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Microsoft parts private cloud to reveal its infrastructure

Join the MVA

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Review Brightly coloured videos with a cast of improbably good looking people and some upbeat music don't shift data-centre gear. Instead of the endless merriment of terrible marketing videos, Microsoft has focused on education.

Given that the vendor wants you to know about its private cloud technologies, it was just a matter of time before it came up with its Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) track: Preparing the Datacenter for a private cloud with Windows Server 2008 R2 (AKA Microsoft Private Cloud Infrastructure (MSPCI).)

Most MVA tracks I have encountered make you feel like you are sitting through a presentation at a tech conference. The MSPCI track lies somewhere between a half day's worth of lectures and being run over by a binder full of whitepapers.

An ideal world

The presenter doesn't touch on anything I didn't already know backwards and forwards, and everything deals with best practices and ideal environments where everyone has unlimited IT budgets.

But that is not a criticism: this track definitely has its place. After I ran through it, my wife was able to pass the self-assessments and conduct a remarkably technical discussion about private cloud deployment, just from what she had absorbed while playing Skyrim.

Plunk a junior systems administrator down in front of this MVA track, and if they know enough about Windows Server management to pass Microsoft Certified Professional, they can walk away from this track knowing enough to put a fully redundant Hyper-V cluster together.

The track has three modules. Each contains a video and the downloadable pdf of the slides used. Unlike other tracks, however, the videos appear to have been made specifically for MVA, rather than being a repackaging of earlier content.

The first module is the overview. Microsoft and I have a differing idea of overview: the video is more than an hour long and hammers home every point in the attached slides.

Ideally, it should probably come as an ebook to listen to in the car. But even for those who know this stuff cold, if you haven't touched it in a while, it is a good refresher.

Back to basics

The overview starts with a brief history of virtualisation, and how best practices, clustering and virtualisation come together to mean "private cloud" in Microsoftese.

There is a very in-depth discussion of hardware requirements for Hyper-V, including an explanation of why these hardware requirements exist.

There are also a really good look at the Microsoft Assessment and Planning toolkit, discussions about SANs, networking and the importance of Active Directory in Microsoft's private cloud implementation, and an introduction to clustering.

The technical content places this video out of pointy-haired-boss territory. It assumes a not unreasonable amount of knowledge on the part of the viewer. If have heard of Microsoft Virtual Academy in the first place, you probably know enough to understand the MSPCI overview video.

The second module is about configuration. The video is roughly an hour long, and the only note I managed to take throughout was "OMG clustering”.

Ready to build

I am convinced that if I could persuade my wife to pay attention to it for the entire duration, she would come away fully capable of deploying and configuring a Microsoft-based private cloud.

Module three covers management. Another hour-long video, and now you know how to use all the management tools you need to build a fully fault-tolerant and highly available Hyper-V cluster.

Overall, this proves to be a very informative MVA track. As it is an infrastructure course, the focus is largely on clustering and the tools native to Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V and so forth.

You don't take away much in the way of "how to use Microsoft System Center subproduct", but MVA offers plenty of other tracks to help you with those. ®

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