No Excuses! You Need a Lab for Active Directory 2012.



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Many posts that can be found on the new features of directory services on Windows 2012 both from Microsoft and from others. However, you need to get your hands on the features to learn them.

Like other PFE that post on this blog I get to talk to you when I am on site. One item that I find we all can improve on is having a personal lab to learn. While you may have access to controlled labs that mimic your production environment, you will be limited on what you can introduce to a lab supporting your production environment. Very few engineers I meet have a personal lab setup because they don’t have time or who knows why. I am sure the reason varies.

With availability of Hyper-V on Windows 8 you have no excuses. You will need licenses for your guests of course (check with your company or look at a personal TechNet license).  So, for the purposes of learning Windows Server 2012 and what is new with Directory Services we can build a lab to meet most of our needs.

So in this short post, I am going to share what my lab looks like. This lab is also the lab we built for our Windows Server 2012 Directory Services training classes (I also have a lab for 2008R2).

1) Forest 1 – Windows 2008 R2 Functional Level

a. Windows 2008 R2 Core domain controller (1)

b. Windows Server 2012 member servers – full (2)

c. Windows 2012 core member server (1)

d. Windows 7 Client (1)

e. Windows 8 Client (1)

2) Forest 2 – Windows 2012 Forest Functional Level

a. Windows 2012 Core domain controller (1)

b. Windows 2008 R2 Member Server – full (1)

       i. Useful for a GUI for those light on PowerShell

My lab machine is my laptop with 16GB RAM, 4 core Intel I7 processor, and an SSD drive for speed. I can run all machines in the lap and they are very responsive to any lab that I have done thus far. My previous machine had 8 GB of RAM with a SATA drive and I ran most any lab I needed for 2008 R2 on that machine as well.

The lab above gives us 8 virtual machines (about 50-70GB disk space) that provide a multi-forest lab to test out features in Windows 2012. What am I testing? Simple. Go to any post listing the new features for directory services on Windows Server 2012, and I have probably done it in this lab.

Here is a link with new features in many of the 2012 products:


Need a deep dive on the new features for Directory Services?

Your first lab assignment is to build the lab. You can do this one of two ways.

1) Build the entire lab setup above


2) Just build Forest 1 – you can add forest 2 later when you need it for a lab the traverses a forest trust of some kind.

So building this lab doesn’t really count as a lab does it? I will answer that for you: No it doesn’t. Your first real lab will be upgrading forest 1 to a 2012 forest, demoting the 2008 R2 domain controller, and raising the functional level to 2012.

Hint: Before you start upgrading your lab, export your VMs so you can return to the initial state and do it again.

Need help building the lab? Some searches with Bing will give you plenty of help. Here are a few

A Global Enterprise … in your basement?

Introducing the first Windows Server 2012 Domain Controller (Part 1 of 2)

Windows Servers 2012 Test Lab Guides – this has guides for many different services

Don’t know what to with the lab once it is built? Look at some previous posts on AskPFEplat for some lab assignments.

So, next time you see me and I ask if you have a lab for yourself, hopefully you will say yes and can show it to me. There are no excuses, so get motivated and build a personal lab you can practice and learn with.

Your friendly PFE – Doug Gabbard