Luper's Learnings - Azure Technical Community for Partners (July 2015)

This is the July 2015 monthly edition of Luper’s Learnings. Celebration abounds! As I write this, it’s the afternoon of 1 July here in Redmond. I hope that my Canadian friends had a Happy Canada Day. Today also marks the 1st day of Microsoft’s FY16 fiscal year, this weekend in the US we’ll celebrate our Independence Day holiday (my manager is British, it’s ok) and, finally, starting in just over a week, we’ll celebrate with thousands of partners at Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando, Florida. I’ll be there, will you? If you’ll be there, follow me on twitter, email me and let’s get together! Check out the WPC Session Catalog, too.

Before I share this month’s Learnings…

Pretty regularly I get asked about Azure Roadmaps. In a couple of previous Luper’s Learnings I've told you about our new Cloud Platform Roadmap. I'd like to expand on that by sharing my Roadmap Continuum concept this month. Hopefully, this approach will resonate with you and you can leverage it in your customer discussions. If you have feedback or ideas on this approach, please share them with me! 

Historically, we have had discussions with customers about roadmaps for on-premises products like Windows Server, Exchange, SQL Server etc. These enterprise class, on prem server offerings have had new releases about every 2 – 3 years. When the development and release cycles where multiple years, it absolutely made sense to help customers have visibility to what capabilities were coming a year or two or more down the road so that they could plan their upgrades and deployments. These days, we’re operating at cloud speed so a similar roadmap discussion wouldn’t really give a customer a look too far out but more about that below.

The end goal for any Azure feature or service is to reach General Availability (GA) when customers are expected to pay for the service, have complete access to support and have a Service Level Agreement (SLA.) Fortunately for all of us, we usually get access to these new features, enhancements and services much sooner than the 2 – 3 years that we may have had to wait in the past. And… our feedback can influence the next enhancements and improvements.

Let’s take a minute to compare the days of old (just a few years ago) with today’s release cadence and planning process forAzure. As mentioned above, those big, installable, delivered on DVD enterprise servers may have had multi year planning, development and ship cycles but, watch @CoreySandersWA discuss in this short video, that Azure is “constantly shipping”, “we ship something every day, somewhere in the world.” Corey also talks about the all up planning process which is done in 6 month cycles and, of course, he mentions the agile process use as we ship and revise plans on an ongoing basis within that broader planning process.

As a feature or service gets closer to being ready, we typically run a Private Preview for a small group of customers and partners. This would be pretty comparable to our Technology Adoption Programs (TAPs) associated with on-premises solutions. These usually last for some number of weeks or months (or longer depending on the maturity and complexity of the offering) and allow participants to give real time feedback to the engineering team to help them progress the functionality towards Public Preview. These Private Previews are usually for customers and partners who have been nominated by a Microsoft colleague and have very high expectations of rapid deployment and regular, bi-directional feedback.

You probably already know this but before a feature is “released” it goes into Public Preview for a time. Services in Public Preview are usually offered at a discounted cost or, even for free. At this point, the feature is pretty close to release but Partners and Customers get a chance to kick the tires, provide feedback and get their feet wet before we start charging the full price for it. As of today, there are 22 features in Public Preview for customers and partners to evaluate and they are subject to the preview supplemental terms.

Circling back to close where I started, the publically available Cloud Platform Roadmap has been available for some time and provides a snapshot of what we’re working on in the Cloud Platform business. Use the roadmap to find out what we’ve recently made generally available, released into public preview, are still developing and testing, or are no longer developing all in one place. This is a great site to support your customer conversations about Azure, roadmaps, cloud speed and cloud as compared to on-premises solutions.

And, as has been the case for an eternity, we are able to make NDA Roadmaps available to customers and partners on a 1:1 basis. Of course, the participants must have a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place and the roadmap delivery must come from a Microsoft employee. Depending on the customers’ goal with this discussion, you’ll certainly recall, as I said above that we plan Azure services a much shorter time in advance than we used to with non-cloud solutions so any visibility that a customer would get will be in pretty general terms and, most often, no narrower a time frame than the calendar quarter in which we are targeting a release.

If I were to do a quick picture of the concepts I’ve represented above, it would look something like this:

As I mentioned before, I’d love to hear your feedback on this discussion approach and your suggestions on how to improve it.

On to the Learnings from the last month…

Thanks for sticking with me and making it to the bottom of the July Luper’s Learnings. If you have topics you’d like me to include, please let me know what they are!