Microsoft’s Azure cloud is an amazing tool for developers and companies as it totally removes barriers to your setting up very robust services to back your website, mobile clients, desktop app, or other application.  You don’t have to spend untold dollars and time setting up servers, storage devices, networking, and then backend software to get things done.  With Azure, you just sign in to the portal, provision your service, and you are off to the races for fractions of a penny of what you would spent otherwise.

To get going on our examples, we’ll first set up an Azure account and then we’ll set up an Azure Search service in that account.

Let’s set up our account, using the following steps:

If you don’t yet have a Microsoft account, go to https://signup.live.com and create a free account. Note that you can click on “Get a new email address” if you want to associate our new Azure account to a totally different email.

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Sign in to Azure using your newly created Microsoft account, at https://portal.azure.com

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You will see the Azure Portal when you are logged in and you will notice that there are no resources to display.

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Let’s create our Azure Search service by clicking on “+ New” at the top left

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In the Search box, type “Search”.  You will see “Azure Search” as the top option.

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Click on “Azure Search” and then click on it again in the search results window

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You will see a description of the service slide out in a “blade” to the right. For your edification, read the description and then click “Create”.

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At this point, you will have an Azure account, but not an Azure subscription.  You will likely see something like this, admonishing you to set up a subscription:

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Click “Sign up”. This will take you to the Add Subscription page.  There are all sorts of plans that you can sign up for.  Usually, the top two that you will be interested in will be “Free Trial” and “Pay-As-You-Go”.  The Free Trial will give you 30 days to play around with any of the services offered on Azure (with limitations) and will be what we use for this example.  Bear in mind that if you choose to use search going forward, it will stop working completely in 30 days if you choose Free Trial.  If you want to continue using search beyond this time, choose “Pay-As-You-Go”.  We will be using a free search instance, so you won’t be charged.  For our purposes, select “Free Trial”.

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Follow the steps on the next screen to verify your account. You will be required to verify the account.

Depending on Microsoft’s redirects, you will likely have to repeat the steps from above to create an Azure Service (starting at the clicking on “+ New” at the top left). Do this to initiate the creation of the search service.

You will see a blade appear that will allow you to create a search service. Our example data will be data from the FAA’s Airport Facilities Directory, so I have typed “airportfacilitiesdirectory” into the URL textbox.  Of course, you will have to create a different name so that our search resource urls won’t collide. Subscription and Resource group will be fine, but you will likely have to change the Location to be the region geographically closest to you.  Keep the name of the search service handy for use later in our App.config and Web.config files.

IMPORTANT:  Make sure that you click on Pricing tier and change it from Standard to Free.  Free will do nicely for this demo.  For production environments Free usually won’t be sufficient as it is limited to 3 indexes and a total of 10,000 documents across those 3 indexes.

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After you click create, the service will be spun up and the creation blades will be replaced with blades describing the newly created service.  Click on the Key to get the credential information for search.  Keep the Primary Admin Key for use later in our App.config and Web.config files.

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(and lest anyone is concerned, I rengenerated the primary and secondary keys the second I took this snapshot)

So there you have it.  We have finished creating our Azure account and we now have a search service waiting to receive data.

Take a look at the next post, Microsoft Azure Search – A Practical Introduction – Part 2, Setting Up a Search Index and Importing Data to see how to populate the search index and do a simple text based search.