In a prior post, Pay Yourself First-Learn How With Passive Learning-Free Training From Microsoft On Just About Any Topic–Virtualization, Cloud, Phone, Server, Client, SharePoint, SQL, Many, Many More, I shared a massive amount of information on where you can get great and FREE training on Microsoft products. I would like to expand on that by giving you a challenge. That challenge is to leverage those resources (as well as my blog) to go out and setup a Lab or Proof Of Concept environment. In the coming months I will do blog posts and videos on how to install and configure some of these great tools. For now, use the following links to download the bits you need to setup your lab. You will be amazed at how much you can learn by going through this simple drill.
Proof of Concept Get Started Today! Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1 Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1 System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1 Microsoft Virtual Academy
1) The easiest way to get started is to get your paws on a machine that supports Hyper-V. Download and install either Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1 or Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 SP1. For my lab, I like to use Boot2VHD. You can learn (Step-By-Step) how to do this from my recent 4 part video series from Boot2VHD-Part 1-Overview of Native Boot To VHD. As you are going through installs, take a look at Microsoft Virtual Academy for training opportunities on the product you are installing or about to install.
2) While you are doing the install (or in advance) go ahead and download the next tool you would like to add to your environment. I usually just start downloading all the tools at once. I leave it overnight to bring everything down. This way regardless of what I want to install, I have it at my fingertips. The next morning, I am ready to roll. My personal preference would likely be System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Pre-Release. If however, you want to stick to only released software download System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1 and get that setup and running. I would actually encourage you to Install SCVMM in a guest on the hypervisor you installed in step 1 above.
3) Next, move on to another management component. System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 for monitoring (I have lots of stuff on my blog about this topic). Or, if you prefer, System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 and start working with that. If using Config Manager, go ahead and set it up a deployment to deploy Windows 7. Once you do that, add Office 2010 to the image. Then perhaps you should add some other applications and create a target reference machine. Go ahead and install IE9, change default settings for IE, Windows, Office and other apps. All good stuff. If you get through all of this… Next Step System Center Orchestrator 2012! It is not out yet, but adding it to your environment when it is out in beta will skyrocket you and your ability to proactively manage your infrastructure. In case you did not know, System Center is the place to be for insuring a long and lucrative career in IT . Once you get done with this, you will likely be ready to take your 70-659 Exam (Windows Server 2008 R2, Server Virtualization).
One last thing… Once you are done, post a message to this blog post and let me know what you thought of going through this process. Was it a valuable use of your time? Where there any issues you faced? Did it help you add a line (or more) to your resume?
Ok, one MORE thing... If you want to play with an online lab, there are opportunities for that as well. You will learn way more from building your own lab so go ahead and start the download. While you are waiting for the bits, check out some of the online labs Microsoft Virtual Labs Available NOW! System Center, Windows, Virtualization, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, And Lots More!
2011/09/30: Updated with AKA Links and changed SCVMM to RC (from Beta)
2011/11/03: Updated with System Center 2012 Suite download manager
2012/1/18: Added Link to online labs