One of the problems I often face is, that in order to play with technology, I need to spend quite some time to set up a basic environment to then, finally, install the software on I want to test.
I then started to have a test environment with several VMs containing a DC, Exchange, CA,... If I did not use it for a while, well it takes quite some time to update all of them and finally it is pretty clear, that the configuration I need for the scenario cannot be reflected with the setup I have - quite a frustrating experience.
The other option is my home environment. I am running two DCs, an Exchange Server, MOM, WSUS, ISA Server,... I authenticate my wireless with 802.1x and use WPA etc. There is a little room to do this tests - but my family has a pretty tight SLA and is not really happy if the environment fails, just because daddy started to play with some Beta software - or imagine, my Mediacenter fails, when "24" should be recorded......
You can imagine that I am not telling you this story without a solution:
- Since quite some time we are offering "Virtual Labs". This is a great thing in my opinion: Choose the technology, you would like to test, sign-in with your WindowsLive-account and in the background we are compiling Virtual Machines and a Demo script for you to use through the browser. You have 90 minutes to use it, then we will sign you out. There are labs at Technet as well as at MSDN. Check them out: http://www.microsoft.com/events/vlabs/default.mspx
- Additionally a few months ago we shipped a CD with VMs to show the different mobile security scenarios. Now we make them available with quite some enhanced technology: Intelligent Application Gateway 2007 (the Whale acquisition), ISA Server 2006, Forefront for Exchange, Forefront for Sharepoint, Rights Management Services, ... You can download these labs (up to 1 GB) from the download center: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=ec908733-d480-46c1-bcba-2b75219e2a28&displaylang=en&tm