Azure, Learning

To learn or not to learn – it’s about delivering business value

For a developer Windows Azure is an opportunity. But it is also an obstacle. It represents a new learning curve much like the ones presented to us by the .NET framework over the last couple of years (most notably with WF, WCF and WPF/Silverlight). The nice things about it though is that it’s still .NET (if you prefer). There are new concepts – like “tables”, queues and blobs, web and worker roles, cloud databases and service buses – but, it’s also re-using those things we have been working with for numerous years like .NET, SQL, WCF and REST (if you want to).

You might hear that Azure is something that you must learn. You might hear that you are a dinosaur if you don’t embrace the Windows Azure cloud computing paradigm and learn its APIs and Architectural patterns.

Don’t take it literally. Read between the lines and be your own judge based on who you are and what role you hold or want to achieve. In the end it comes down to delivering business value – which often comes down to revenue or cost efficiency.

For the CxO cloud should be something considered. For the architect, Azure should be something grasped and explored. For the Lead Dev, Azure should be something spent time on. For the Joe Devs of the world, Azure is something that you should be prepared for, because it might very well be there in your next project and if it is – you are the one that knows it and excels.

As far as developers embracing Windows Azure I see a lot of parallels with WCF when that launched. Investments were done in marketing it as the new way of developing (in that case primarily services or interprocess communication). At one point developers were told that if they were not among the ones who understood it and did it, they were among the few left behind. Today I see some of the same movement around Azure, and in some cases the same kind of sentiment is brought forward.

I disagree. Instead my sentiment around this is: it depends. Not everyone needs to learn it today. But you will need to learn it eventually. After all… today, a few years later – Who among us would choose asmx web services over WCF today? Things change. Regardless of how you feel about it. Evolution is funny that way.

Because of the development and breadth of the .NET Framework together with diverse offerings surrounding it a wide range of roles are needed. In my opinion the “One Architect” no longer exists. Much the same with the “One Developer”. Instead the roles exists for different areas, products and technologies – in and around .NET. Specialization has become the norm. I believe Azure ads to this.

I give myself the role of architect (within my field). Though I would no sooner take on the task of architecting a Silverlight application than my first pick of on boarding a new member in our integration team would be someone that has been (solely) a Silverlight developer for the last couple of years.

How is Azure still different though? Azure (cloud) will (given time) affect almost all of Microsoft’s (and others) products and technologies (personal opinion, not quoting a official statement). It’s not just a new specialization – it will affect you regardless of your specialization.

You have to learn. You have to evolve. Why not start today?

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