There are those moments in your career where you either make the right move or you don’t. Back in 2000, you needed to move from Novell into Microsoft and you needed to know DNS and AD. If you did those things then you found yourself in the right place at the right time and your career went into high gear while the old guard largely faded away.
Between then and now IT Professionals have enjoyed a time of stability where you could build off those early skills. It’s been relatively easy to keep up. But now, RIGHT NOW, we are reaching another career watershed moment. This time it’s about knowing Azure.
Microsoft is turning networking on it’s head. Foundational concepts like Server and Domain Controller are fading into the past. Things that you understood as interwoven and unseperable are being componentized. DNS will come to rule the land, so you’ve got that, but it becomes even more critical to truly understand it as even your disks now have FQDN names in Azure.
If you don’t get started on your Azure skills now, then real soon it’s going to be too late for you to catch up. This train is picking up speed. Last year I wrote an article for the SMBKItchen Project on why you should care about Azure. It’s so out of date already! But yet still relevent so I’ve copied for you below. I hope to see in you Azure.
Now that a year has passed Third Tier is beginning to released the original SMBKitchen documents. Our members got this information a year ago but now is your chance to catch-up. If you’d like this information along with webinars and chats as it’s created be sure to sign up for our SMBKitchen ASP. You can purchase yours at http://helpdesk.thirdtier.net
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Azure Who cares?
Azure is the basis of Microsoft’s cloud. Taking a look at the direction that Azure is taking is a glimpse into the future of networking. If you want to be part of the future of IT, then you’d better learn about Azure.
What is Azure?
Recently we did a survey of the SMBKitchen membership to refine the content for the second half of the project and we asked a question about Azure. There was little interest in Azure. Because of that this may be the only article on Azure published in the project, unless the sentiment changes.
On the What is Azure page at http://www.windowsazure.com you’ll find the above graphic. It’s very clever. The definition of what Azure is changes as you move from tile to tile. The wording is still pretty application development and provisioning centric but look at the categories and drill down into them and you’ll find a solution for building an entire IT infrastructure in the cloud for any size business. Azure has morphed away from competing with Amazon Web Services and now plays on Microsoft’s strength of providing IT infrastructure. Microsoft has put the writing on the wall, in the near future the networks that you manage will reside within Azure.
What does Azure offer the IT Pro?
Let’s get real blunt. As IT Pro’s we are the dinosaurs that the Cloud is attempting to make extinct. It is the rise of the Developer and the fall of the IT Pro. I don’t think for a minute that IT will become extinct but I do believe that it will change significantly and there will be a significant change in the IT Pro community as a result. In fact, Microsoft and others are counting on it. They believe that the current crop of IT Pro is part of the problem not part of the solution anymore. The problem they are trying to solve is to eliminate piracy and support costs while increasing user adoption of their product line. To solve this problem they are pulling everything “in-house” where they can retain more control over sales and they hope reduce support costs by controlling the hardware end of things too. In order to not be in the “die off” we need to adapt and in this case it will mean learning Azure because this is how Microsoft intends to deliver products in the future.
The picture on the right is the Azure menu. As you can see Azure isn’t just a place for developers to host their web applications. That was just phase one. Now Azure can be your entire infrastructure or part of it. It can host your website, your Active Directory, your SQL server, your file server, your DNS server, your RDS server, etc. You can setup a site-site VPN between your on-premises network infrastructure and your Azure infrastructure and have a single sign-on experience between them. Or you can have the entire infrastructure exist in the cloud and have the end users open an RDP session to access it. Let’s think about this for a moment. We work remotely. We remote into our clients’ server to perform our tasks. Does it really matter to us whether it’s in Azure datacenter, a local datacenter or sitting in an office somewhere? No our work remains the same.
What does Azure offer SMB Businesses?
Honestly it’s hard to say exactly because we aren’t in the future yet. Applications are moving into the Cloud and are available for subscription. Office 365 is a good example. It provides Office, Exchange, Sharepoint, Lync and SkyDrive Pro. For many SMB’s this is all they have on-premises now. So they go to the Cloud eventually unless they have a legal restriction not to. Microsoft will do everything in their power to make it financially advantageous to do so. This gives them the benefit of eliminating servers in their office and the flexibility to work from anywhere, anytime, any device. If you add in Intune (another Azure application) to manage their BYOD devices then you have a nice simple network. If there are other applications needed those vendors might make them available in Azure or they might offer them as web applications hosted elsewhere. If storage is required outside of Sharepoint, well Azure offers that too. The benefits to small business then are one stop shopping, flexible predictable spending and they don’t have to make any big purchases or figure out where to put the servers. The benefits will only go up from where they are today.
Let’s imagine the future for businesses for a moment. I can imagine as applications become cloud hosted and my clients become used to the idea that when they invest in a new application that it generates a new monthly fee and they access it through the browser or an RDP client. This will eventually become the norm. Now suppose that they find an application that isn’t available in the Cloud. They will need a server. Often when you add a new application to a server it results in the addition of a server or the need for a new server. At this moment your client is probably going to hesitate because purchasing hardware has become out of the norm. When we get to this point in time, Azure is yet again probably where you will turn to add another hosted server for this new application and keep your client from having to buy hardware.
Many of you are already asking for ways to have better control over smaller clients that really don’t want a server locally. Imagine if you could stand up a domain controller in Azure, connect it securely back to local clients. Imagine if you could even provide a remote web access ability, even remote desktops all hosted in Azure. I’m sure that you’re thinking yes but this is going to be a long time away or my clients aren’t going to go to the Cloud. To that I would suggest that it’s going to happen faster than we think and even if your existing clients aren’t going to the Cloud your potential new clients are. As IT Pros we should be ready to deploy this new infrastructure.
In in the picture above you are seeing a Virtual machine of Server 2012 R2, withl the Essentials Experience Role and have RWA on a server that is hosted in Azure. After the virtual machine is installed, you merely RDP into the Azure hosted server to complete the configurations. The future is rapidly approaching.
What should you be doing today?
You’ve got time before your clients all go to the Cloud. But the Cloud is like a snowball gathering snow as it rolls downhill. As it gathers more snow it gets heavier which makes it roll faster down the hill. Meanwhile as the snowball gets bigger it becomes more difficult for you, the IT Pro, to get your arms around. You need to start your training now. Learn it as Microsoft is releasing it and be on the forefront of this new way to deliver technology to your clients.
· Open an Azure 90 day Trial. It’s free and Microsoft doesn’t start charging you automatically when it expires.
· Use your trial to build a lab in the cloud. http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithmayer/p/earlyexpertlabsetup_azure.aspx
· Go through the Azure online training program at earlyexperts.net. It’s free too. You just need to be sure to set aside enough time to get through it in 90 days. Commit to it. http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithmayer/p/earlyexpertws12_cloud.aspx
· Think about moving your business into Azure. You need to know what it’s like and gain experience managing it. There’s no better way. Think about your market advantage 2 or 5 years from now when you can say to a potential client, “I’ve had my business in Azure for X years now. ”
· Run a server instance up there for a month. See what the expected price tag will be to run a server in Azure so you get a feel for costs and uses. Remember that these costs may change. At this point web services have been trending dramatically down as service mature.
· Look for more cloud Azure offerings to be included in the Microsoft Action Pack in the November time frame and take advantage of those.
I firmly believe that learning Azure will give you a market advantage somewhere down the line and when you start early you have the opportunity to know the offering in more depth than those that start later.