Azure Education Opportunities

Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies
Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies

Michael Cantor, CIO, Park Place Technologies

When I arrived at Park Place Technologies in July, 2018, I immediately adjusted the Information Technology strategy to include a goal of increasing our public cloud presence.  Park Place Technologies had already embarked on a public cloud path through the adoption of Dynamics 365 along with the development of a new customer portal entirely in Azure.  It was time to fully embrace cloud technology and become more strategic regarding the use of Azure.

  The breadth of knowledge and skillset available from Microsoft at no charge is impressive and likely impossible to get in a consolidated fashion from any single partner  

Having prior experience with Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, I knew that step one was to ensure a base level of education.  Once that base was established, we could then begin planning a new Azure installation from the ground up, ensuring a best practice implementation rather than an ad-hoc acquisition of services from the Azure Portal.  While I expected similar learning opportunities available over the web as with the other public cloud vendors, I was surprised at the extent of Azure education available from Microsoft through multiple venues.  I’ll share our experience with the various learning channels in this article.

Engaging Microsoft

I started by engaging our Microsoft Global Account Executive in the learning process.  Our executive immediately engaged a regiment of Microsoft resources to help plan our education process:

• Account Technology Strategist
• Azure Infrastructure, Application Development, Data and Artificial Intelligence Solution Specialists
• Azure Infrastructure, Application Development, Data and Artificial Intelligence Technical Specialists

The breadth of knowledge and skillset available from Microsoft at no charge is impressive and likely impossible to get in a consolidated fashion from any single partner.  Knowing your Global Account Executive and engaging them to bring this talent to bear on an implementation is a key first step.

We chose to start with several base learning workshops offered by our Central Region Microsoft representatives.  The entire global Park Place Technology IT team was offered the Azure Foundation Educational Workshop, which is designed to accelerate a team’s fundamental knowledge of the Azure platform.  This workshop drilled into four specific areas: Governance, Monitoring and Management, Security, and Networking.  Broken up into four hour and a half sessions, we offered onsite sessions and remote learning sessions, both facilitated by a Microsoft Central Region Solution Specialist.

Learning paths

With the team now educated on the basics, the Park Place IT team was further incented to continue their individual learning paths through the Azure Cloud Skills Customer Challenge, which employed gamification to motivate the team to stay on track with their learning.  The Azure Challenge utilized the Microsoft Learn platform to deliver individualized training plans and courses to the team.  We used the extensive catalog of free, on-demand online training courses to allow our employees to select topics of interest and pursue further education. 

Having this education in place allowed us to begin the deeper dive into subject areas that were critical to a good startup of our new Azure account.  We set up a new Azure account and began planning new subscriptions.  Again, Microsoft provided free workshops to help achieve a good, clean setup: AzureGovernance Model Designfor naming, tagging, and other setup standards; Azure Cost Management for cost optimization through techniques as reserved instances; and a Cloud Economic Assessment for identifying the best workloads for a move to Azure and planning the associated costs.

Migrating workloads

Armed with a new Azure subscription set up with good management standards, we have begun the process of migrating workloads to our new subscriptions.  Microsoft has stayed engaged with us through the process, with weekly meetings led by an Azure Cloud Solution Architect, who continues to educate us as we adopt new services and helps ensure new services are added to our subscription and setup in a manageable way.

Setting up Azure in a manageable, cost-effective way requires a significant amount of education and planning.  This article has identified a multitude of ways to gain access to several Microsoft resources that are available to assist your company in an implementation of Azure.  While there are certainly other sources of Azure information that should also be reviewed and considered, the Microsoft investment in ensuring a successful implementation is significant and should not be overlooked.  

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