Spotlight: Vishwas Lele on Getting Started with Azure Development

Vishwas Lele is the CTO of Applied Information Services (AIS), a Reston, Virginia-based provider of software and systems engineering services to companies and the U.S. government. But he says that's just his day job.

"Everything else is Windows Azure," he says.

Lele, who is a Microsoft Regional Director at the Microsoft Managed Gold Partner organization, has been working with Windows Azure for about three years. (He says his first Azure application was published in early 2009.). He works with AIS customers on deployments of Redmond's cloud computing platform, including a wide range of ISVs, digital publishing houses, providers of B2B commerce apps, non-governmental agencies, and agencies of the federal government.

He scoffs at the "cloud" label, because it has devolved into a marketing term -- which is not to say that he doubts the value of "an abstraction that sits around a set of machines running our applications" like an operating system.

"There is no cloud operating system, per se," he argues. "Think of the cloud OS as a piece of software which is running a cloud-based data center. In Windows Azure's case, there is something called the Fabric Controller, which is the brain behind the data center. That is software responsible for taking care of a set of machines, so you don't have to."

When asked to compare the different cloud platforms (of the non-marketware variety), Lele shrugs.

"I get asked that question a lot," he says. "At a certain level, all of these platforms offer competing capabilities. The thing that stands out in the Windows Azure platform is the developer experience, which is no surprise, because Visual Studio offers you an Azure SDK that extends the IDE to enable building and deployment of applications on the Azure platform."

Yet Lele admits that learning the Azure platform can be daunting to the uninitiated developer.

"There's the Azure platform, there's SQL Azure, there's the service bus, there's Azure storage," he says. "What does all this mean? Where do you start? If you are new to the Windows Azure platform, go to the Web site. They've done some work to clean it up and remove some of the complexity."

Microsoft has made some significant Azure announcements recently. At the recent Visual Studio Live! conference in Las Vegas, the company unveiled a new cloud-based build service for its upcoming Team Foundation Service. The new service allows developers to use a pool of build machines managed on its Windows Azure cloud computing platform. The service maintains a pool of Azure VM roles that can expand and shrink as needed.

Last month Microsoft announced a second preview of its Apache Hadoop-based Services for Windows Azure, and invited developers to sign up for a slot in the trial.

Earlier this month at the National Association of Broadcasters conference, the company previewed its new Window Azure Media Services platform. The new offering provides "an extensible media platform that integrates the best of the Microsoft Media Platform and third-party media components in Windows Azure," the company said on its Web site.

And with the SQL Server 2012 release this month, Lele points out, SQL Server and SQL Azure share the same code base for the first time.

"It seems like things are changing every three or four months," Lele says.

To hear more about Lele's Azure experience and to learn how to work with Azure, see him speak at the upcoming Visual Studio Live! New York and Visual Studio Live! Redmond conferences.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].

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