This week was the start of something special. An opportunity to grow my skills into a technology that I had never been given the chance to get into. The cloud is not just the flavour of the month, but it’s a revolution, and anyone who has worked in the IT industry can tell you that the cloud is next stage for all companies.AzureWhiteboardDay_1 I was lucky enough to be part of this program at Nordcloud, the Talent Acceleration Program. It takes in IT professionals with different backgrounds, some with a bit of cloud experience, some with next to no experience, but all with one thing in common – a drive to learn and be part of this revolution.

Transforming into a Cloud Engineer in 6 weeks

The program consists of 6 weeks of intense cloud training. By the end of it, you’re on a cloud implementation team as a Cloud Engineer. Sounds too good to be true right? Well… it’s true, and it’s pretty awesome. It just shows that the resources are valued more than anything else.

I want to talk about a specific day that we experienced. But before that… a bit of context.

Throughout the week we had been going through Azure Fundamentals (Introduction to Microsoft Azure for IT Professionals 10979). From subscription and billing through to creating resource groups and web apps. It was full on from the get-go. For many in the room, it’s completely brand new information. And there’s a LOT of information.

After modules were discussed and explained by Jarkko Girs (Certified Azure trainer @Nordcloud), we had labs to perform a specific exercise based on what we had just learned. The labs were getting more and more difficult each time, but we are all still managing!AzureWhiteboardDay_2

Modernize a company’s web app infrastructure

But especially one day (Thursday of week-1 to be specific), was a fantastic learning day. None of us knew what to expect from that day’s session, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all left with our heads held high and a much deeper understanding of what to expect with our day-to-day work.

Teemu Tapanila (The Azure Guru from Nordcloud Helsinki office) ran the show. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who smiles as much as he does… I think this is because he knew what we were in for. He jumped straight in with telling us that we’re gonna have interesting tasks to accomplish.AzureWhiteboardDay_3We were all assigned into teams. 3 members each. Referencing more to our location than anything else. I was Team Poznan. Felt like I was running for a national football team, but with only 3 players (would make an interesting match… but I digress). Our first task…

Modernize a company’s web app infrastructure. We had reference materials, and after a short discussion about what the company has, what they want to achieve, it was our job to plan full architecture for this company.

There were many technical details to this assignment which I won’t get into… but it made us think… what is this company not telling us? At least in my experience, clients never give you the full picture, or at least tell you at the last minute a change to the plan. It’s hard to break from that mindset.AzureWhiteboardDay_4After going through with the team, we kept asking ourselves “what about this, what about that”, “what do they mean by this” “do they really want that?”… It’s only now that I realize that maybe we thought too much about the task ahead, and should have taken it at face value.

A blank board

As we were going through, we had nothing written on our board. We were still too busy trying to figure out what the customer didn’t want while making lists of questions and answers. We looked around, whiteboards were already being drawn on, some crazy maps and architecture designs… we looked at ours. Time to start writing. AzureWhiteboardDay_5We got through it, and we had a good plan. Although, the way it was drawn on the board made certain things unclear, in which we were questioned about. It was expected.

I genuinely felt comfortable about speaking out to the class… already been with this bunch a few days now, not a problem right? The moment that invisible mic was in front of me, and that imaginary spotlight was shining on me, I started to choke. Because I realized that while we were writing all this out, it made sense but when I looked at it now, it made no sense. So I tried to make sense of what we drew even though I knew full well what we had drawn.AzureWhiteboardDay_6It was a good plan. It could work, but… it would have been rather expensive. Luckily while talking, Pawel jumped in at a few moments to save me. I’ve never been a good public speaker.

As we went around the groups, I’m seeing some amazing designs and thinking… why didn’t we think of that? I had a couple of questions for the other groups to try and understand their thought process behind their design. It allowed me to widen my gaze to more possibilities.AzureWhiteboardDay_7DON’T OVERTHINK NEXT TIME – I said to myself after the task.

Teemu went through it all. Explained the “true” answer to the task at hand, and proceeded to explain what each element was in that answer. Incredibly enlightening.

We then started talking about costs. Money is definitely an interesting subject when it comes to Azure, and although I think most of us knew the basics of it all – with using that Azure calculator – we really didn’t know where those costs were most effective. But it was fully explained, and I believe we all started to acknowledge where certain aspects of Azure Services can save the client a lot of money, and where some certain services (*cough* API Management *cough*) are just ridiculous in costs.

We went out for lunch. A break after that intensive exercise was definitely needed.

Migration to the cloud

After lunch though… in my eyes we were given a much tougher task to accomplish. A full assessment and migration plan for a company with incredibly old, outdated on-prem technology to the cloud.

For me, this was interesting. I’ve done migrations before, but not to the cloud. Only to new on-prem infrastructure. So I’ve got the client experience in dealing with such a hefty task. But on paper… migration to the cloud is a LOT easier than a domain migration. So it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right?

Phew… Luckily, both Pawel and Lukasz were on the ball. Pawel had already done a P2V migration before, and Lukasz definitely knew the best approach. With our experiences, we had this in the bag… Until we started overthinking again. I think we asked Teemu like 50 questions about what the client wanted.

We ended up giving the client a choice. Do they want a lift and shift while they sort out their in-house development issues, or do they want to go full-on cloud. We were confident in what we presented. And luckily this time it was Pawel’s turn to talk.

Apart from one quick change at the end of our design which got questioned, we had a good plan for the situation. And as we went around the room with the other teams, it seemed that everyone was on the exact same setup when it came to offering both a lift and shift or full migration (some offering both, some offering one or the other).

It at least made me feel confident knowing that the whole room was on the same page with what we had learned.AzureWhiteboardDay_8If we go back just 4 days, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what “lift and shift” was, and yet here we were, writing a design based off that method (not the cleanest method mind you, but it suited the task at hand).

Teemu was an excellent and engaging teacher, and I do hope we see more of his whiteboard sessions in our time here. If anyone hasn’t experienced it, I highly encourage them to do so.

Exercises like this really help to quickly pick up topics. You need to google for answers sure, but that’s exactly what anyone would do when they are stuck, even at a project level. And when you do, you learn quickly as to what tools and methods are available out there to help you accomplish what you need to accomplish.

Kind Regards,
Geraint Jones – Cloud Engineer @Norddcloud

AzureWhiteboardDay_9