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Azure Development on x86 Windows

If you are planning on doing any appreciable amount of work developing Azure applications using Visual Studio, and are still running x86, you should consider migrating to x64 Visual Studio sooner rather than later. This is even more the case if your application relies directly, or indirectly, on unmanaged code.

During the past year-and-half, I have done all of my Azure work in a 32-bit virtual machine without any real problems. Well, mostly without trouble. I’ve rarely had to think about it, anyway. However, that’s all changed. I’m writing this post as my x64 Visual Studio installation churns away in the background. I finally broke down.

There are two immediate reasons, and one less immediate reason:

* It’s maddeningly frustrating to have code that works fine in the local Emulator (a.k.a. the “devfabric”) only to throw exceptions like so much confetti once deployed to the real Azure fabric. There are plenty of managed libraries that still depend on 32-bit COM libraries which, unlike managed code, must be labelled 32-bit XOR 64-bit. Debugging more involved interop scenarios, like the side-by-side deployment of COM libraries, is made harder by adding in platform differences.

* You can’t debug Azure OS minidumps in x86 Visual Studio, since they were captured on an x64 OS. This really hurts, since minidumps eliminate the need to trace nearly every method call in order to avoid costly build > deploy > test cycles. If you don’t own a copy of VS Ultimate, and thus can’t benefit from Intellitrace, then minidumps are your salvation.

* The Windows x64 is now mainstream. It’s going to require ever increasing effort to swim against the current.

Honestly, it’s just time. I’ll still use my x86 VM plenty, but that will taper off over time. I’m glad to be finally making the change to 64-bit Windows (I’ve been 64-bit on OS X for long time now). It was Azure, however, that pushed me across the line.

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