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The cloud is everywhere around us and if you are building systems in the Microsoft space the cloud means Azure.  So how do you get started.  To my way of thinking you need to understand the front end, batch processing and storage offerings along with the toolset.  This post will outline some of the resources that I have found are helpful to getting started.

Trial Azure Subscription

The first thing anyone who is interested in Azure should do is sign-up for a free trial subscription.  If you are lucky enough to have an MSDN subscription you can also use your $100/month allowance that comes with it.  Either way nothing can ever replacing getting your hands dirty.

Once you setup a subscription you want to make sure you get the most out of it.  One of the greatest thing with Azure is that there are a certain amount of resources that you can always get for free.

Resource sites

All of the resources I have listed here are from Microsoft themselves.  There are a number of other great sites out there, but this should be enough to get you started.

The main online resource site is on the Azure site itself.  This gives you a number of scenarios and examples for developers, administrators and architects.  If you are looking for some free lectures and associated code check out the Microsoft Virtual Academy.  While you are there check out the variety of material on other subjects they have available.

The last site I would suggest for beginners is the Channel 9 Azure Friday site.  Scott Hanselman is always a great presenter and is able to boil down just about any subject to understandable nuggets.  They cover a diverse array of Azure related subjects so everyone should be able to find some pearls of wisdom.

Books

Learning Microsoft Azure by Geoff Webber-Cross gives a good starting point for a rounded understanding of the basics involved with building Azure solutions.  It is a little out of date at this point, but then again anything in print is these days.  The concepts are still valid.

For those of you who get more advanced or have an architecture bent you probably also want to check out Building Hybrid Applications in the Cloud on Windows Azure.  This one was written even earlier, but it is from the Patterns and Practices team which I have trusted for the past 15 years.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully it will give you are jumping off point to begin your Azure journey.