I've been doing a lot of work around Azure of late and have been running Azure training around Western Europe. Most of the folks I see in classes are new to Azure – it's an unknown that is challenging their existing approach to computing (i.e. everything on premise, each app running on it's own physical hardware). In our classes, we give the students access to Azure and get them to use Azure backup, let them create web sites, VMs, virtual networks, etc. In one class, we have the students build out an 'on premise' environment (in Azure!), then use that 'on premise' environment to integrate with Office 365.
What I am seeing is that Azure is fairly easy, but very different in places. Certainly, the exposure to Azure in class gets the attendees over the initial learning curve and allows them to play. The key feature of all this playing is the free Azure Pass we give each student. But what if you were not able to attend the training but still want to play with Azure.
The answer is easy: if you live in the UK, go here: http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/free-trial/?WT.mc_id=A2FC1A0FA and sign up for a free Azure Pass. From the UK, at least, you go there, sign up for free and get £125 worth of Azure credit. Signup does require a credit card, but Microsoft states: "We use the phone number and credit card for identity verification. We want to make sure that real people are using Azure. We do not bill anything on the credit card".
Should you exceed the credit amount, your new Azure account will be suspended. At any time, you can optional upgrade the trail to a Pay-As-You-Go Azure subscription. BUT you will not be billed anything if you use your credits and let the subscription expire.
This trial is not just available here in the UK: it's available in 140 countries around the world. See the FAQ section of the free trial page to see the countries where it's available.
So if you have not used Azure and want to experiment, go and sign up. And join in the fun that is Azure. You can even use the scripts I've posted here to play with PowerShell and Azure! So what are you waiting for??