I just finished teaching my Azure Master Class for Cloud Solution Architects and wanted to provide a quick recap:

Motivation

The motivation for organizing this class was three-fold:

  1. Like many companies, AIS has many open CSA (Cloud Solution Architect) positions that we are unable to fill. So the only solution is to take folks with a strong background in non-cloud environments (on any development stack for that matter) and “rewire” their brains for cloud computing 😊
    Note – Please refer to Gartner’s cautionary note [1] about Azure (the only note of caution in what is otherwise a very positive report on Azure). Gartner claims that that lack of deep technical expertise is impacting adoption.
  2. An effective CSA needs an understanding of a broad array of key concepts. Even though new features are being added to the Azure platform every day, the key concepts of availability sets, fault and upgrade domains and managed identity don’t change that often. My goal was to discuss each of these concepts in depth along with practical tips, guidance, and pitfalls.
    Note – Please refer to the list of key concepts [2] that I covered during this class.
  3. Engender a “Cloud Thinking” mindset. Cloud thinking is a mindset that goes beyond moving an existing application to the cloud (lift-n-shift) or starting out using a cloud-native service like Functions. Cloud thinking is a solution-focused approach to building cloud applications that maximizes the benefits that the cloud has to offer, including considerations like monitoring, cost, governance, HA and of course, compliance and security.

Format

  • The class spanned three intense days.
  • No hands-on lab – I expected the attendees to fork the repo and work through the samples on their own time. I also encouraged attendees to review Azure Essentials before attending the class.
  • I focused on building a conceptual understanding of key Azure topics. I relied on concept slides combined with focused demos.

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Azure Functions LogoThe trend of making applications serverless is on fire! And it’s not just hype…going serverless makes the administration, monitoring and debugging of code so much easier that developers all around are flocking to use it in one way or the other.

If you don’t know what serverless means, I would suggest you start here. In a nutshell, it basically abstracts the underlying platform and allows the developers just to run a piece of code without worrying about servers and their maintenance. Also, it gets the usual benefits of the cloud like auto-scale, pay-per-use, etc.

The Background

At AIS IDC, we have a separate timesheet system to keep track of records internally. This system comprises of various features like Leave Requests, Time Logs, Work-From-Home Requests, etc. We deployed the system a couple of years ago, and it’s comprised of an Azure SQL instance, Azure Web App on Windows, and an Azure Classic Cloud Service. The Azure Classic Cloud Service was deployed with a separate application written in C# to keep track of overtime hours, update leaves, figure out timesheet defaulters, send out email notifications, etc. Since this was a classic Cloud Service, we had little visibility into what was going on while it was running.

Furthermore, just to do these basic tasks every five minutes, the classic cloud service was costing us $60 per month on an average. Read More…

Last night’s #AzureGovMeetup challenged government agencies to view the cloud as more than just a technology and software choice, but also as a business strategy to create greater impact for employees and citizens. With its agility, speed and low cost, the cloud is the key to helping agencies test and innovate new solutions faster than ever before.

First up, we heard from Kevin Jackson, a globally-recognized cloud computing expert and founder/author of the award-winning blog, Cloud Musings. Kevin shared his experience and expertise in cloud innovation and the keys to developing a successful cloud business strategy.

Brett & Jim presenting Moving a high-profile application to production Vishwas Lele

Next up was a very special cloud innovation showcase featuring the latest cloud solutions currently advancing agency missions, including:

• AIS’ own Brett Goldsmith and Jim Mullennix presented on a high-profile application they recently helped move to production in Azure Gov.
Carlton Reeves, Forward Deployed Solutions Leader, C3 IoT shared insights on how to innovate in the cloud using Azure.

Keep an eye on the official Azure Government Meetup YouTube channel, where videos of the full presentations will be posted shortly. In the meantime, why not RSVP for the July Meetup and follow the AIS Team on Twitter?

Best of Texas AwardTwo years ago, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) came to AIS with an outdated online budgeting tool called the “Texas Reality Check” for middle and high school students. The application, designed to give students a clear sense of how much their desired future lifestyle will cost and what education and career choices will support it, was plagued by performance and accessibility issues…and its young target demographic was simply tuning it out.

AIS modernized the site for teen sensibilities, streamlined the underlying information architecture for easier use, overhauled the content strategy and user experience, and made it fully compliant with the latest accessibility guidelines.  You can read more about our work on this project here.

The new and improved Texas Reality Check has since gone on to become the most popular application of the Labor Market and Career Information Department (LMCI) of the Texas Workforce Commission. And now it’s been honored with a 2018 “Best of Texas” Award for Best Application Serving the Public. The awards highlight the Texas state government’s top creative tech implementations of the year, for both internal improvements and public-facing services like TRC.

“Governmental and educational leaders in Texas are leveraging technology to improve cybersecurity, enhance citizen service and advance emergency response, among many other things,” said Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government. “Congratulations to this year’s Best of Texas winners for the vital role they are playing in advancing information technology in Texas.”

We’re really proud of our work on this project and thrilled that school students all across Texas have responded to the site in such a positive and engaged way. We hope the application continues to inspire them to dream big…while also equipping them with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve their goals.

For those who are familiar with Microsoft’s popular Dashboard in a Day workshops for Power BI, App in a Day (AIAD) is very similar. The program is an all-day training designed to accelerate attendees’ PowerApps, Microsoft Flow, and CDS for Apps experience. The comprehensive hands-on workshop is led by a certified Microsoft Partner, in this case, your friends at Applied Information Sciences.

The training provides practical experience in a full-day of instructor lead App creation workshops. You learn how to build custom apps that run on mobile devices with which you can share inside your organization securely.

Inside the AIAD Workshop

Full house at the AIAD at Microsoft’s Reston MTC

Trainees at App in a Day

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brainThe debate is over. Public cloud infrastructure will become the backbone of Enterprise IT. But are you ready to make the shift? Do you have the trained staff, or the personal cloud experience, to make this transition successfully?

Vast Career Opportunities in Cloud

Adoption of the cloud by Enterprise IT is growing at a breakneck pace, creating a large skills gaps among individual organizations and a large demand for cloud talent among service providers.

A quick Indeed or Glassdoor search brings back 22,000+ Cloud Solutions Architect (CSA) positions in the US alone. The demand for CSA’s is greater than ever, but why?

CSAs are key to any company’s cloud transformation objectives. They are responsible for defining cloud adoption plans, setting up cloud application guidelines, as well as management and monitoring strategies. In addition, CSAs are also expected to provide hands-on technical leadership.

With the growing need for cloud support and talent, you’ll want to make sure your workforce (or your resume) is up to par and can keep up with the rapid development of best practices. The best way to do that is through specialized training and certification programs, like the Azure Master Class.

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AIS was pleased to present our work with the United States Air Force at the annual Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) Montgomery IT Summit on May 23.

The Air Force awarded AIS a contract to build out an Azure core infrastructure in the multi-cloud Common Computing Environment (CCE). The infrastructure is capable of supporting the migration of thousands of on-premises and legacy applications to the cloud.  At the same time, the AIS team engaged in a parallel effort to migrate the “lead horse” application into the environment and celebrated the distinction of being the first company to successfully field a production application.