Cloud Computing


Webinar: Trusting the Microsoft Cloud

For you to realize the benefits of the cloud, you must be willing to entrust your cloud provider with one of your most valuable assets – your data.

If you’re considering moving your business systems to the cloud, then you’re invited to join this webinar as Pham Nguyen of Microsoft discusses Microsoft Azure.

Thursday, June 29
4pm EST / 1pm PST

Register Now!

This webinar will explore:

  • Security – How we keep your data safe.
  • Privacy – How you own and control your data.
  • Transparency – How your data is stored and accessed.
  • Compliance – How we conform to global standards.
  • Protection – How we backup and restore your instances.

If you invest in a cloud service, you must be able to trust that your data is safe, that the privacy of your data is protected, and that you retain ownership of and control over your data – that it will only be used in a way that is consistent with your expectations.

Join us and learn why Azure should be your trusted cloud.


Merit Solutions Achieves Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform Competency

Merit Solutions, a global Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform and mobile solution provider, today announces it has attained the Microsoft Gold Cloud Platform Competency, demonstrating its “best-in-class” ability and commitment to meet the evolving needs of today’s companies with cloud-first enterprise ready business applications. This achievement validate’s Merit Solutions’ ability to enable client transformation and innovation in the digital era.

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Cloud ERP Implementations: Are you Setting the Right Goals?

Just a short while ago, most businesses feared the cloud. Concerns grew surrounding security and data exposure because people couldn’t fathom the idea of having someone else control the servers where sensitive information was stored. But then the early adopters started evangelizing the benefits they were seeing from moving to the cloud. There were cost savings, productivity increases and ironically, an increase in security. These benefits, and more, carry over to a cloud-based ERP solution as well. However, just because someone else sees something as a benefit doesn’t mean it will automatically equate to a successful implementation on your part. In order to ensure success in the cloud, you have to set the right goals for your project.

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How Cloud Based ERP Solutions Benefit You

Statistics show that majority of businesses have saved money by moving to the cloud. Once thought to be a huge security risk, businesses now welcome the cloud with open arms because they see the many benefits that Software as a Solution (SaaS) has to offer as far as:

  • Scalability
  • Reduced management costs
  • Reduced training costs
  • Lower infrastructure costs
  • Disaster recovery
  • Accessibility

These benefits apply to ERP solutions that are hosted in the cloud as well. Companies that choose to implement cloud based enterprise resource planning such as Microsoft Dynamics have seen these benefits almost immediately, and those who are looking to upgrade to the new AX7 release should feel comfortable knowing that this recent version is moving to a cloud first approach with this solution.

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FluentValidation with Dependency Injection and Inheritance for Xamarin Forms Mobile Application Validation

FluentValidation is a small validation library for .NET that uses a fluent interface and lambda expressions for building validation rules. Since input validation is important part of mobile applications, this library comes really handy as it is easy to setup and use. When developing for multiple platforms using Xamarin Forms it is desirable to have one validation codebase that could be used seamlessly for input validation on each platform.

Fluent validation is available through Nuget. We will add the package to one of our PCL projects.

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5 Benefits to Cloud Based ERP Solutions

There was a time when businesses avoided cloud-based solutions at all costs.

Over time, however, people began to realize that moving data and applications to a reputable cloud vendor wouldn’t trigger a series of catastrophic events that they once feared. Once early adopters reported how satisfied they were with their decision to utilize the cloud, other businesses began to take notice and it became a serious option for most technical solutions. Nowadays, statistics show that of the 87 percent of small to medium sized businesses who have adopted cloud-based services, 43 percent wish that they had made the move sooner.

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The Value of Hybrid Cloud Solutions

There is a reason that cloud computing is the hottest topic in ERP solutions. With the cloud, valuable data becomes available to employees throughout the organization whenever and wherever they are, thereby boosting productivity. With more and more of IT dollars being put toward devices other than PC workstations (think mobile), the computing structure of the organization must be available 24/7/365. The cloud also promises to scale quickly as an organization grows, including the ability to connect distributed employees into a cohesive team.

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Monitoring Azure Storage Content with Azure Storage Explorer

Azure Storage Explorer is a highly functional tool that allows simple and fast viewing and modifying of Azure storage data. Because of its many features, Azure Storage Explorer can be very useful when debugging and developing cloud applications. Also, it can be handy when it comes to reading Azure Diagnostics logs from Azure storage.

The first thing to be done when running the application for the first time is adding an Azure storage account which is to be monitored.


Storage Explorer supports working with multiple storage accounts that can also be development storage.

After adding an account, the storage and its content will be shown in the pane on the left. There are three types of stored data in Azure storage: blobs, queues and tables and you can easily switch from one data type to another by clicking on the links below.  

Azure Storage Explorer allows handling of blobs, blob containers, queues, queue messages, entities and tables. All storage data can be viewed, created, copied, renamed, and deleted with great ease and efficiency. For example, a blob’s properties can be viewed by double clicking the item in the list. 


The properties shown offer a better description and explanation of the data along with the editing option.

Very intuitive organization of the storage content and many options for data handling are some of the key features of Azure Storage Explorer and that’s why it is a useful tool which makes the development process a little bit easier.



Windows Azure Access Control Service – Improve User Authentication

Access Control Service is a Windows Azure service that provides an easy way of authenticating users who need to access your web applications and services without having to factor complex authentication logic into your code.

The following features are available in ACS:

  • Integration with Windows Identity Foundation (WIF),
  • Support for popular web identity providers (IPs) including Windows Live ID, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook,
  • Support for Active Directory Federation Services (AD FS) 2.0,
  • An Open Data Protocol (OData)-based management service that provides programmatic access to ACS settings,
  • A Management Portal that allows administrative access to the ACS settings.


Windows Azure ACS is built on the principals of claims-based identity – a consistent approach to creating authentication mechanisms for applications running on-premises or in the cloud. Claims-based identity provides a common way for applications and services to acquire the identity information they need about users inside their organization, in other organizations, and on the Internet.

To complete the tasks in this guide, you should understand the following concepts:

Client – In the context of this how-to guide, this is a browser that is attempting to gain access to your web application.

Relying party (RP) application – An RP application is a web site or service that outsources authentication to one external authority. In identity jargon, we say that the RP trusts that authority. This guide explains how to configure your application to trust ACS.

Token – A token is a collection of security data that is usually issued upon successful authentication of a user. It contains a set of claims, attributes of the authenticated user. A claim can represent a user’s name, an identifier for a role a user belongs to, a user’s age, and so on. A token is usually digitally signed, which means it can always be sourced back to its issuer, and its content cannot be tampered with. A user gains access to a RP application by presenting a valid token issued by an authority that the RP application trusts.

Identity Provider (IP) – An IP is an authority that authenticates user identities and issues security tokens. The actual work of issuing tokens is implemented though a special service called Security Token Service (STS). Typical examples of IPs include Windows Live ID, Facebook, business user repositories (like Active Directory), and so on. When ACS is configured to trust an IP, the system will accept and validate tokens issued by that IP. ACS can trust multiple IPs at once, which means that when your application trusts ACS, you can instantly offer your application to all the authenticated users from all the IPs that ACS trusts on your behalf.

Federation Provider (FP) – IPs have direct knowledge of users, authenticate them using their credentials and issue claims about what they know about them. A Federation Provider (FP) is a different kind of authority: rather than authenticating users directly, it acts as an intermediary and brokers authentication between one RP and one or more IPs. Both IPs and FPs issue security tokens, hence they both use Security Token Services (STS). ACS is one FP.

ACS Rule Engine – The logic used to transform incoming tokens from trusted IPs to tokens meant to be consumed by the RP is codified in form of simple claims transformation rules. ACS features a rule engine that takes care of applying whatever transformation logic you specified for your RP.

Access Control Namespace – A namespace is a top level partition of ACS that you use to organize your settings. A namespace holds a list of IPs you trust, the RP applications you want to serve, the rules that you expect the rule engine to process incoming tokens with, and so on. A namespace exposes various endpoints that will be used by the application and the developer to get ACS to perform its function.

How does it work?

1. The client (in this case a browser) requests a page from the RP.

2. Since the request is not yet authenticated, the RP redirects the user to the authority that it trusts, which is ACS. The ACS presents the user with the choice of IPs that were specified for this RP. The user selects the appropriate IP.

3. The client browses to the IP’s authentication page, and prompts the user to log on.

4. After the client is authenticated (for example, the identity credentials are entered), the IP issues a security token.

5. After issuing a security token, the IP redirects the client to ACS and the client sends the security token issued by the IP to ACS.

6. ACS validates the security token issued by the IP, inputs the identity claims in this token into the ACS rules engine, calculates the output identity claims, and issues a new security token that contains these output claims.

7. ACS redirects the client to the RP. The client sends the new security token issued by ACS to the RP. The RP validates the signature on the security token issued by ACS, validates the claims in this token, and returns the page that was originally requested.

What do you need to get it running?

  • An active Windows Azure account:
    If you don’t have Windows Azure account, you could obtain free trial.

  • Visual Studio 2012:
    If you want to use latest feature of ACS 2.0 it is recommended using VS2012, but VS2010 could also work with little bit of work.
  • Identity and Access tool:
    This tool is great add-on for VS2012 which significantly ease connecting ACS with your application.

After few simple steps you should be ready to authenticate users to your application using Windows Azure ACS with identity providers like Microsoft, Google, Facebook etc.



Windows Azure Access Control Service (ACS) 2.0

Access Control Service (ACS) is a Windows Azure service that offers a way of outsourcing authentication. It decouples the application from all the complexity of maintaining a direct relationship with all the identity providers the application is collaborating with. ACS takes care of engaging every identity provider with its own authentication protocol, normalizing the authentication results in a protocol supported by the .NET Windows Identity Foundation (WIF). In just a few clicks ACS can be configured as the authentication manager for the application. Once running, ACS takes care of the application authentication. Furthermore, ACS even offers an UI for the user to choose among the selected identity providers.

Using ACS, applications can:

  • Leverage an existing Active Directory user stores through Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS v2), as well as other stores compatible with the WS* or SAML 2.0 protocols, to multiple Windows Azure applications through a single trust relationship with the ACS 2.0 service.
  • Implement a Single Sign-On.

ACS uses security tokens instead of credentials, which is more secure because credentials are not passed over the network. Also, Building around claims allows separation of authentication logic from application logic.