My journey to the cloud

I may have skimmed that subject a few times before, but as I get to the end of the (Microsoft) year, and begin a new one, it feels right to reflect for a while on what got me where I am now.

The short version is : I got enough of cabling, servers, storage and operating systems, and wanted to move to something else, however related. Okay, that is VERY short. Allow me to develop that further.

I started working in IT about 15 years ago. I did my duties in user support, moved to network engineering and implementation. At the same time, I discovered the wonderful world of Microsoft training and certification, and got my first cert around 2003, quickly followed by an MCSE (yes, on Windows 2000!).

I switched back and forth between networking and systems engineering for several customers. I collected some knowledge along the way, mainly about hardware installation, cabling, storage and servers, but also about virtualization, networking, SAN. I continued my cert trip in parallel, maintaining my MCSE up to Windows 2016 and Azure. I also collected a few other certs : ITIL, Redhat RHCE (6 & 7), Vmware VCP & VCAP-DCD, Prince2 etc. I will say more about certification in a later article, keep in touch!

To complete the brush-up, I tried my hand at project management, as well as people management.

Let’s get to the point where it gets interesting. First time I heard about public cloud was at Tech-Ed Europe, probably in 2010. It was mostly limited to SQL server databases with many limitations. It was not really a hit for me. The subject kept reappearing : public cloud, private cloud, elastic computing, you’ve heard the talk.

There were actually two triggers to my “Frederi, meet Cloud” moment.

The first one was rather a long term evolution of my area of interest. After years spent working with the same company, and on the same software, I got to the point where I could understand the business side of my actions and responsibilities for our customers. It was a slow shift to a more end-user/application centric approach. This is where I try to push today : the major focus and metric is the end-user. If this user is not happy about his experience, then we (the whole team behind the software, from IT infrastructure to developers and designers) have failed. This is why I tend to ask the question early in the discussions : how is the application used? By who?

The second trigger was more of a “a-ha” moment, specifically about public cloud. In a previous job, I was in an outsourcing team, focused on infrastructure. We had a whole Services department, whose job was to design build and deliver custom software. We almost never had a project in common. Until once we had a developer on the phone, and we had the most common conversation  between dev and ops :

Dev : “we have built a php application for that customer, and he wants to know if we can host and operate it, and what the cost would be”

Ops (me) : “OK, tell me your exact need : OS, VM size, which web server, which version, how much disk space, a public IP etc?”

Dev : “I do not know that”

Ops : “in that case, I cannot give you an estimate. We can operate, but we need to know what”

Follows a few days of emails trying to get those details ironed out and try to write a proposal. Two weeks later, we had the same dev on the phone : “Drop it, the customer has already deployed in Azure by himself”.

That is when I realized that we, ops and infra, could not stay on the defense line and ask for what we knew best. We had to ask about the application itself, and we had to get into that “Azure” stuff.

And that’s how I ended up in Azure, and mostly PaaS oriented 😉

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