9 Key Skills for Azure Developers

Developing a cloud-based application delivers many competitive advantages such as scalability, resilience and functionality, as well as services and features that wouldn’t fit within an on-premises environment. However, to successfully develop a business application in the cloud, you need to have a distinct set of knowledge, skills and abilities. To leverage the power of Azure, developers need to revisit their existing app development skills, make adjustments and perhaps even add a few new ones to the mix. So, without any further ado, here are nine key skills that every modern Azure developer needs in their arsenal:

1. Select the Right Service

There are more than 90 services to choose from in Azure, which makes it crucial to know which one is best suited to reach your project and organisational goals. To help make the right decision, you’ll first want to consider how much control you want over the service. Then, you might want to consider your data, security and monitoring needs. By filtering the available services based on your requirements and priorities, you’ll be better placed to decide which is best and make the right choice.

2. Account for Unpredictability

While the cloud offers many benefits, as we’ve touched on, such as improved scalability and resilience, it is susceptible to unpredictability. The reason for this is that you aren’t able to control the server it’s running on. When you run an application in Azure, it also runs in a Microsoft data centre and could be switched at any point if there are issues. As there is no way for you to know where your application is running, it’s advisable to avoid using local memory, registry and files to store data. There is no point in risking not being able to access your files anymore, instead you can make use of external Azure services to handle your data. That way, whatever unpredicted technical issues are thrown at you, your data will always be available. 

3. Keep Within Budget

As Azure is known for its pay-as-you-go approach to cloud computing, being able to keep development plans within budget is a vital skill. While you should only pay for what you use, some services will run all day. This means you need to be aware of aspects like your bandwidth, memory, storage, performance and CPU cycles. The CPU cycle is an important aspect of Azure functionality, the slower the function, the more CPU cycles and memory consumption and the higher the cost. You can also make the platform cost-effective by scaling down services and applications and turning them off when not required. 

4. Scale Your Applications

With Azure, you can scale your applications up and down, allowing you to move to a more powerful server or increase your application instances in a flash. However, it’s vital that any new instances you create will keep your app running. You’ll need to think about the state of your application, where things are stored and how you ensure users are directed to the right application instance. When it comes to global scaling, services like Azure Traffic Manager can be extremely useful to automatically redirect users based on their location. 

5. Scale Your Data

If you’re going to scale your applications, your data will need to scale alongside it. To be able to do this, you’ll need to think about where data is stored and how users will access it. Again, there are plenty of services within Azure that can help, such as Cosmos DB and SQL Elastic Database. If you need to replicate data in different geographic regions or split your data amongst different regions, there is a service to help. 

6. Monitor Your Services

Once you’ve chosen the right Azure services to make up your system, you need to keep your eye on them. That means understanding which parts of the system are running and when and what areas might need your attention to ensure that applications run to optimal performance. To do this, you’ll need a pipeline that can monitor and diagnose services to reduce downtime. You can also use tools such as The Azure Monitor service, Application Insights and Log Analytics. Then, to take things to the next level, services like Visual Studio can help you debug your apps and keep them performing at their best. 

7. Build in Resilience

To keep your applications running even when a server goes down, Azure uses support mechanisms. However, it is your preservation of these support mechanisms which will ensure they deliver the expected resilience. When one service is managing something, such as processing queries within a database, another, such as incoming requests, might be scaled down. This means that a call to the database at that moment might fail. To avoid this problem, you should implement the Retry Pattern. While a lot of the SDKs for Azure will have the retry pattern implemented as standard, you might, in some instances, have to customise the retry mechanism. 

8. Code Your Environments

Environments in the cloud need to be scripted so you have them as infrastructure code. By coding your environments, you can easily update or recreate your complete infrastructure. If a disaster happens, such as a data centre failing, you can easily get your application back up again with the same environment as before. Another reason that it’s helpful to have your infrastructure as code is that you can update it automatically. To create code from your environments or recreate environments from your code, Azure Resource Manager templates are an incredibly useful service. 

9. Build Things That Matter

With Azure, there really is no limit to what you can achieve. However, that doesn’t mean that you should create and control things just because you can. Azure and its related technologies are able to do a lot of work for you in terms of authentication, modernisation, scaling and more. By working on building things that matter and leveraging the capabilities in the cloud, you can then focus on building the solutions that will add real value to your users and help them solve real-life problems. 

It pays to have the best cloud partner on your slide, but you also need a team of consultants and developers who are able to help you get the very best from that partner. Someone who has the key skills we’ve highlighted will be much better placed to help you make your cloud journey a success. 

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About the author

Michael Ridland is the Co-CEO and Founder of Xam Consulting.

Design-led problem solving delivering digital solutions.

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