Creating the Awesome Machine

I recently sat through a presentation on infrastructure as a service. The tech gods out there call this IAAS. My industry loves acronyms. There are also a variety of other popular terms including PAAS (Platform as a Service) , EAAS, ZAAS, CAAS, etc., Pick your letters and you can come up with the new term of the day. In the coming months (not necessarily years), there will be many more. Sadly, most folks don’t even know what most of these mean. The tech industry shorts itself in this way. It truly is amazing what we can do these days.

After listening through this presentation on infrastructure, I decided to try out a few of these services. The presenter basically dared me to go give it a go and it all looked so easy. For full disclosure, I work at Microsoft. The law requires me to shout from the hills where I work. So, I am.

Now that’s out of the way, I’ll also say I’m a little more technical than the average guy. What does that mean? Well, I’m not as technical as most people probably reading this post. But I’m probably far more technical than the person down the street asking me for help setting up a printer.

Note, I do the upkeep on this site and a few others. I’ve been building out web presences on html, SharePoint, WordPress, etc., for awhile. Better than average at doing it? Yes. Great? Far from it. My html, JavaScript, etc, is lacking. Everything I do need to build, I have a tendency to learn on the fly. I think that’s the beauty of the internet. Given time and persistence, you can literally accomplish anything. It’s the world’s biggest library of information, both useful and useless.

When I built out my first website, I remember working through the hosting provider, setting up the server, building the database, etc., Back then, even the famous five minute WordPress install took a little longer than five minutes. It is a great marketing slogan. However, if you actually think through everything that needs to be accomplished before starting there is a little work. Before the five minute countdown starts ticking away, there were a few prerequisites in the fine print.

After the presentation, I decided to build something on Azure Services. Now, ideas are important. When I started on this little endeavor, I didn’t have one. In Disney’s Big Hero Six, I was young Hiro banging his head on the desk (Goodness, this was a great movie). There were no ideas. Still, I wanted to build something, quick and easy of course, as an experiment.

I ended up designing the AweMattic. No, it’s not the microbots from the animated movie of the year. My idea wasn’t that good. The entire point of the AweMattic was to allow anyone to go to the website, quickly register an email address and shout out what they were doing that’s awesome today. That’s it.

Yes, you can do this on FaceBook. Some folks do every morning. But I wanted this site to be dedicated to Awesomeness. Everyone has their own definition. Awesome could be getting out of bed in the morning, seeing your kid belt out Stairway to Heaven on the ukulele, or building a rocket ship to go to the moon. It could be saving your company millions of dollars on a project, painting your own special version of VanGoh’s Starry Night, or beating your personal best on a five mile run.

We do the awesome each and every day. We’re just not always good at sharing it. I decided to change all of that.

For my experiment, I wanted to do this quickly to prove the point and did the following:

  1. I went to and setup an account. If you have a MSDN subscription, you have the ability to leverage Azure services as part of the subscription. I just used my Microsoft account to start the registration process. Hint, it’s the same account if you’re using Windows 8 or battling the forces of evil on XBOX Live. Charges can apply.
  2. Once I logged on, you get a simple list of services to use and leverage. You can build out a HADOOP cluster to solve the world’s great problems, setup your own storage account, or build a website using a variety of technologies. There are more services here than my simple mind can ever hope to comprehend. There is so much to learn here. That’s incredible.
  3. I ended up creating the AweMattic by building a simple website. You can choose many different options, but I ended up leveraging WordPress. Azure supports about every coding option currently viable.
  4. After a few clicks, I watched the Azure service pull together my storage volumes, spreading my workload across many servers to my specification. There was no hourglass here. If I wanted to have 32 Virtual Machines with backup and recovery, I could do it. Yes, this costs money (above and beyond the free website). Still, it’s amazing if you think about it. We take too much for granted these days.
  5. When the site was ready, the Famous Five Minute WordPress install quickly took about sixty seconds. All the heavy lifting is done including file allocation, database setup, etc., You don’t have to do any of it.
  6. Once the site was ready, I setup a WordPress theme called P2. It’s an open source collaboration built and maintained by the folks that manage It’s used for internal collaboration and development projects. The company AutoMattic uses it internally. If you’re curious, the AweMattic is short for Awesome and Mattic, who is one of the founders of WordPress.
  7. I then designed a quick AweMattic logo and made a few tweaks to the theme.
  8. When all was complete, I wrote my first post. It read, I’m awesome because I built the AweMattic in less than five minutes. What did you do that was awesome today?

And my project was launched.

At first, there were crickets, but then it started to catch on. So much that I didn’t want to keep the site up for much longer. I did end up shutting it down after a few posts. You see, this project is all about what’s possible. It wasn’t meant to build FaceBook for Awesome people. And that is what is amazing about the world today. The democratization of IT is real.

I know there are other services out there, including Amazon, IBM and other hosting providers. I’m not here to debate the technical merits of these solutions.

And yes, people far more technical than I am can build their own version of the AweMattic. Some will claim they can do it cheaper, easier, and make it look better too. Again, that’s not the point of this post.

You see, as a kid I had these toys called outside and my imagination. Right now, I believe we live in the greatest generation. Today, kids have all the tools I had at my disposal, but they also have the ability to build out an entire infrastructure for a new application and complete a product design with a 3d printer and a few mouse clicks. With a little push, kids can build their dream with a little know how and ingenuity.

We all can.

If that’s building out your school calendar, setting up an application that sends out emails to you why you’re awesome during the day, or modeling out the algorithm to find the last digit of PI, go for it. With a little research and some trial and error, anyone can build their own great display of awesomeness. So, what are you waiting for? How are you going to be awesome tomorrow?

Just a few links and notes:

Start your own version of Awesome on Azure.

Learn about the P2 Theme.

This is one cool painting.

Yeah, I used another acronym. If you’re curious, check out Hadoop.

And why did I use this picture? Well, Azure is blue. And what’s more awesome than dolphins? Not much.