Azure Week Interview with Ahmed Nabil

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your Role  

My name is Ahmed Nabil and I have around 17 years of experience in the field of Information Technology/Systems, Infrastructure, Solutions Architecture, Project Management, Information Security, Application development/Automation, IT management and holds several professional IT certifications from Microsoft, CISCO, ISACA, ISC2, PMI, CWNP, PECB and EC- Council. I am mainly focused on Information Security and Digital Transformation. I am also a public speaker at several international conferences (Microsoft Ignite the Tour, ITCamp Cluj, CISO Africa Summit, Egypt CSCAMP, SharePoint Saturdays, CloudWeekend…. etc.) and author of several articles published in different international security magazines.

I am a current Microsoft MVP for the last 7 years in row (Enterprise Security / Cloud and Data Center Management), I hold an MSc in Business Information Technology from School of Computer Science, Middlesex University, UK and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from International Business School of Scandinavia.

I am currently working as the Global Chief Architect at one of the top Oil and Gas companies in the world.

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

Continuous development and rapid growth. Almost monthly or maybe on weekly basis you can get new updates, preview features, changes to products and interfaces. This is a major driver to continuously add value to your organization through different business solutions

What is your favourite Azure Product and why?

This is a tough question since Azure is adding more and more exciting products every day, just check the latest Azure Sentinel cloud solution released for public few days ago and the opportunities it can open for everyone. However, I think the Azure Security Center is one of my favourites since its built natively in Azure providing full overview and threat intelligence/protection on all workloads in cloud (Azure or note) as well as on-premises.

Where do you look for professional inspiration?

When it comes to inspiration, I would think that adding a daily value to the business, enabling organizations to deliver and aligning them with the latest technologies will be my professional inspiration to achieve more.

What are the biggest challenges you face working with Azure?

That’s funny, so the most exciting thing with Azure is at the same time the most challenging issue from my point of view. Continuous development and updates in Azure can get you overwhelmed by different options of Azure and often you will struggle to decide where can you start.

How would you tackle it/them?  

Planning and planning and planning, this the core thing. Need to understand exactly what I need and would benefit my organization/customer. Technology for the sake of Technology is meaningless unless its mapped to a business driver.

What advice would you give to someone starting out with using Azure?

Azure is not just a bunch of machines, services and applications. Azure can be your everything environment. Anyone starting with Azure should understand exactly what is he looking for? What is the business problem? Business is the key driver not IT. Is it cost reduction, scalability, team integration and collaboration…………etc.?

After identifying the problem, you can check Azure different offerings and pick the most convenient ones. Don’t just think it will be few clicks (although it might) but you need to understand what happens behind the scene and learn it. A lot of free resources are available from Microsoft to understand and learn what you are implementing.

What makes a great Azure Developer / Architect / etc.

I will mainly address the Architect since this is my main role. First your need to have a general solid information on the compute, storage, security and network components. Secondly you should apply this knowledge on the Azure components and terminology.

Understand the Cloud architecture from Microsoft Point of view, what different solutions they offer and what does they lack. Finally, I would recommend studying and passing the specific certification for each of these domains depending on your job nature (Architecture, Administration, Development……etc).

What key skills does an Azure Expert need to be effective in Industry?

Hybrid Cloud, Although the cloud is cool, and everyone is moving there but for several years coming we will still have the hybrid (Public/Private) cloud model. It’s very crucial to understand the integration, setup and implication of the hybrid model.  Architecture comes closely aligned to this hybrid knowledge, again we need to fully understand how the on-premise (regardless of product or vendor) can fit in the overall architecture and maybe extend some of the cloud features to fix on-premise issues. Lastly a key skill is mastering a scripting language, I would think of Power shell and/or Kusto Language.

Azure Specific: 

What in your opinion has been the biggest advance in Azure in the past 18 months?

I would say the global reach and expansion, this was really a huge advance. From where I come (Middle East/ EMEA area), there are several restrictions for organizations and banks to move to the Cloud especially if it’s in different geographic location. Think also for the GDPR in Europe. Now with new Azure Data center opening in new regions everywhere, more companies can move smoothly to the cloud fulfilling all legal requirements. The expansion is impressive and well planned.

With a wide array of Cloud Platforms available, why Azure?  

From my point of view, Azure provides a unique solution that can serve the business in cloud and on premises. Remember the most widely adopted solutions, Operating system on-premises is Microsoft. If you are looking for integration and moving in a hybrid way to the cloud, then the best option will be Azure. As we mentioned Azure has global presence in more than 42 cloud regions around the world (Compare it to any other Cloud Vendor). A very smart move is having Azure supporting other Non-Microsoft applications and operating systems attracting new and different customers.

How did you become a Cloud MVP? 

So, I am an MVP since 2013 (7 years till now) which was great privilege and honour. I think to be an MVP you got to have the right skills/experience, knowledge and the passion. Passion to help other, contribute to the community and ensure people are leveraging what they have in their hands. I publish regular blogs, speak at different conferences, events, meetups, summits in the region or internationally as well as answering questions on different Microsoft community forums. This is a constant and continuous effort that you need to put to be an MVP. This is my spare time that I share with people and communities. This leads us back to the passion.

Do you have suggestions for other community members who hope to become MVP’s?

First make sure you fully understand and master your knowledge domain. Second you need to love doing this, it’s not a certificate or badge on your arm but rather a way of living and sharing with others. MVP is about sharing and helping others using your expert knowledge. Again, MVP is not Microsoft only and you are free to express your ideas and negative issues to Microsoft team. You are Independent expert.

In 10 years, where do you see cloud-based Machine Learning platforms such as Azure ML?

Azure ML is a new service released recently with one goal which is standardizing and simplifying ML development on Azure. It strikes the right balance between local and cloud-based development everyone is looking for in our industry. When you think of this you can imagine this technology will open the door for anything in the future. I would assume that in the next 5 years (not 10 years) everything will be analytical based on Machine learning. Big data was always a cumbersome issue for organizations. Now consider building advanced analytics solutions with Azure ML without even requiring in-house expertise. There will be no limit for any analytics solutions.

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