There are also advanced VPN configurations that allow Azure systems to transparently appear as part of the local network. All of this taken together means that a Windows Server-based private cloud can be a prelude to hybrid cloud. The validity of any cloud strategy depends on the whole plan and the ultimate objective. Microsoft plans to be a contender no matter how much or how little an organization seeks to embrace cloud in their approach.

Paths to cloud development
Developers of different stripes will use Azure differently, but all benefit from the underlying scalability and reliability just the same. To understand the various paths and tools that go with each path for getting the most out of Azure, we talked with a range of very experienced developers who are using it to do their thing.

Developers working with Microsoft technologies have the expected easy transition path with Visual Studio, including everything needed to target developing and deploying to Azure via the Azure Software Development Kit (SDK). John Brooks, vice president of global delivery at Shinetech Software, said, “From the development viewpoint, the biggest benefit I have experienced is leveraging developer familiarity with Windows technologies and programming languages. Developing applications for the cloud, especially cloud-native applications, is a new paradigm for many developers, and since the Azure environment is similar to Windows, it is easier for developers to make that transition.”

As a consultancy that delivers solutions on a regular basis worldwide, Shinetech seeks to use technologies that make transitions easier. To that end, Brooks noted, “One of the great things about Azure is the ease in which developers can migrate existing .NET applications to the Azure platform. I have had developers tell me that dealing with architecture and state management on Azure feels like a natural extension of developing .NET applications on the Windows platform.

“Even though they are moving into a new environment in the cloud, they are still comfortable with the development techniques and tools they have been using for years.”

For these reasons, the tooling for .NET developers does not change much at all. Visual Studio is still the center of the universe so long as the Azure SDK is present. Brooks emphasized that the Windows Azure SDK for .NET “seamlessly integrates as a part of Visual Studio,” and he listed the AzureTools as “a utility that our engineers rely on in troubleshooting Azure VMs.”

(AzureTools is a utility that can be downloaded inside an Azure VM to easily bring down and deploy other tools, including Netmon, Fiddler, or various debuggers.)

Not all developers live in the .NET world, even if they are Microsoft-centric developers. There are still quite a few software companies that use C++ as their primary language, and NTP Software is among them.

To get perspective on Azure for developers from this world, I spoke with Dave Gochnauer, chief engineer at NTP Software. He recently led the effort to take all of the infrastructure requirements for an enterprise file-tiering solution and make it so that customers would only need an Azure account and a local agent to communicate with their local storage system.