Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Career in Windows Azure and Career challenges due to Windows Azure

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Recently Microsoft made announcement about new feature releases and additions to Windows Azure. Scott Guthrie gave a keynote speech about the guided tour of Windows Azure enhancements, which can be downloaded from here. Some of the very impressive enhancements are as below:

1) IaaS offering: This aspect of cloud platform is facilitated by provisioning a persistent, completely cross premise portable, .VHD format, Windows / Linux based Virtual Machine hosted on windows azure computing platform. This VM can be created with just a few clicks using the web based azure management portal, powered by a thorough monitoring, auditing, metering, scaling and administrative control including immediate ability to RDC the VM. A few ready VM images are also available in the gallery to start with. Also an innovative set of virtual networking capabilities have been offered that seems to seamlessly bridge the gap between private in-premise networks and cloud.

One of the ready available image is of SQL Server 2012 evaluation edition. Others are vanilla server images. If you use this wisely, you have almost a mobile server at your fingertips. Say you are travelling, and you get a call from your office to modify a report and revert in an hour. You can simply connect to the cloud, provided you have a prototype DB schema, you can use this ready SQL Server installation, modify your report and wash off your hands from an issue that can result into some serious office tensions.

2) Rich and collaborative application development and hosting platform: If you read the above section carefully or if you watch the above screenshot carefully, you would find non-microsoft OSes. Microsoft has collaborated with a lot of open-source and third-party application partners and have made a variety of application development platforms available as a service. Apart from SQL Server, Microsoft seems to have adopted mySQL too which is a supported database for asp.net powered windows azure websites. A sad part is that lot of CMS (Content Management System) frameworks are available, but not Sharepoint. Hopefully that should be on the plan.

The happy part here is that IaaS as well as SaaS can work in an integrated manner. Distributed caching, Unified Deployment using standard methods of TFS including cross-platform based methods like Git, cloud based DNS and identity management services are available in the form of Cloud Services which is the PaaS offering from Azure.

Career in Windows Azure: Azure is an aggressively developing cloud computing platform. Many foresighted professionals would definitely get a thought, can this be the new ride towards fortune pay packages ? Azure has many dimensions on its platform like Data Market, IaaS and virtualization and virtual networking, application hosting and development frameworks, hadoop on azure, upcoming services like media streaming, data explorer and data hub are some of the major freeways that gives you your ticket to get into the business of cloud. Few certifications are also available like 70-583 : PRO : Designing and Developing Windows Azure applications. Honestly, I wont opt appearing this exam as it got released in Feb 2011 and Azure drastically changed in June 2012. So I would still take an interest to pursue it, but wait to appear the final certification till the product gets stable.

Azure skills are definitely niche skills, but not so rich in demands that you would be weighted in gold for having it. To make a career you need to sell your thoughts at the right platform. If you can pull out few interesting POCs or Azure based solutions on 3-month free trial version of Azure, and flaunt around by sharing the same on Codeplex that can gain you some real good value. Dumb thesis of white papers describing genesis of any aspect of Azure won't give you any real business in Azure, thou it can give you some recognition in the technical journalism arena.

Career Challenges due to Windows Azure: This section is for those who believe that cloud poses threat to practitioners who are not ready to adapt to change. Adaptive attitude towards technology is one of the phenomenon that any successful technology practitioner would have experienced throughout one's career. RFPs (Request for Proposals) are getting more and more competitive, OPEX (Operational expenditure) and CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) are being measured edge to edge for delivery excellence, and with services like IaaS and SaaS, cloud is inducing a mind shifting game in the business.

In earlier days and may be even today, application developers consider themselves expert if they know caching and SOA. With azure platform, distributed cache that geo-replicates and synchronizes itself using SDKs like Data Sync, CDN and app fabric is a simple matter of config that can be achieved using clicks. What should I do with your caching expertise that works only in-premise, takes tons of resources, licenses and non-flexible solutioning that forces me to use all the products from microsoft stack instead of a hybrid cost-effective hybrid-platform solutioning ??

Many DBAs still bank on their hyper-V, SCOM, virtualization and clustering skills as their magic business. I created a SQL 2012 ready image with all standard HADR config within minutes. If I own a SMB scale application, do I really need you who just knows the IaaS part, if azure promises to manage it for me with 99.95% operational availability ? With Microsofts support for cross-platform and open source, this market has become more competitive than ever. Party has just started and more guests from non-microsoft world are invited with open hands. As per a report, by 2014, 80% of the new softwares would be traded on cloud as a service. Those who still have not got the point are marching their way to museums :)

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