Last week I had the pleasure of attending a few community events in Europe. The trip was fantastic, with some talks to be done in front of various groups throughout Belgium and Sweden. In this post I will summarize the event, provide some links to the slides I created, and thank all the great people who made the trip one of the more memorable.
Belgium Nerd Dinner & User Group
I flew from Seattle to Belgium Sunday/Monday, and arrived to find my new friend Panagiotis awaiting my arrival at the airport. Panos is not only an amazing Windows Azure developer with skills to make even the most hardened cloud developer whimper in terror, but he’s a certifiable race car driver. The Belgium User Group is one of the most hospitable I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and Panos is the welcoming party for their group. He picked me up, drove me to dinner, between meetings, and all the while talked Windows Azure.
Our first stop was dinner at a local brewery (yes, we did eat dinner) known throughout the region and beyond for its well-cooked meals and of course, Belgian brews. We sipped a few, talked about the upcoming conferences, and of course, discussed various things we’re all doing or wanting to do using Windows Azure and ASP.NET. Some of my favorite Tweeple (forgive me) were in attendance at the dinner and the user group meeting Tuesday night. Mike Martin and Kris van der Mast, who I need to thank for bringing me over and for putting on such a great event were there to support me at the event, as well as Kristof Rennen, Bram de Buyser, and Xavier Decoster, who I found myself talking with about MyGet throughout the remainder of the week. MyGet is an awesome service that extends the already-awesome NuGet service by adding in build functionality, private and subscription-based feeds, and all other sorts of good stuff. My chat with Xavier inspired me to really take a deeper look at MyGet throughout the week, and their level of support and commitment to helping me understand and implement as many of its features as possible is amazing.
The topic of the Belgium User Group on Tuesday night was a deep dive into Windows Azure Web Sites. I recounted some of the lessons Nir Mashkowski has taught me from hosting him on Web Camps TV, and answered quite a few questions about the Shared tier enhancements. The deck contained a few links to these shows and other resources, and as usual some of my own humor (or whatever you call it). If you’d like to peek at the deck, download it here.
Sweden .NET User Group
On Wednesday morning I flew from Belgium to Stockholm, Sweden, to give a developer-focused talk on Windows Azure Web Sites. Hosted at the gorgeous Connecta office in Stockholm, Sweden, the Sweden .NET User Group was full of programmers who are learning how to use Windows Azure Web Sites to solve their web development and hosting challenges. I was greeted by Jimmy Engstrom, who shares a hand in leading the group. Jimmy is delving into all sorts of interesting areas with embedded technology, so he and I found ourselves talking about Netduino, .NET Gadgeteer, and shared stories of our inventions and ideas with one another. The other half of probably the most adorable geek-couples I’ve met, Jessica Engstrom, was also in attendance at the event. Together they told a great story of sitting in front of their computers frantically trying to get tickets to this year’s Build conference. The Engstroms and myself, along with my new Finnish friends Karl Ots and Teemu Tapanila, talked until late in the evening after the user group about Windows Azure, Windows Phone, new hardware, and all other kinds of geekery. I’m sure Jimmy, Karl, and Teemu and I will be trading embedded-development tricks over email from now on.
The presentation went well and the participants allowed me to go a little longer in the presentation than I’d planned (thanks!). Like the Belgian User Group, this group had many questions and suggestions on how Windows Azure Web Sites could be improved and gave me some great insight into what how our community is enjoying the Web Sites offering and also gave me some ideas on how it can be an even greater platform. I showed off some interesting new features for Visual Studio 2012 web developers my good friend Sayed Hashimi is putting together, and got some great feedback for the publishing team on new feature ideas. If you’d like to grab a copy of the slides I used for the talk, you can grab them here.
Thursday and Friday in Stockholm would provide a great ending to an already-inspirational tour, at the CloudBurst 2012 conference. Organized by Magnus Martensson and Alan Smith and hosted at the Microsoft Sweden office in Stockholm, CloudBurst was absolutely full of amazing presentations that were streamed live by Swedish-based, Windows Azure-backed StreamShed. Alan Smith put on an amazing talk in which he used 256 cores in Windows Azure to do ray-tracing, and he tied in a Kinect device to add to the awesomeness of his demonstration. A video explaining his solution is available on Channel 9 if you’re interested in how he achieved amazing results in a multiple-instance Windows Azure Cloud Service. His talk, along with a few amazing data-centric talks by the ever-eloquent (and hilarious) Nuno Godinho, a pair of absolutely inspirational talks on enterprise architectural patterns by Charles Young, a great Service Bus presentation by Christian Weyer, and the final talk of the event by Magnus on Continuous Delivery with Windows Azure Web Sites, all demonstrated for me that the European community is pushing the envelope of what’s possible with Windows Azure. The most comical session of all was put on by my good friend Maarten Balliauw, who covered how to Brew Beer with Windows Azure. Maarten also helped me work through a few MyGet questions throughout the week and maintained the level of support I’ve already raved about. He also saved the day, as my alarm clock decided to go into “silent mode” the last day of the trip. I awoke to the sound of Maarten banging on my door saying “dude we’re having breakfast where are you?!?!?!” (Thanks, buddy!)
I had a demo explosion during my session right at the end, but the audience was gracious enough to hang out during the break between my session and the next so that I could reboot and re-run the code (I’d locked up some processes, apparently). My session outlined the development of a Cloud Service monitoring application, which was released just yesterday as the newest Windows Azure Evangelism Team code sample, known as CloudMonitR. If you’d like to grab a copy of the slides I used during the talk, you can download them here.
The enthusiasm and motivation on the part of these conference attendees to really raise the level of understanding in their communities around Windows Azure is inspiring. I engaged in quite a few conversations during the event that indicated to me just how excited everyone is around Microsoft’s new commitment to being open in the cloud computing space. These communities are genuinely appreciative of our direction with Windows Azure, Windows Phone, and so many other areas. I anticipate much more from the CloudBurst team and look forward to – hopefully – being a part of CloudBurst 2013 next year.
This trip was inspiring. I am continually motivated when I attend these community events, as I get to see how Windows Azure is being used by our creative community members. The enthusiasm these folks have for Microsoft is contagious, and my involvement with these community leaders and technologists is definitely the best part of my job. This tour, along with so many other sessions and meetings with our dedicated community members, reminds me of what’s possible when we work together to create the best products in the marketplace. It is easy to succeed when you have the best communities in the marketplace, who support us and educate us, and welcome us with such enthusiasm.
Thanks, Europe! Keep staying classy!