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Learn everything you need to know about System Center 2012

Relax with the MVA videos

Security for virtualized datacentres

Among Windows systems administrators System Center 2012 is arguably the most hotly anticipated software release in nearly a decade.

Microsoft is at last taking the fight to VMware, and it is expending the resources necessary to ensure that sysadmins are prepared. One branch of the strategy is making good use of Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA).

I welcome the addition of tracks relating to up-and-coming technologies. The Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2012 track is a great example of why: a full deployment of this software according to whitepaper would require more hardware than my test lab has available. Without something like this MVA track, I would be hard pressed to get a good look at VMM 2012's capabilities.

Count to three

The VMM 2012 track is fairly straightforward. There are three modules, each with a video and a pdf. The videos give an exhaustive view of VMM 2012's various capabilities while the pdfs provide good reference material.

The first module, unimaginatively titled "overview”, does what it says on the tin. If you care about VMM 2012 enough to be taking this course, then you have probably already read enough articles about it to be able to pass the self-exam without watching the video or reading the pdf.

Keep the video in the back of your drawer; it is great for explaining to the PHB (pointy-haired boss) why he should stump up for the upgrade.

There are lots of PowerPoint-esque slides and shiny Visio diagrams that cover the broad strokes. Mentally file under "mildly technical why you should care demos".

The second module is "Using VMM 2012 to configure a private cloud”. The first few minutes are functionally a recap of the overview video, and the rest is a combination of PowerPoint + Visio theory explanations interspersed with screencap demos.

There is plenty of useful information here: it is about on par with a really thorough tech conference demo.

Deep sea dive

The last module is "Modeling and maintaining virtualized services in VMM 2012”. Be warned: the video is just north of an hour and 20 minutes long.

But you will come away knowing nearly everything you could possibly want to know about creating, managing and maintaining virtual machine templates in VMM 2012.

This module dives pretty deep into the different ways in which you can deploy applications to virtual machine templates, including cascading updates from the master template to all linked descendants.

There is a lot of neat stuff here, especially bearing in mind that VMM 2012 can use Hyper-V, VMware or Citrix as the underlying virtualisation platform.

Demonstrating a few implementations could spark the imagination

My one gripe is the lack of a PowerShell module. The presenters in the videos keep informing you that all of the various neat things they are doing can be done from PowerShell, but they don't demonstrate this once.

Given the complexity and relevance of VMM 2012, I believe that PowerShell scripting is important enough to merit a module of its own.

There are all sorts of really sexy things you can do here, and demonstrating a few potential implementations could add a little spice and spark the imagination of some sysadmins.

Dress down Friday

I want to see entire racks evacuated of all virtual machines and then powered down in response to a PowerShell script.

And where is the video showing someone programmatically spinning up templates, injecting applications, configuring and making available hundreds of virtual machines in response to a web site button push or some other scripting trigger?

This minor issue aside, I like this MVA track. If you need to switch off a bit but still be accomplishing work-related things, you could do a lot worse than plunking yourself down in front of these videos.

Learning about VMM 2012 while catching up on a month's worth of paperwork could make for a relatively relaxed Friday afternoon. ®

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