An Azure Type Provider for F# – first steps


I plan on blogging a bit more about my experiences with writing Type Providers in general as there’s a dearth of material readily available online. At any rate, after several false starts, I now have a moderately usable version of a Azure Blob Storage type provider on GitHub!

It’s easy to consume – just create a specific type of account, passing in your account name and key, and away you go!

Using Type Providers to improve the developer experience

It’s important to notice the developer experience as you dot your way through. First you’ll get a live list of containers: –

1

Then, on dotting into a container, you’ll get a lazily-loaded list of files in that container: –

2

Finally, on dotting into a file, you’ll get some details on the last Copy of that file as well as the option to download the file: –

3

It’s important to note that the signature of the Download() function from file to file will change depending on the extension of the file. If it’s a file that ends in .txt, .xml or .csv, it will return Async<string>; otherwise it’s an Async<Byte[]>. This is completely strongly typed – there’s no casting or dynamic typing involved, and you don’t have to worry about picking the correct overload for the file :-). This, for me, is a big value add over a static API which cannot respond in this manner to the contents of the data that it operates over – and yet with a type provider it still retains static typing!

Conclusion

I think that this type provider is somewhat different to others like the excellent FSharp.Data ones, which are geared towards programmability etc. – this one is (currently) more suited to scripting and exploration of a Blob Storage account. I still need to make the provider more stable, and add some more creature comforts to it, but I’m hoping that this will make peoples lives a bit easier when you need to quickly and easily get some data out of (and in the future, into) a Blob store.

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