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Getting Started with Azure

By Steve Jones,

Most of the people reading this newsletter are data professionals working with SQL Server, probably using instances that they installed and run inside of their own data centers. The last few years have seen the growth of "cloud computing", which is a moniker applied to a wide variety of platforms and service offerings from Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Rackspace, and more vendors. From the data perspective, many of the data professionals haven't felt the "cloud" would be a good place to store and manage data, and with good reason. There are plenty of security concerns to worry about.

However more and more people are examining the offerings available and we see more companies looking to move certain applications into Amazon Web Services (AWS), Windows Azure, or another offering. The idea of paying only for the resources you use, scaling up or down as needed, and less system administration costs are attractive to many businesspeople, and I think they should be for you as well. I was fascinated to watch the growth of HaveIBeenPwned, both from the service it provides, as well as the way in which it was built. That was one of the first pieces that helped gave me confidence about putting a real application in the Azure space, with a nice set of data.

I think it's very helpful to see real world applications being used on new platforms or technology. It helps to give the rest of us confidence that we could do something similar. I enjoy reading about NetFlix and their Chaos Monkey, and this week I was pleased to see another example. Troy Hunt is back with the World's Greatest Azure demo, trying to help demystify the Azure platform further. It's over an hour, but the demo shows how to set up a website, deploy from Visual Studio, integrate with version control, 

There are plenty of other Azure pieces, though none that have seemed as introductory and comprehensive. I like that this one is mostly focused for software developers, though near the end there is an introduction to the SQL Azure offering and you can understand how this offering works If you want to continue to learn, there is even a site that publishes new information for Azure Friday.

I really like the idea of a Platform as a Service (PaaS), as Windows Azure offers. I think this is a great way to move forward with software development for the future. This isn't suitable for all applications, but it will work for many, especially new ones. I certainly wish that Azure would license the platform to others, and give us the chance to run this inside our own data centers. However getting away from being tied to specific machines, and just working with services is something I think will help us build better software.

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Steve Jones