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Learning Microsoft Azure in a week

I spent the first week of the new year on a virtual training course learning all about Microsoft Azure. Here's how it went.

Two years ago I started the year with a training course, namely, Sitecore Certified Developer 9.0. It should come as no surprise that two years ago I was living my best “covid-free” life. Perhaps it was naïve to think that starting 2021 with another training course would somehow “undo 2020”. Alas, here we are. In the first week of the new year I learned about Microsoft Azure.

And it blew my mind. 🤯

Patrick from SpongeBob's head exploding. But before we get into the all the nerdy stuff, you might be interested in knowing how I actually attended a training course in the middle of a global pandemic. You already know I didn’t waltz into my local train station and demand a return ticket to London every day…

Much like everything else for now, the entire training course was held online — the video conference, reading materials and the interactive demos. I get it, nothing beats face-to-face, but at no point did it feel like I was watching a 35 hour YouTube video. Nor was there much, if any fatigue from daily logging on and tuning in for another session. The key was the interactivity of it all. I will never again underestimate the power of a simple (checkmark) or (cross) when it comes to letting someone know if I liked or understood something, in addition to using my voice and a little chat-box. Even more incredible was the fact that the entire training course was accessible from my web browser.

Which leads me onto Azure.

My main takeaway is that you can do so much from your web browser. I know that’s a gross oversimplification, but it is true, especially with Azure.

“Hold up! Is this an ad?”
Not even a little bit.

I work with Azure fairly regularly as part of my job and it’s pretty safe to say that I have only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of. On the first day alone I learned the blueprint to building out an entire structure of virtual networks. From someone with a very basic understanding of networking, there is a learning curve to overcome looking at it from a cloud/virtualisation point of view. But I just find it fascinating how we can build scalable, global infrastructure within minutes.

As a developer however, what really peaked my interest was when we started to learn about containers and serverless computing. I had failed to understand the concept of a container prior to this course. I always assumed it was just a virtual machine. But now I understand containers as being like an executable package that holds everything you need (dependencies, code, settings) to run whatever app you want. Because these containers tend to be smaller in nature, the overall cost is likely to be less and from the examples we saw the savings can be huge.

Ever since that day, I’ve been eager to try my hand at building some containers and learning more about serverless architecture. Logic Apps were another area of interest. These are automated processes that run on some event/trigger and can be used to connect different parts of your online platform together. For example, you publish a new blog post and a tweet goes out alerting your followers. There are many possibilities. Of course, there are also many alternatives to going with Microsoft’s platform. A quick Google search revealed offerings from AWS, IBM, alongside established products like Zapier. I could even chuck IFTTT into the mix — which I’ve used before.

So why do I now have a profound interest and enthusiasm in Azure specifically, having used and known about other cloud solutions? It comes down to two things:

  1. Interface
  2. Interconnectedness

Personally, the interface of Azure is by far one of the clearest I have come across. Everything is laid out in an intuitive, accessible manner. This makes me happy. In the past I’ve been reluctant to using some cloud services due to their interfaces. When you see an overwhelming list of products and actions it makes it difficult to actually find the stuff you need. I don’t feel like that’s the case with Azure. Even though there’s so many services to traverse through, I can still find exactly what I need. Also, kudos for dark mode!

Secondly, if you’re already using Microsoft products, Azure ties everything together quite nicely. It’s an extension of a framework you’re already used to. Those Logic Apps for example, can connect to your Office 365 account, Sharepoint, SQL Server — even Bing if you’re wild enough! I wouldn’t normally recommend keeping all your eggs in one basket, but when you’re developing critical apps and services, it might just save you some time.

I like the approach of having one central place to manage everything.

Even more so, the approach of having one central place to manage everything — from your web browser.

If you’re interested in checking out the course for yourself, here’s a link. If not, let me encourage you to invest some time into learning any new skill. Even if it doesn’t lead to anything career wise, it can still be a great experience. ✌🏾