Been quite awhile since I blogged.  I’ve been inundated with Microsoft work, having spent the last two years an an integral member of our Windows Azure ESWAT team. (ESWAT standing for Enterprise Strategy Worldwide Windows Azure Team.) 

Now that our fiscal year has passed, I can disclose a bit more of where we have been, as a team that has brought these strategic investments to life, making the Windows Azure platform the greatest cloud-computing bet on the planet.  Still a part of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), ESWAT is a HQ-driven team, consisting of 6 geo-dispersed senior resources.  The team was formed two years ago, when I transitioned to it from the Windows Azure Technical Adoption Program, where I led early adoption efforts.  ESWAT works with our larger Microsoft enterprise customers to focus on enterprise architecture and strategy, working on lighthouse and exploratory opportunities, as well as driving our company’s intellectual property that spans whitepapers and Architect Training material for our Business Groups, with additional focus on Microsoft Partners and SIs.  Over the last two years, our team has worked on highly strategic customer wins with large customers in key vertical markets.  In the past year alone, our teams training materials have reached over 8,000 architects worldwide, with our efforts bringing over 110 large-scale deployments to the platform. (What’s large you ask? Think hundreds (and in many cases thousands) of virtual machines running Platform-as-a-Service architected solutions with high complexity.) Some of the key scenarios we have seen customers building out on Windows Azure over the last four years include:

Scalable Web Sites & Services
Large Scale Storage
Federated Identity
High Performance Computing
Cloud-Based Enterprise Service Bus Capabilities
Mobile and Consumer Device Applications
Hybrid (Private/Public) Cloud Solutions

Many of these customers have featured case studies you can refer to.

It’s been awesome to work with the majority of our key customers, and our product group engineering staff over the past four years.
Last year, the Windows Azure Center of Excellence (CoE) was formed to complement ESWAT’s activities, and “double-down” on our Microsoft Services investment for our customers.  The CoE is home to 8 senior technical resources, whose goal is to  increase Services engagements through driving Windows Azure knowledge, skills and implementation in the MCS delivery field, specifically targeting Solutions and Delivery Consultants that work for Microsoft. The team drives each of these through a combination of pre-sales engagements, readiness, skills development, and information exchange.

Over a month ago, as we head into our new fiscal year, I made a decision to not continue with ESWAT, or the CoE, and continue my career focus on driving large scale customer engagements in a longer-term capacity.  Windows Azure has grown exponentially, and continues to mature and be a major focus for all of our company and shareholders.  Walking alongside a project that has grown from its incubation years as “Red Dog”, to a diverse “Swiss-Army Knife Cloud Computing Platform” driving our largest efforts within the Server and Cloud Division at Microsoft has been fantastic experience, and I’m sure that experience will continue to grow.  With our pushes to provide Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) capabilities, a new generation of solutions is cresting the horizon.  Customers can now make use of persistent VM’s spanning a diverse set of operating systems, leverage virtual networking capabilities, seamlessly provision a host of web sites to support core business initiatives, and have full media lifecycle management with large-scale media service solutions. It is no doubt we will see an additional set of of key scenarios being added to those already popular on the platform.

But one of the most satisfying things to watch is how we, the employees of Microsoft, are using our own technology to solve business problems. You may have noticed on Steven Sinofsky’s blog, that Windows 8 has now released to manufacturing, and internally, our IT folks are busy rolling out Windows 8.  I got the opportunity over the weekend to install our release build of Windows 8, which was delivered to me, outside of our corporate network, with some cool IT UI and tooling, via our very own Windows Azure platform.  This is the first time I haven’t had to take my lazy butt, drive to the office, and do some installation that takes hours upon hours.   In fact, the whole process took me under 15 minutes with my Samsung Series 7 slate, in the comfort of my home desk chair.   That’s an exceptional experience for a company that employ’s over 175k++ people. 

To make it even sweeter, our Office 2013 Preview, with the latest Word, PowerPoint, Lync and OneNote, all core productivity tools of mine, were pre-installed in the preconfigured OS delivered to my machine, along with other internal tools pre-configured. 

Now I can gloat in the fact I’m running the latest and greatest, patched to the fullest bill of health, and I can get back to eating my salad and building even more real-world customer solutions with Windows Azure.