Today I received a contact on my blog from someone asking some good resources to start learning Azure. I thought the answer I sent might be useful to others, so I’m posting it here. Hope it helps.
I picked up Windows Azure by just jumping into anything I could find to help me get the basics, then explored from there. There is a book coming out this month “Azure in Action” that I would highly recommend. You can get an advance copy from the Manning Early Access Program (http://manning.com/hay/). The content they have currently is complete, but I know the final book is going to have quite a few changes. If you buy now you can get started, then get the full book when it is released for a lower price than the full book will be later when it is officially published.
I also highly recommend checking out the Windows Azure Platform Training Kit. This material was created by Microsoft and has many hands on labs where it can step you through a lot of very common operations and concepts in Azure. (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=413E88F8-5966-4A83-B309-53B7B77EDF78&displaylang=en)
There is also the Windows Azure online User Group. They have a virtual meeting every month. You can find out more about them at http://www.azureug.net/.
There is also the Windows Azure Boot Camps. They have been given all over the world and the idea for them was cooked up by Brian Prince, one of the co-authors of the book I recommended above. If you can’t find a boot camp scheduled around your area, all the materials and some train the trainer videos can be found on the boot camp website. (http://azurebootcamp.com/)
And don’t forget that they sometimes run offers for free trial accounts. Keep an eye on http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/offers/ for “Introductory offers”. This will get you a few online hours to play with. Remember that with the Windows Azure SDK you can pretty much do 90% of your work local and don’t really need a cloud account. Only when you want to push your work up to the cloud do you need the Azure account.