Thursday, 8 October 2015

Interview with a Specialist – Microsoft Azure

By Phil Lamplugh 

I recently had a chance to catch-up with Martin Smith; Westcoast’s Business Development Manager for Microsoft Azure. Although we work in the same office, Martin is a very busy guy. Azure is going through a big growth period right now, which means between demo visits, exhibitions, webinars, and dealing with orders, he doesn’t get a lot of time to chat. I grabbed him after a webinar for a quick talk about what he does.

Martin Smith - Westcoast BDM for Microsoft Azure

How long have you worked with Microsoft Azure?
Over three years now.

How much has the technology changed since you started?
It’s changed vastly. Whereas Office 365 changes form slightly with every new edition, Azure evolves for the better with each passing week.

It gets updated every week?
Technically, it gets updated every day.

So, you say it gets updated every day? What sort of things change?
Software integration is a big thing. There’s also new ways of licensing and pricing, not to mention the portal itself – it’s changed to a much more user-friendly interface. The problems occur when Microsoft relay this information to users; they over-complicate Azure, when it needs to be simplified
And your job is to be the jargon-buster for resellers?
Yes, I guess I’m the ‘Azure Product Description Man’. But, having worked at Microsoft around Azure in Enterprise Agreements and Pay-as-you-go licensing, I know what they’re trying to say – I even know what most of the acronyms mean (laughs).

So what do you do outside of jargon-busting?
I help resellers with their customer cloud projects – this can involve helping them find their way around the Azure calculator, explaining the credits system to them, and also helping them cross-sell Azure services.

What sort of things do people use Azure for?
Back-up is the most common thing. Storage is also popular (yes it’s different from back-up), along with spinning up Virtual Machines. Can you tell me the difference between a basic A1 server, and a standard D2 server?

I can’t say I can…
That’s where I come in. A basic A1 Azure server doesn’t have auto-scaling and load balancing or a solid state drive, unlike the standard D2 which does. Essentially, a basic A-Series virtual machine should really only be used for test and development. This is the kind of information that can sometimes get lost or left out, but it’s vital when dealing with Azure.

Are you noticing a rise in people moving to the platform?
Yes, hugely. Price changes have affected this, along with Azure’s integration with other software products, like Veeam. Being able to use SQL databases has been a big draw too. The more products that come to Azure, the more people will come. The thirty day free trial is a big draw too. I just want to say, in case anyone is thinking of using the free trial for anything other than a test, please don’t do it. There are horror stories floating around of organisations running business critical servers on this free trial. It’s really not a good idea as it’s only for 30 days.

So what are you looking forward to with Azure?
In terms of licensing, Azure going to CSP is going to be great.

The New Azure Portal for CSP

Is it not already available on CSP?
Technically yes, but it’s not yet fully deployed. When this is done it will allow people to move away from the slightly confusing system that is Microsoft Azure credits. It should be fully integrated into CSP soon – Microsoft are just sorting out the finer details now.

So there’s no official line on the release yet?
No, but if you came to me now and said you wanted Azure on CSP then we’d definitely be able to do it. It would just be quite admin-heavy for us. We’re happy to do it though.

Okay, so away from the intense CSP questioning, what’s the best thing you’ve seen Azure used for?
Well, backing up Minecraft maps is quite cool – but don’t put that (laughs). In theory it can be used for a huge amount of daily things… If you can run an application through Azure that’s linked to a USB kettle, it could actually boil the kettle to make the tea. But to be fair, you could do that through your phone.

You have ten words to define Microsoft Azure. Go.
Web-based portal that you purchase products and services through.

Nicely done. Thanks for your time.

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