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Review Microsoft has introduced a new series of tracks into the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA).

These are introductions to various topics targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs being the bulk of my professional experience, I am curious, and have taken the opportunity to give one of these tracks a go.

The pick of the day was the Introduction to virtualisation track. As with most MVA tracks, there is a nice "introduction to the topic" video. Unlike most MVA introduction videos, this one is 32 seconds long.

The concept of an introductory video to a track labelled "introduction to virtualisation" might seem a little redundant but, with the target audience in mind, it serves a purpose.

The intro video lays out the basics of what the module will do, claims that it wants to dispel FUD surrounding virtualisation and that it wants to "make you an expert." It has appropriate calming music and a disarming British fellow to serve as your guide.

As this session is intended for those who are completely new to virtualisation, the entire track isn't very long by MVA standards. The second video in the track - "virtualisation for beginners" - is a little over 18 minutes long.

I stopped consciously listening to the video around five minutes in because there was nothing new for me here. I kept enough of my mind paying attention to the thing to be entirely comfortable that no mistakes were made by the presenter.

Sysadmin-tastic

In all, it is a good view of the history of virtualisation in a Microsoft-centric universe. This video feels like it was written by a systems administrator: there's a lot of focus on the practical aspects of virtualisation, and why we should care about it.

Video number three is "technology approaches to virtualisation," and it discusses what Microsoft views as the different types of virtualisation it offers. (14 minutes.)

After the marketing mumbo jumbo is filtered out, this third video has a fair bit of technical content. If you want to sell Microsoft-based virtualisation into a company, (or convince someone within your own company to adopt it,) videos two and three will do that quite well.

The downside of the hand of marketing is the strict limitation of scope. Linux guest support isn't mentioned once, despite Microsoft making great strides in this area over the past several years.

In my experience, a large number of SMEs (a number that is steadily increasing) work in heterogeneous environments. In this light I find the omission surprising; Microsoft's increasingly strong Linux support is – when combined with its obviously unmatched Windows support – a compelling argument for adoption of their virtualisation offerings.

Microsoft supports SuSE and Red Hat's enterprise Linux offerings as first-class guest operating systems. It's important, and it shouldn't be forgotten.

That "hand of marketing" gripe aside, the track's drawbacks fade into insignificance when we hit the last video, titled "Licensing, Keeping Virtualisation under control."

As far as I am concerned, this video alone validates the entire existence of the Microsoft Virtual Academy, and all of its teething troubles to date. Critically, it does so by taking on an entirely different format than anything else I have seen thus far in MVA.

The video leaps out at me largely because of the inclusion of Freeform Dynamics' Andrew Buss; an IT analyst whose surveys and analyses periodically appear here on The Register.

Doing the legwork

Freeform Dynamics are among the few industry analysts that I trust. Large analyst firms such as Gartner are massive, sprawling affairs where many analysts become so specialised that I simply don't believe they can see the forest for the trees.

This is why I trust Freeform; they have a dedication to ethics that requires – among other things – that if they make an assumption in their analysis, that assumption is published prominently at the beginning of the document.

The more complex the topic, the more they attempt to look at it from multiple points of view. They represent a category of industry expert unwilling to compromise on the "doing the legwork" portion of analysis that I find increasingly rare. I am heartened to see analysts like these represented in MVA.

Andrew talks about licensing and sprawl without a Microsoft-centric approach. He never says the word "VMWare," but anyone who works in the industry can tell exactly when he is referring to VMWare and when he is referring to Microsoft.

Such knowledge isn't requisite to appreciate his message, but it is a comforting signal to the techies in the room that he knows what he's talking about.

Microsoft has done well to sit down with Andrew and have a discussion about the pitfalls of licensing in a visualised world. His demeanour and candour are refreshing. It's a topic too frequently shied away from during any Microsoft virtualisation discussion.

Taken as a whole, I feel that I can sit my SME clients down in from of this track can walk away 100 per cent confident that if they choose to go the virtualisation route, they know exactly what they are getting into. Someone at Microsoft has figured out what to do with the MVA, and I sincerely hope that this track is indicative of MVA's future direction. ®

Trevor Pott is a sysadmin based in Edmonton, Canada. The Register is a media partner of Microsoft Virtual Academy.

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