Get Better Acquainted with Azure

Editor’s Note: This post comes from Erez Benari, Program Manager on the Windows Azure Web Sites team

While our website http://www.windowsazure.com contains a wealth of information, and we keep adding and updating it, you might occasionally find yourself looking for other forms of info. For example, if you’re frequently on flights or offline for other reasons, having information in the form of a book can be a great boone. Other times, you might find yourself looking for something more interactive than an article. Today, we will look at some of the resources available to you for Azure.

The source of information often preferred by many are blogs, such as the one you’re reading right now. Several groups within Azure contribute to this, as well as many other bloggers, both within and outside of Microsoft. For example, Scott Guthrie, Corporate Vice President in the Microsoft Server and Tools Business has a very popular blog and he often talks about Azure. The blog page on WindowsAzure lists his and several others such as Clemens Vasters, David Gristwood, Nick Harris, Nathan Totten, as well as several others on the right-hand side column.

If you’re the type of person who prefers short and rapid updates such as offered by Twitter, then you’ll be happy to learn that we tweet as well @WindowsAzure, and so do many of our team members. For example, Nir Mashkowski, tweets @nirmsk, Scott Hanselman is @shanselman and of course – Scott Guthrie as well @scottgu.

Sometimes you might find yourself looking for a human being to answer a question directly, mano-a-mano. If you are using an Azure service that’s eligible for support, that would usually be the preferred option, and if not, you can look for an answer on our support forums, or post your own if the topic hasn’t been covered before. Another popular forum that deals with Azure a lot is the one on Stack Overflow. In addition to this, UserVoice provides a direct channel to the Azure product teams within Microsoft, allowing you to post your own ideas or asks to be reviewed by us.

Another great source of information is books, of course. One might wonder why spend money on a book, when there is so much content out there? Well, other than the situation of being off-line, many people still prefer reading a book, because it’s inherently synchronous. You start from page 1 and read on until you’re done (while online content can make it hard to find where to start and in which order to read more info). Over the years, plenty of books have been written about Windows Azure.

The best book for starting with cloud computing is probably the book Cloud Computing Bible by Barrie Sosinsky (ISBN 978-0470903568). While not specific to Azure, it provides a comprehensive look at cloud technology, how it evolved over time, and what it really means to be in the cloud. Once you have a good grasp of the basics, Windows Azure Platform by Tejaswi Redkar  and Tony Guidici goes deeper, and discusses Azure technologies specifically (Tony and Tejaswi both work for Microsoft).

If you are a developer, then you would probably want to look into books specifically discussing development for Azure, such as Windows Azure programming patterns for Start-ups by Riccardo Becker, Microsoft Windows Azure Development Cookbook by Neil Mackenzie or Moving Applications to the Cloud on Windows Azure by Dominic Betts, Alex Homer, Alejandro Jezierski, Masashi Narumoto and Hanzhong Zhang.

Some books even discuss specific Azure services directly, focusing entirely on bringing to light everything you need to know about it. For example, both Tejaswi Redkar and James Chambers have dedicated a book to Azure Web Sites (WAWS) Redkar’s book is highly detailed and very comprehensive at 342 pages, while Chambers’ book is brief and is a good way to go through some essential tasks quickly. The book Windows Azure Hybrid Cloud by Danny Garber, Jamal Malik and Adam Fazio is another more specific book that deals with the topic of private/public cloud and how to take advantage of both together.

Certain individuals feel that seeing is believing, and if you’re one of them, perhaps a good instructor-led course in a classroom is the right way to go. Microsoft and our partners offer several such courses, and while it’s a bit more complicated (as it might take a bit of work and time to find one that matches your location and schedule), these are an excellent way to get both the information and hands-on experience. For more info about the courses and availability, visit here (on the right-hand side of the page, there’s a tool to search for an upcoming class). Also, don’t forget to check out Channel9, where Microsoft publishes videos discussing various Microsoft products and technologies, including quite a bit of content related to Azure. Many of these videos are from actual presentations done at TechEd, Microsoft’s annual conference, which means that this content goes really deep and wide.

With Windows Azure being as popular as it is, pretty much every content publisher out there has something to offer. For example, Lynda.com, one of the best known self-learning video producer, has over 170 videos on this topic, with over 10 hours of content, and PluralSight has q significant collection as well. A cheaper option is YouTube, of course, as well as Vimeo which have thousands of videos each…though it does take a lot more effort to weed out the good stuff.

In conclusion, Azure is serious business and with the wide range of services and offerings comes a similarly wide range of ways to learn about it. Whichever way you prefer your info, we and our partners are there to help you along the way. If, however, things are getting a bit too serious, come check out our Facebook page for some more lighthearted chatter!