What’s Azure all about? A getting started tale…

by May 28, 2020

I've been playing around with Azure lately, trying to advance my skills to something in the cloud besides the Oracle Cloud project I'm working on currently.  What I've found is that everything is pretty well setup and easy to find.  The main issue is that THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS YOU CAN DO!!!!

So, let's take a trip back to when I first started looking into all of this.

Piece of Advice #1

Do your homework.

Read, watch, and practice as much as possible before you start signing up for anything on Azure Portal.  The Microsoft Learning site is a fantastic place to start.  My goal is to sit for (and pass) the DP-200 exam for Data Engineers.  If you're looking for a broad understanding of Azure, the AZ-900 is a fundamentals exam and where you might want to start.  The learning site is really great because they have Sandbox environments in the learning paths so you can try things out without having Azure Credits or a License.  This is where I got my feet wet and it made navigating around inside the Portal easier.

Piece of Advice #2

If you sign up with your email to receive the free $200 Azure Credits, make sure you do it when you have plenty of time to do it or you'll waste it!  We were working on getting started with things when several other projects had to take precedence and by the time I got a chance to get back to it, my 30 day trial had expired.  Figured I could just sign up with another account.  Nope.  It has to be a different email, credit card and phone contact as well as it needing to be a business email address.  Be careful with your work emails because you may be charged for things after the trial is over.

Piece of Advice #3

On the subject of charges, do yourself a favor and start small.  Each time you're about to sign off, make sure to TURN OFF YOUR SERVICES!

Once I got settled into my new role, I still wanted to see how things would work out if we did move to Azure, if only for my own education.  I signed up for an account on my dime and started creating things, moving things around between a local db on my laptop and my Azure DB.  I ended up wasting about 30$ because I had left some compute services on instead of shutting them down so instead of just paying a few bucks for my storage account, I paid for services left sitting idle.

Also, things might not be apparent or obvious when looking at projects or aspects of Azure in the portal.  You can set up multiple budgets to keep things in check as well as alerts/notifications when certain events happen.  Since I'm doing my own playing around in there, I usually keep my budget pretty low, any services I minimize the power behind it so I'm not using a million cores to create a simple copy event in Azure Data Factory.  

The Cost Monitor is your friend.  It'll not only tell you how much you've spent so far, it'll project based on what you have to see how much you'll be charged at the end of a period.

Piece of Advice #4

Have a good plan of what you want to accomplish, and make sure that what you're creating makes sense.  As you go, make use of ARM Templates!  ARM stands for Azure Resource Manager.

I wanted to do a little of everything so I created an Azure database, and Azure DW, a bunch of different Azure Data Factories.  For the most part, I was going in 7 different directions at once.  Rather than leaving things running and possibly getting charged, I generated and tinkered with the ARM templates so I could have something that would be repeatable.  Pull your data, transform it, look at how it behaves, then save as a template whenever possible.  Makes it a lot easier to create similar stuff if all you have to do is adjust a template for a new process/object.

In conclusion, I have to say that there are so many things to do inside Azure that it baffles my brain sometimes.  Keep an eye on what's new to see what interests you, or start from the Azure Fundamentals high level overview and see what sticks out as something you'd like to check out.  I found that if I scheduled out a certain amount of time per week and held myself accountable to getting through the material, I am making a lot more progress.

Hope this helps someone else who's just getting started!