9 Free Azure Training Resources

9 Free Azure Training Resources

If you’re looking to tune up your Microsoft Azure knowledge, contemplating a cloud computing career, or want to show value to a potential employer, there’s never been a better time than now to seize the opportunity to learn with a few free Azure training resources.

Whether you’re relatively new to Azure or you’re a pro, there’s always more to learn. Microsoft has been releasing more and more free online resources for all learning paths, experience levels, and learning types to help you do just that, and of course there’s a third-party ecosystem built around it as well. That’s why we compiled a list of our favorite Microsoft Azure training resources on how to learn Azure for free: 

1. Microsoft Azure’s Own Training Resources

The most obvious resource for free Azure training is Microsoft itself. Microsoft does a great job of providing ample free educational material with virtual courses, hands-on training, and documentation for users with a range of experience:  

  • Microsoft Learn Courses provide information on Azure Virtual Machines and virtual networks, PaaS, automation and management, cloud migration, and more. 
  • Get hands-on and learn on the go with an Azure free account. It’s free to sign up and $200 credit is yours to spend in the first 30 days. That’s a month of free exploration to “test and deploy enterprise apps, create custom mobile experiences, and gain insight from your data.”  On top of that, you’ll also get 12 months to use some popular services for free.
  • Microsoft Learn for Azure is a great resource for learning more about Azure or expanding your Azure skills.
  • For those who enjoy some light reading, there’s Microsoft Azure Documentation. Jump in and start learning with quickstarts, samples, and tutorials.

2. Favorite YouTube Channels

If you prefer to actually see steps needed to deploy a particular application or how a new feature works, then videos can make all the difference for visual learners. Some of the most popular channels for Azure free training include:

  • Microsoft Azure (173K subscribers) offers demos, technical insights, and training videos.
  • Cloud Ranger Network  (24.7K subscribers) accompanies a popular blog on all things Microsoft Azure, making it a great resource for supplemented learning with both video and text.
  • Azure DevOps (21.8K subscribers) deserves a nod as a great niche channel for developers looking to make use of Azure’s developers services.

3. GitHub

If you want to go beyond videos and start digging in, hands-on, check out these great collections on GitHub. To learn Azure, check out both the official and unofficial Azure GitHub. It will help you save a lot of time and effort.

4. Blogs

Bloggers offer new insights, ideas, and the latest on all things cloud computing – if you know where to look. CloudRanger.net is solely-focused on Microsoft Azure, along with the previously mentioned YouTube channel. Microsoft has its own Azure blog, of course. But for a more well-rounded blog with additional content on AWS and Google Cloud Platform, check out Cloud Academy.

5. Udemy

Udemy offers several free Azure-focused courses. These freebies range from beginner-level overviews to service-specific outlines, as well as certification preparation. 

6. Pluralsight

Pluralsight is a Microsoft partner that provides an incredible number of Azure courses for free. Pluralsight offers over 200+ courses, 40+ Skill IQs, and 8 Role IQs; aiming to prepare students for specific Azure certification exams.

7. EDx

Founded by Harvard University and MIT, EDx is a massive online course provider. Take advantage of free online university-level courses and be on your way to earning professional certifications. Azure course topics include databases, security, cosmos DB, and more.

8. Social Media

A great way to stay informed with the latest from Microsoft Azure (and of course, free) is by subscribing to its social media channels: Microsoft Azure Facebook and Microsoft Azure Twitter.

9. Meetups

While many meetups are being held virtually right now, they are still a great way to get involved in your local community. Typically, tech meetups have talks delivered by group members and other experts, and with small communities, there’s plenty of opportunities to ask questions, request specific topics, and generally have a more personalized experience than mass-produced online content. Search Azure, Cloud, or Microsoft on meetup.com to see what’s available near you (or, since they’re currently virtual, look further afield). 

Take Advantage of These Free Azure Training Resources

Cloud-based application development is growing at a rapid pace and having Azure skills and experience can help you achieve many goals – free Azure online training is both abundant and rewarding. We picked our top 9 resources for their reliability, quality, and range of information. Whether you’re new to Azure or consider yourself an expert, these resources will get you on the right foot.

Further reading:

Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

Your Guide to Azure SQL Pricing

To understand how Azure SQL pricing works, we’ll first talk about how the Azure SQL service is offered. Expanding from one limited offering to a set of services, Azure SQL is a family of managed products built upon the familiar SQL Server database engine, useful for migrating SQL workloads, modernizing existing applications, and more. 

Running Azure SQL database

When Azure SQL Database first launched in 2010, its only offering was a single pricing option. But, now the Azure SQL portfolio has a more complex service model, with many possible combinations of deployment options, including compute models and service tiers. It has grown from “Azure SQL” to a multi-faceted service. It offers three deployment models, two service tiers, and two compute options. 

To run Azure SQL databases, you’ll first need to choose your deployment option. This is how you’ll structure the SQL server and its databases. Then, you’ll need to choose your purchase model to pay for your service. Select your service tier for the level of compute power you want. And, your compute tier to be able to either compute 24/7 or on-demand basis. 

Azure SQL Deployment Models

Azure SQL deployment options differ primarily in their cost and the amount of control they give you over the underlying platform. Deployment options determine how to structure the “SQL Server” and its databases. The three options available are:

  • Azure SQL Database is a general-purpose relational database, provided as a managed service. 
  • Azure SQL Managed Instance – this option modernizes existing SQL Server applications at scale with the managed instance as a service.
  • SQL Server on Azure VMs for lifting-and-shifting the SQL Server workload provides full control over the SQL Server instance

Azure SQL Pricing Models

Depending on the deployment model you’ve chosen for Azure SQL database. There are two purchasing models available:

Here are some examples of how the various pricing options play out: 

To better understand the related storage costs and compare different storage options, calculate Azure SQL costs for your specific scenario using Azure’s pricing calculator.

Azure SQL Service Tiers 

There are two service tiers used by Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance, each with a different architectural model. These service tiers include: 

  • A General Purpose tier for common workloads 
  • A Business Critical tier for high throughput OLTP applications requiring low latency and high resilience 

And, Azure SQL Database offers an additional service tier called:

  • A Hyperscale tier for very large OLTP systems with faster auto-scaling, backup and restore support.

Azure SQL Compute Tiers 

Under the Azure SQL Database deployment option, under the vCore pricing model with General Purpose storage, you’ll find two options for your compute resources, these include:

  • Provisioned: Azure SQL provides Azure resources that run your database with a fixed amount of compute resources for a fixed hourly price.
  • Serverless: the database is provisioned as a serverless component with auto-scaling compute and billing for use per second

Optimizing Costs on Azure SQL

The choice to mix and match Azure SQL deployment options depends on your application and migration requirements. If you are still not sure which Azure SQL deployment option is right for your workloads, here are some tips from Microsoft on how to choose. 

Now, to monitor and control your storage expenses and optimize usage in your SQL databases, yes, you can use Azure Cost Management. However, even though cloud efficiency is a core tenant of the Microsoft Azure Cost Management tool, optimization is not its strongest suit.

Another way to save money on Azure SQL Database and SQL Managed Instance is by committing to a reservation for compute resources compared to pay-as-you-go prices. With reserved capacity, you make a commitment for SQL Database and/or SQL Managed Instance use for a period of one or three years to get a significant discount on the compute costs. Or, In the provisioned compute tier of the vCore-based purchasing model, you can exchange your existing licenses for discounted rates on Azure SQL Database and Azure SQL Managed Instance by using Azure Hybrid Benefit. 

ParkMyCloud continues to add ways to optimize cloud environments no matter what cloud service you use. Azure SQL database types are just the latest cloud resources you can manage in the ParkMyCloud platform. Scheduling and parking recommendations will be available soon on these resources so you can optimize your costs more efficiently and automatically. 

If you’re new to ParkMyCloud, you can get started with a free trial

Your Guide to Microsoft Ignite 2020: Now Free, Online, and Split in Two

Your Guide to Microsoft Ignite 2020: Now Free, Online, and Split in Two

As we look forward to this year’s Microsoft Ignite 2020, we can’t help but also reflect on our first visit to the sold-out live event last year. Part of the live conference experience is the fun surrounding meeting new people, having conversations, attending sessions, spending some time at the expo hall meeting vendors, checking out product demos, plus the swag and cool prizes. However, Microsoft Ignite 2020 is going to look a little bit different this year in its new format as a free digital event. 

September is Only The First Part of Ignite

In response to the current global health crisis, Microsoft announced that Ignite, its conference for developers and IT professionals, will follow the company’s other upcoming events and shift to a digital-only format, instead of the in-person conference scheduled to be held in New Orleans. In addition, Microsoft will split Ignite into two events. The first event will take place on September 22-24, while the second one is planned for early 2021.

Announcements, Speakers, and More!

Microsoft has yet to release the full agenda for Ignite, but one thing it has revealed is the introduction of TableTalks and TableTopics to drive community conversation during the digital event. TableTopics will feature multiple tables with designated topics hosted on the Microsoft tech community where you can comment on a conversation or start your own. It will use a built-in AI translation to enable a global conversation giving everyone the opportunity to network between peers around the world. And, TableTalks will be hosted by a moderator for face-to-face conversations (a.k.a. team meetings) for a real-time conversation over video chat.

You can expect in-depth sessions on how to use Azure, Teams, GitHub, and other Microsoft assets, new capabilities across its major platforms to enhance cloud computing and productivity and cover topics such as: 


How to Get the Most Out of Digital-Only events

Last year Microsoft announced Azure Arc, Azure Synapse Analytics, along with other updated capabilities in Azure, and Power Platform, so while you wait for this year’s digital event, you can revisit last year’s event highlights and sessions now available on-demand from the MyIgnite community website. 

Microsoft plans to make all events digital-only at least through mid-2021. Earlier this year, Build, Microsoft’s annual developer conference, was also held in a virtual-only event with a focus on practical tools, services, and resources for developers, with some sessions live and others pre-recorded as well as their partner conference Inspire.

While it won’t be the same as a live event, here are a few ways to maximize the experience:

  • Create a schedule – block off the full days in your calendar now, so you don’t get overbooked with meetings. Once the schedule is released, plan in advance which sessions you’ll attend and put them on your calendar. 
  • Find a watch party – it can actually be easier with a digital event to find other folks to discuss and chat with. If coworkers are tuning in, create a Teams or Slack channel to chat about sessions and announcements. Or, use the #MSIgnite hashtag on Twitter. Many local meetup groups will have their own mechanisms to watch together. And don’t count out Reddit groups and other forums.
  • Look for offers from would-be sponsors – if there are Microsoft product/service-related vendors you’re interested in, sign up for their mailing lists now. There will likely be many online swag/prize giveaways to make up for the loss of the conference hall, which can be a fun way to win cool stuff and of course, learn about potential solutions. (You can always unsubscribe!) We’ll keep an eye out for giveaways and update here. 

The registration is set to open on September 3rd, you can check Ignite’s website for more updates. Both Ignite and Build are expected to once again be hosted virtually for the earlier part of 2021.

Why Google’s Aiming Multi-Cloud with BigQuery Omni

Why Google’s Aiming Multi-Cloud with BigQuery Omni

During its virtual Google Cloud Next ’20 “On Air” series, Google announced the introduction of BigQuery Omni. This is an extension of its existing BigQuery data analytics solution to now analyze data in multiple public clouds, currently including Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS), with Microsoft Azure coming soon. Powered by Google Cloud’s Anthos, and using a unified interface, BigQuery Omni allows developers to analyze data locally without having to move data sets between the platforms.

BigQuery Engine to Analyze Multi-Cloud Data

Google Cloud’s general manager and VP of engineering, Debanjan Saha, says “BigQuery Omni is an extension of Google Cloud’s continued innovation and commitment to multi-cloud that brings the best analytics and data warehouse technology, no matter where the data is stored.” And that, “BigQuery Omni represents a new way of analyzing data stored in multiple public clouds, which is made possible by BigQuery’s separation of compute and storage.” 

According to Google Cloud, this provides scalable storage that can reside in Google Cloud or other public clouds, and stateless, resilient compute that executes standard SQL queries. 

Google Cloud reports that BigQuery Omni will:

  • Break down silos and gain insights on data with a flexible, multi-cloud analytics solution that doesn’t require moving or copying data from other public clouds into Google Cloud for analysis. 
  • Get consistent data experience across clouds and datasets with a unified analytics experience across datasets, in Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure (coming soon) using standard SQL and BigQuery’s familiar interface. BigQuery Omni supports Avro, CSV, JSON, ORC, and Parquet.
  • Securely run analytics to another public cloud with a fully managed infrastructure, powered by Anthos, so you can query data without worrying about the underlying infrastructure. Users can choose the public cloud region where their data is located, and run the query.

Why is Google Aiming Multi-Cloud?

Many organizations leveraging public cloud are doing so with multiple clouds: 55% of organizations are multi-cloud according to a recent survey from IDG, and 80% according to a recent Gartner survey. (Is this actually necessary? Maybe.)

Google Cloud has been the most open to supporting this multi-cloud reality, and perhaps implicit in releases like Anthos and BigQuery Omni is Google’s recognition that it’s #3 in the market, and many of its customers have a presence in AWS or Azure.

So, BigQuery Omni actually involves physically running BigQuery clusters in the cloud on which the remote data resides. This is something that in the past, could only be done if your data was stored only in Google Cloud. Now with Kubernetes-powered Anthos, as well as the visualization tool gained in Google’s acquisition of Looker, Google is moving toward a middleware strategy. Now, it is offering services to bridge data silos, as a strategy to gain market share from its bigger competitors. Expect to see more similar service offerings coming from Google as they look to break AWS’s lead on public cloud.

How to Use Azure Spot Virtual Machines for Cost Savings

How to Use Azure Spot Virtual Machines for Cost Savings

Azure Spot Virtual Machines are a purchasing option that can save significant amounts on infrastructure, for certain types of workloads.  Azure Spot VMs are not created as a separate type of VM in Azure, instead, it’s a capability to bid for spare capacity at a discount from on demand pricing. But there’s one caveat: at any given point in time when Azure needs the capacity back, the Azure infrastructure will deallocate and evict the Spot VM from your environment.

In the past, Azure offered Low Priority VMs, which were charged at a fixed price. In March this year, that option was replaced by Azure Spot VMs. With the newer option, you bid by indicating the maximum price you are willing to pay for a VM.

Why Use Azure Spot VMs

Microsoft allows you to use their unused compute capacity at a discounted rate. These discounts are variable and can go up to >90% of the pay-as-you-go rates, depending on the size of the VM and the unused capacity available. The amount of capacity available can vary based on region, time of day, and more. 

You can use Azure Spot VMs for workloads that are not critical or need to run 24×7. For example, a basic scenario would be for testing the load of a particular workload that you want to perform for a fraction of the cost. Other use cases include batch processing, stateless applications that can scale out, short-lived jobs that can be run again if the workload is evicted, etc.

Keeping in mind that there are no SLAs or availability guarantees for these Spot VMs. The most significant concern users have is that they may not be available to you to get resources, especially at peak load times. The issue is not with the service, it’s with how it is intended to work. Be aware of this when making the decision to use this approach.

Some important things to consider when using Azure Spot VMs: 

  • VMs are evicted based on capacity or by if the price exceeds your maximum set price 
  • Azure’s infrastructure will evict Spot VMs if Azure needs the capacity for pay-as-you-go workloads
  • B-series and promo versions of any size (like Dv2, NV, NC, H promo sizes) are not supported
  • A Spot VM cannot be converted to a regular VM or vice versa. You would have to delete the VM and attach the disk to a new VM
  • VMs that are evicted and deallocated are not turned back on when capacity or price comes back inside allowed limits, you will need to manually turn them back on
  • You will be unable to create your VM if the capacity or pricing are not inside the allowed limits

How to Use Azure Spot VMs

You have two choices when deploying Azure Spot VMs. When you enable the feature in your Azure environment, you need to select what type of eviction and eviction policy you want for the capacity: 

Types of eviction:

  • By capacity only – the VM is evicted when Azure needs capacity. In other words, your maximum price for the spot VM is the current price of the regular VM
  • By maximum price – the VM is evicted when the spot price is greater than the maximum price

Eviction policy (currently available): 

  • Stop / Deallocate

The eviction policy for Spot VMs is set to Stop / Deallocate which moves your evicted VMs to the stopped-deallocated state, allowing you to redeploy the evicted VMs at a later time. Remember reallocating Spot VMs will be dependent on there being available Spot capacity. However, the deallocated VMs will count against your spot vCPU quota and you will be charged for your underlying disks. If your Spot VM is evicted, but you still need capacity right away, Azure recommends you use a standard VM instead of Spot VM. 

Do Azure Spot VMs Save You Money?

Yes: these discounted VMs can save you money. How much will vary? Azure Spot VMs prices are not fixed like standard instances, they change over the day and vary based on the supply and demand in a particular region. 

Azure Spot VMs are a good option that can provide cost savings if your application can handle unexpected interruptions. 

Use Spot VMs as part of your full cost-saving strategy. For on-demand workloads that aren’t needed 24×7, ensure you have appropriate on/off schedules in place. All VMs should be properly sized to the workload. You can start automating these Azure cost optimization tasks with ParkMyCloud today.