Azure First Thoughts: Drinking From the Blue Fountain

Tim Gray
April 11, 2018

Recently The Cloud at OptimalBI has taken a more bluish tinge. We have always liked a little Microsoft here at OptimalBI Ltd with our C#s and our SQL Servers, and as such our ventures over to the land of the long blue cloud were inevitable.

Azure is one of the fastest innovating platforms out there and makes a lot of sense if you already love Microsoft’s technology. Here are some thoughts as I navigate the blue seas.

Microsoft is very good at selling the security of Azure

Having been to a few local Microsoft things and listening to many Azure presentations I can say that Microsoft knows how to sell Azure’s security. This makes it easier to sell Azure to your more security conscious (paranoid) clients and is one of the reasons why the New Zealand government is more comfortable with Azure than other cloud providers. Everyone likes a nice secure cloud, so lock that data-baby in a vault and tell them they can only go see their friends once they have done their homework.

The Azure portal is nice on the eyes

In my (comparatively) brief time using the Azure portal I quite like the look and feel of the UI. It’s easy to navigate around between services, and the addition of a dark theme makes it much easier on the eyes during those late night fixes. You can finally match colours to your Visual Studio settings and look like those parents who dress their children just like them. Success.

Azure makes the important things easy to find

Azure has a customizable dashboard which you land on when you first log into your Azure account. This means that you can put important metrics, shortcuts to critical services, cool buttons, and anything else you wish to on one screen and have a great time jumping around the dashboard. This means you can spend less time navigating around and more time doing important cloud-y things.

Getting a new personal account started is annoying

Trying to get an account that has the correct subscription for creating things like Virtual Machines can be annoying. It is possible that I could just have had the bad luck of timing my experiments while Microsoft was having a few difficulties with their systems.
To access certain paid-for resources your Azure account needs to have an active pay-as-you-go subscription. This is quite a good feature as it stops you spending money when you didn’t intend to, but there were a few hitches I ran into when I was trying to upgrade my subscriptions. The first one was that the account portal took a long time to load. This is likely just a once off occurrence as I just happened to be accessing the portal while it was under load but it could scare off a few first-time users. The second challenge I had was that the subscription change took 3 hours to apply to my account. Again I don’t know if this is typical but it did blow out the time I had allocated to investigate the basics of Azure. Slightly annoying, but not the end of the world.

Virtual machines take longer than I expected to start

I’m personally used to the AWS Cloud where the virtual machines start very quickly, but in Azure-land one of the Windows servers I started took 8 minutes. Which is fine, I just wasn’t expecting it. Much like that little unflavoured bit in your milkshake.
So those are a few random thoughts I’ve had so far as I browse through Azure-land, but there will almost definitely be more in the future, so feel free to subscribe for more updates. If you are after some more Azure-ness checkout some of Brents blogs here.
Until then,
Tim Gray
Coffee to Code

Tim works on a lot of things here at optimal and writes blogs on a wide range of topics.

Connect with Tim on LinkedIn or read his other blogs here.

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