SQL Azure. In the case of SQL Azure, however, you have two options for managing your database engine: use sqlcmd utility or SQLSever Management Studio. Both options require client side installation. After a little bit of digging around, we found the right version of SQLManagementStudio x86 Executable "tools only" download that was 155MB in size instead of a full 1.26GB SQL Server 2008 November R2 version. After a relative painless installation of SQL Server Management Studio, we were able to connect to SQL Azure, create a table, and insert data into the tables. Figure 5 below shows the SQL queries exectued on SQL Azure using the SQLServer Management Studio.

Figure 5: SQL Server Management Studio for managing SQL Azure

While creating the tables and inserting data, we stumbled on a requirement that SQL Azure expects you to create an index. Without an index, you will see the following error.

Msg 40054, Level 16, State 1, Line 8 Tables without a clustered index are not supported in this version of SQL Server.

Please create a clustered index and try again.

We expect that newer versions of SQL Azure will provide a richer, internet-based management experience and elimate the burden of installing client tools to manage what is after all a cloud-based component.

IV. DATA AUTOMATION FOR SOA TESTING
Using a cloud-based repository for test data provides a number of benefits including test team collaboration across disparate locations and ease of management. Here are the steps to setup SOA test automation using a SQL Azure instance:

Install SOA Testing Tool: We used SOAPSonar Automation Edition from Crosscheck Networks, .NET-based REST XML/SOAP client used for comprehensive web services testing. SOAPSonar insta ller will ask you for required packages, such as .NET Framework 2.0 or higher, if it is not already available on your machine.

Load WSDL: The WSDL for the public service IsValidEmail(email) is published at the following URL: http://www.webservicex.net/ValidateEmail.asmx?WSDL. Paste this URL into SOAPSonar as shown in Figure 6 below to load the WSDL. Select the IsValidEmail test case in the left Project Tree Panel. Enter a test value and execute the test. You will see the SOAP response in the Response Panel.

Configure SQL Azure DB Connection: To connect SOAPSonar to SQL Azure, click on Connection Strings button as shown in Figure 4 above and copy the ADO.NET connection string to the clipboard. Click on Data Sources as shown in Figure 6 below and select the SQL Server Data Source.

Figure 6: SOAPSonar Automation Data Source Configuration Panel

Now you can paste the connection string into SOAPSonar as shown in Figure 7 below and change the Query to point to your table. In our sample case, the table is named Editor. You can now click on the Tables icon in the lower right of the panel shown in Figure 7 to View Data from SQL Azure.

Figure 7: Setting connection parameter from SOAPSonar to SQL Azure

At this stage, you have established connectivity to SQL Azure and are now ready to use the data for test automation.

Use Automation Data: The database table, Editor, that we used in this mashup consist of an Email column that can be selected for automated invocation of the operation IsEmailValid(emailaddress). Simply select the data source as shown is Figure 8 below and exectute the test.

Figure 8: Setting connection parameter from SOAPSonar to SQL Azure

For all Email enteries in the Editor table, nine in our case, SOAPSonar sends SOAP requests to the IsValidEmail Web service gathers the SOAP responses. You can click on Report View to look at SOAP request and response for each Email value in the table. Using a database in this fashion eliminates mannual setting of a test case for each email address. A single test case can be authored with data used from a data store such as SQL Azure. Test success criteria for each test case can also be inserted in the database tables and used to evaluate sucess or failiure for each request.

V. CONCLUSION
SQL Azure is a promising option for corporations that deploy Micrsoft technology and are interested in leveraging cloud computing to reduce IT costs and respond rapidly to business requirements. For companies that are simply looking for hosted relational databases, other options such as MySQL hosted by Amazon EC2, Rackspace, GoGrid or OpSource serve as strong alternatives.

Our impressions of SQL Azure have been positive. Through firewall rules, security provisions are adequete and not overwhelming for database and application developers. We do expect a richer web-based management interface in the future that goes beyond just creating an dropping databases. Although SQL Management Studio, installed locally on your machine, provides powerful management capabilities, it dilutes the power of installation-free, cloud-based components.

Corporations can use Quality Assurance and Testing as low-hanging use-cases for cloud computing. Companies should be less concerned about storing test data in external clouds compared to, for example, real customer data. Using SQL Azure for SOA test automation provides better collaboration for test teams, ease of database management and a cheaper alternative to procuring and maintaining on-premise test infrastructure.

VI. REFERENCES

  1. The NIST Defintion of Cloud Computing
  2. Microsoft Windows Azure Platform
  3. Microsoft SQL Management Studio Tools Only Installation
  4. Sample Datebase Table, Editor with data insert SQL Scripts: DDJ-Index.sql
  5. Email Validation Web service
  6. SOA Testing Tool: SOAPSonar from Crosscheck Networks

More Stories By Mamoon Yunus

Mamoon Yunus is an industry-honored CEO and visionary in Web Services-based technologies. As the founder of Forum Systems, he pioneered XML Security Gateways & Firewalls and was granted a patent for XML Gateway Appliances. He has spearheaded Forum's direction and strategy for eight generations of award-winning XML Security products. Prior to Forum Systems, Yunus was a Global Systems Engineer for webMethods (NASD: WEBM) where he developed XML-based business integration and architecture plans for Global 2000 companies such as GE, Pepsi, Siemens, and Mass Mutual. He has held various high-level executive positions at Informix (acquired by IBM) and Cambridge Technology Group.

He holds two Graduate Degrees in Engineering from MIT and a BSME from Georgia Institute of Technology. InfoWorld recognized Yunus as one of four "Up and coming CTOs to watch in 2004." He is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences such as RSA, Gartner, Web Services Edge, CSI, Network Interop, and Microsoft TechEd. Yunus has the distinction of showcasing Forum Systems' entrepreneurial leadership as a case study at the MIT Sloan School of Management. He has also been featured on CNBC as Terry Bradshaw's "Pick of the Week."