Voices of the Azure Community- Ralf Richter, Munich

A warm welcome to Ralf Richter; Founder of the Azure Dev Meetup Group Munich and Co organiser of Global Azure Munich, as he joins us for ‘Voices of the Azure Community’.

We hope you enjoy this insight into the work Ralf carries out to support the Azure Community

Please tell us about your own role.

I’m Lead Developer and Cloud Solution Architect at doubleSlash Net-Business GmbH and I am a software Developer for almost 20 years now. In my role I am lucky enough to have the ability to create this Community we are talking about and am also lucky enough to share my knowledge with juniors and students working for doubleSlash as well.

I started working for doubleSlash 3 years ago, which was great timing for me as doubleSlash had not done anything before with Azure and I was the one to work on introducing and driving Azure forward in the doubleSlash portfolio.

In addition, I am a mentor at doubleSlash. Not only for technical knowledge sharing, I am a person people in doubleSlash can come to and talk about their concerns, which is a very trusted relationship between Mentor and Mentee. This is something very cool within our company, that programme is not related to any HR or Team Leads or Managers; it really is a relationship of trust and confidentiality between the Mentor and Mentee. It is a very special Programme that I really enjoy being part of.

Please outline your involvement with #GlobalAzure and the Munich Azure Dev Meetup Group & community?

Before I founded Azure Dev Meetup Munich, I was a member of Azure Meetup Munich which sounds very similar, but they are not the same. I was missing a lot of Developer content in that Meetup. It was focused on Administration or the Management perspective or the Product perspective of Azure, and I missed the Development portion from it.

So, I decided last year to start up a new meetup, with a focus on Developing within Azure. Since we started in 2019, our community has grown to almost 650 members now which is really cool. We have been lucky enough to have been invited to host several global events like the Global AI Night, the Global AI Bootcamp and just a few days ago #GlobalAzure 2020 Virtual happened, which we supported as well with the Speaker Line Up.

It feels like we set up the Munich Azure Dev Meetup group at just the right time and provided just what the community were looking for.

The organisers of Global Azure as you know were seeking Communities to become involved and host local events. We had planned a 3 Day event with 2 workshop days and a Community day with Speaker Slots.  The Speakers line up was in place, we were all set and then Covid-19 happened. To avoid wasting the effort already gone into the set up, and the commitment of our Speakers, we started to think about a Virtual Event.

Luckily the organisers of Global Azure had the same idea at the same time, so we put our thoughts together and Global Azure presented Speakers who submitted their sessions to them, streaming by featured sessions on the Global Azure Virtual Website.

We were lucky enough to be part of that, our speaker line up put their sessions onto the Global Azure Virtual. And 5 of the Speakers also did a special event on Saturday April 25th, with a 6-hour live stream of sessions on special topics like Azure Governance, Azure Virtual Machines and more.

What are the greatest benefits of getting involved with the Group for attendees?

If you are a developer and you are looking to get in contact with other developers, dealing with the same stuff you are dealing with in Azure Development it is the best place to be. You can connect with each other, it is a dedicated space where you can talk about your concerns, your problems, brainstorm to find solutions. Knowledge sharing and networking are the huge benefits of involvement.

In your opinion what is the most exciting thing about working with Azure?

The cool thing about Azure is the Documentation of Azure is really great. Its not just that Microsoft has put everything on Open Source, it is also that the community all round Azure is that big that you always find somebody that can help you with your problems; and that makes it very easy for you to progress your projects. That is really something that Microsoft is very focused on; to enable people, rather than just making the most money out of a product. Having a big Community working in Azure, is of course a nice side effect.

What is your favorite Azure Product and why?

At the moment I am really into Azure Functions, especially into Azure Durable Functions. It is so amazing, when you think about an Azure Function it is a very simple API; you have a trigger, you do something, and you have an output. But if you put that into IoT projects and into Messaging you usually have to deal with all that stuff of Messaging Treatment, you may have to queue your messages somewhere and look at how you can successfully treat messages in a row.  Previously I was using Logic Apps to have a pipeline for simple projects but since the introduction of Azure Durable Functions its been a complete game changer. You have a queue, a robust function just focused on the things you want to do, rather than dealing with caches, queuing and so on in the background. That is something within the serverless side of Azure services that is a really cool product.

What makes a great Azure Developer?

That is a difficult question. You should be able to adapt quickly to new technologies, and you should not be afraid to ask questions, whenever you get the chance- ask questions. But the best skill is- you should not be afraid to start something. That is the key point where you have the ability to learn a lot.

So, if you have an idea for a Project, just start over and make the most out of it by trying to use the Documentation, the resources of the Community and your skills as a Developer as well.

And it does not matter what language you are using. I know there are differences in implementation of C# or Java or Python but more and more they are coming together. Especially when you have a look into .NET core which is an amazing language for using Azure within that setting. Java and Python are well implemented for sure, so you can use them as well.

The key part is to start and adapt your knowledge as soon as you can, do not be afraid to ask questions, read the documents – it’s all there.

What are the biggest challenges you face working with Azure?

I would say the biggest challenge is not technology wise. When you do a project with Azure with a company, you might learn that they are not that willing to put that complete project onto Azure. Big companies are still looking to do it on-premise or are trying to avoid the ‘Vendor Lock In’ so that magic word ‘Hybrid Cloud’ is heard very often and you have to deal with that situation. Personally, I do not have a problem with that, its ok for me that companies use AWS as well as Google Cloud and of course Azure. But, as a suggestion I would say if you decide to do a project with Azure, stick with it. Do it with Azure, its not a problem, when you want to use it you can also use it with other Cloud systems all round.

The other challenge I find is that they try to move everything into Containers, having the mindset that Containers can be shifted all round and it does not matter which Cloud they are hitting onto it. This is something I am not as ok with. On the one hand they are right you can move Containers everywhere you want to, but you are losing a lot of capabilities, tools or scalability.

With the Covid-19 crisis, how have the Munich Azure Dev Meetup Group adapted to continue to provide valuable support and connections to the Azure Community?

What we are really missing is the Pizza and Beer, chilling and sharing with each other!

But we are still hosting Meetups. We were one of the first Meetups within Germany who broadcasted a Virtual Meetup before Global Azure and are looking forward to continuing this.

On May 14th we are broadcasting the ‘Azure DevOps Series #2’ which features 2 Microsoft Azure DevOps Experts and an Azure MVP as well and we are talking about Infrastructure as Code Deployment with Azure DevOps and GitHub and other cool topics.

While we have moved to Virtual we are trying to keep the social component as well, so we are communicating a lot on Twitter, sharing insights and Azure news there,  as well as taking feedback from the Community on how we can improve our next Virtual Event

What are you most proud of from the 2020 Global Azure Munich Virtual event?

We are so proud firstly that we were able to make it happen virtually.  That we were able to have 5 speakers including 3 MVPs on the Global Azure schedule was a great honor for us and it was a great success. Having an average of 50 people at a time connected to the 6 hours stream is a great success

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