Canberra Azure Meetup

Canberra Azure Meetup

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Canberra Azure Meetup. The Meetup was very well attended - there were also three speakers for good variety. Here is my summary.

The Meetup

The Canberra Azure Meetup is still in its infancy - this was only the second one ever. Yet it had excellent attendance, much more than the .NET Meetup or the JavaScript Meetup - about 80 people. The event was unsurprisingly hosted by Microsoft, who were kind enough to provide pizza and soft drink, but wasn't all salesy which was good.

Speaker 1 - Alex de Gruiter on Azure Stack

The first speaker was Alex de Gruiter, a Cloud Solution Architect from Microsoft talking about Azure Stack. Funnily, the person I was sitting next to was excited to hear about what the Azure dev stack was - Azure Functions on the front end, Azure SQL Database on the back end, Azure Service Bus in the middle perhaps.

But no, Azure Stack is a proper name for an on premise deployment of the Azure platform. In other words, you buy a rack from a vendor (prices from Dell start at $300,000!) and put it in your data center, and run Azure form there. It has most of the platform, except for Azure AD, Machine Learning and a few other things that wouldn't translate well. The idea is that if you have Secret data or an offline scenario then you could still use the Azure platform if you wanted to.

While this sounds like a cool idea, Microsoft recently announced a Canberra region of Azure that is wholly owned by the Australian Government. It can hold Secret data and pretty much makes Azure Stack redundant for most .NET work around town - unless you had to work offline from the Internet, of course.

Speaker 2 - Andrew Purdon from ACT Government

When I saw Andrew Purden at the Meetup in person it clicked - I had worked with him years ago in a previous job at Shared Services where he worked as a SharePoint and server administrator. Fast forward a few years, and now all that infrastructure is running in Azure's Infrastructure as a Service offerings.

Andrew took us through quite a detailed look the the journey to the cloud - warts and all. There were definitely some issues they ran into with disk space and fault zone allocation that aren't often apparent in the sales documentation. But it looked like they had made some impressive gains in their automation space using tools like Azure Resource Manager templates and PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) to rapidly set up Virtual Machines in a consistent way.

Whilst they have only moved their infrastructure to the cloud for the moment, they are planning work to look at moving to the Azure Platform as a Service for their .NET web apps. It all looks very promising, so much so that it almost made me want to go back to working at the ACT Government!

Speaker 3 - Azure Fast and Furious

The final speaker gave a quick talk on a new offering called Azure SQL Managed Instance, which is designed to have the functionality of an on premise SQL Server instance and the hands-off management of Azure SQL Database. That is, you get a full SQL instance that runs on the cloud where you don't need to worry about the operating system or backups or recovery.

But unlike an Azure SQL Database, you also get to run SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Agent Jobs, three part naming and linked servers etc. These are all features that have been heavily used in work I have done, and having them available in a cloud scenario would definitely ease the friction of a cloud migration.

Wrap up

After the talks I had a chat with Chris Burrows, the organiser of the event. I mentioned that I was interested in hearing about Azure Functions, the Azure "serverless" offering. At the most recent JavaScript meetup we saw some node.js functions running on AWS Lambda and Google Cloud Platform, so it would be good to see a what Azure has to offer in that space.

Overall it was a great meetup and I look forward to learning more about Azure and getting into the community behind it.