Six Steps to Windows Azure


In January (2012)I delivered the hugely fun Six Weeks of Windows Azure. There was a lot right in the format we went with as well as improvements and changes we could make/try – I even did a little retrospective on it.

Less than a year on, I give you Six Steps to Windows Azure (can you see what we did there). This time I’m not involved in the actual execution (which could well be a good thing!) as I’m heads down on Windows 8 WinRT applications.

Six Steps to Windows Azure will guide developers and IT professionals currently building apps or considering the cloud on how to take full advantage of Windows Azure covering  both the technical and commercial aspects of adopting Windows Azure. There will be a brand new web site but registration is now open for the first sessions:

Windows Azure in the Real World – 8th November 2012

Advanced Topics in Windows Azure – 9th November 2012

I plan to attend on the 9th – see you there.

Gaurav Mantri of Cerebrata Cloud Storage Studio fame is in London on April 3rd

Cerebrata (now owned UK company Red-Gate) make awesome tools for Windows Azure – thanks largely to the work of Gaurav Mantri.

And it just so happens that the UK Windows Azure User Group has Gaurav speaking on April 3rd in London. Definitely a session worth attending if you are in London that day.

Gaurav Mantri, CEO of Cerebrata Software (recently acquired by Redgate) will be speaking to the UK Windows Azure Group about Cerebrata tools, how they are used and how they were built using underlying REST APIs provided by the Windows Azure Fabric. Gauriv is here for a short duration from India so this is a rare opportunity to catch him speaking. If you’re already building a project in Windows Azure then you almost certainly use Cloud Storage Studio, Diagnostics Manager and CmdLets. If you don’t you will be soon! Redgate will be at the meeting to offer some free product licenses to a few attendees. Please register for this meeting @

Mini retrospective on Six Weeks of Windows Azure

I have previously posted some of the “raw data” on Six Weeks of Windows Azure but I wanted to also share some thoughts about “how it went” and “how we might do things differently” in the form of a mini retrospective.

What went well?

Achieved a lot for very little money

Our budget was £0. Given that, we achieved a heck of a lot 🙂

Variety and depth

30 sessions and 2 streams (technical and commercial) delivered by a combination of Microsoft, Partners and Early Adopters allowed us to get through a lot of material. With that comes:

  • complexity  – managing so many different people/organisations
  • inconsistency – its easy to end up with overlap or indeed gaps

But overall we are very happy with how it worked out. Feedback has been universally positive – 95% would recommend to a colleague or another company.


The weekly one hour surgery allowed companies to ask questions and get answers. We felt these went extremely well given we had not tried this format before.


The week 4 labs were an untried format for us. 12 companies came in over the 5 days (max of 3 companies on each day). The use of the day varied enormously from reviewing architecture through to migrating code and databases to the cloud. All the companies found the lab time extremely useful.


We easily got to over 500 individuals registered, primarily through publicising through blogs, twitter, email.

UK Partner/ISV/SaaS participation

Our primary audience was UK partners although we didn’t turn away any organisation. We had over 90% partner sign up and vast majority were UK based.


What could be improved?

Reaching none .NET companies

90% of the companies were doing .NET. Which is fantastic … but Windows Azure is great for OSS as well. We would have loved to have seen more none .NET companies joining us.

Reaching commercial decision makers

Vast majority of the attendees were technical – yet we had a great set of commercial sessions. Our advertising just didn’t reach the commercial folks.

Live Meeting Audio

Was at times very frustrating – mainly around audio dropping/failing to connect for speakers. We would consider Lync or even 3rd party solutions for a future delivery.

Product team involvement

We tried but didn’t get product team involvement. However I think it would be much easier to do so in the future.

More Week one content

Some technologies (e.g. SQL Azure Federations, Windows Azure Connect or HPC on Windows Azure) were not covered until very late in the 6 weeks. I think we could do a better job of demonstrating the rich breadth of Windows Azure in Week one whilst we also have the most attendees.


What still puzzles us?

No shows in Week One

We had 190 people join us in Week One out of over 500 registrations.  Many of these “missing 300” never went on to join us live but presumably some did watch the recordings. However it puzzles us why they never showed.

The right length for this activity and the right level of commitment to ask of companies

We wanted to take companies on a journey with detail and depth, hopefully leading to clear plans for when and how they would adopt Windows Azure. But… by week 4 we had significant drop off in numbers despite extremely good feedback on the first three weeks of sessions.


Potential Tweaked Version

Based on the above we would likely tweak a future delivery as follows:

Maximise the Week One experience – target hundreds of individuals and organisations

  • We would make sure that in week one we covered the entire breadth of Windows Azure at some level, whilst as many folks as possible are “still with us”.
    • This could be done as a one day online conference or potentially a large in-person event.
  • This would be delivered as a “stand alone” activity which in itself was extremely useful. However it would also signpost a journey for the most interested/committed organisations to follow over coming months.
  • All commercial content would be in Week one.

Shorten the journey with a “Month of Windows Azure”  – target tens of organisations

The kick start event would signpost to a “month of Windows Azure” no closer than 2 weeks away. 4 weeks vs 6 is a good compromise

Simplify the commitment from two days to one day

We spread our 5 sessions per week over two days. Instead we would concentrate everything into one afternoon with signposting to further detail on each topic. We would retain surgeries.

Labs – targeting handfuls of organisation

The most committed could then subsequently join us in labs to unblock/validate. Rather than embedding these into the six weeks we would scheduled them for much later

A potential timeline would therefore be:

  • Month 1: One day conference –  left to right of Windows Azure covering technical and commercial
  • Month 2: Four weeks of one afternoon webinars and surgeries
  • Month 4: Labs

We did run some of these tweaks by our companies who made it to week 6.



Looking back at Six Week of Windows Azure – raw data

I wanted to share some of the “raw data” from Six Weeks of Windows Azure which started way back in January and completed today (29th Feb 2012)

I will shortly do a mini-retrospective.

Top Level:

  • Web site visits: 23,140 (as of 29th Feb) with 1857 visits on the busiest day
  • Partners involved: 11 (partners)
  • Sessions: 30 sessions and over 30 hours of content (agenda)
  • Live and On-Demand: All live sessions were recorded and made available for streaming/download along with session notes (slides and notes)
  • Registrations: Over 500 individuals registered with 150 unique companies joining us in Week 1
  • Active: 80 unique companies made it through to end of Week 3 (by which we had covered “all” the important bits)
  • Labs: 12 companies looking at SaaS using Windows Azure joined us in Week 4 labs in our Microsoft Technology Center


  • Majority of companies attending were partners vs customers (over 90%)
  • 75% of engagement came from UK companies
  • 71% Technical
  • 86% very little/no exposure to Cloud/Windows Azure





91% of companies were building solutions to be used external to their own org


59% building a mix of applications


90% .NET


55% brownfield and greenfield



  • Of the 500 individuals who registered, 190 individuals from 150 unique companies attended week 1.
  • By week 3 around 90 individuals from 80 unique companies
  • Week 6 attendees – 83% more likely to adopt and 50% now expect to do it sooner than originally planned




Week 6 Polls

95% would recommend


88% would like us to use this approach again










Slides, Notes and Recordings for Week 1 and 2 of #6weeksazure are all now available

Head over to and click on Week 1 and Week 2 to get details.


It is not too late to join us – there is after all still 4 more weeks to go and we have recordings of the first two weeks.

Sign up today!

Note: This is primarily targeting UK companies – but we do not turn anyone away 🙂

What others have said (none are my relatives…):











Recordings from Monday 23rd January #6weeksazure sessions now available

Note: for me this service has sometimes not worked today (24th Jan). I have reported it to the events team.

Next session is Wednesday 10am – Designing for the Cloud.

44WW076 – Six Weeks of Azure – Weekly check-in (AM recording 23.01.2012)

“The one where the all internet connectivity vanished with 5 mins to go”

WWE Support has invited you to view a Microsoft Office Live Meeting recording.
View Recording

44WW076 – Six Weeks of Azure – Technical webinar (PM recording 23.01.2012)

“The one where it didn’t”

WWE Support has invited you to view a Microsoft Office Live Meeting recording.
View Recording

Six Weeks of Windows Azure webinar join links now live #6weeksazure

The webinar join links are now live on the website 


We start at 12pm today (Monday 23rd January) but we will have the meeting open during the morning. Hence I would encourage you to join now to check your PC connects fine.

See you all at 12pm

Eric and the team

We kick off 12pm Monday 23rd of January using Live Meeting 2007 #6weeksazure

Next Monday we start Six Weeks of Windows Azure with:


The 12pm opening session will look ahead at what you can expect from the six weeks and will offer advice on how best to make use of the time. It will also share tips, tools and resources to help you get going from day one. This is a great time to ask us questions about Six Weeks of Windows Azure and ideally should not be missed.

David and I look forward to seeing you there.


Live Meeting and Microsoft World Wide Events registration:

We will be using Live Meeting for all the webinars and hopefully by now you (and your colleagues) have signed up via Microsoft World Wide Events to get access to the webinar information (and timely reminders). If you haven’t then please do so asap – register on Microsoft World Wide Events (live id required).

Please take a few minutes between now and Monday to get Live Meeting 2007 installed on your pc and familiarise yourself with how it works.

If you are registered with World Wide Events then you will have details about how to install the client and join the meeting.

However the following link explains more: Joining a Meeting

I have also created a test Live Meeting you can join (live from today until end of Sat 21st) – join now

No audio?

The issue a very small % of users run into is no audio when they join the Live Meeting. These may help:

Pause for thought – 4 great questions on Cloud Computing

Ashwin Raghavan contacted me via this blog about the dissertation he is working on for his MBA and whether I would be able to answer some questions for him. I thought his questions were bang on. I’ll share my answers later … but for now, ponder on these 🙂

  1. In your view, do you agree with the term ‘Cloud Computing’ being just a rebranding, then how is it different from Legacy systems?
  2. Please highlight a list (top 3 or 4) of benefits and drawbacks of ‘Cloud Computing’ services by priority? Please provide your justification, if any?
  3. What is your general view on UK SMEs technology competitiveness (are they exploiting it well to gain advantage in the business)? What is your stance on ‘Cloud Computing’ rendering competitiveness to SMEs*?
  4. In your view, what do you see to be the list (top 3 or 4) drivers and barriers for UK SMEs? Please add your brief comments on how to overcome the identified barriers?

*In UK, Small and Medium size enterprises (SMEs) are those with a workforce ranging from 0-250 people.