Vol. 25, #8 - April 15, 2013 - Issue #925
Building Test Labs
- Editor's Corner
- From the Mailbag
- Building Test Labs
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Webcast Calendar
- Register for Webcasts
- Tech Briefing
- So you want to continue using Windows XP?
- Data Tiering and Overprovisioning
- Back to basics: Citrix XenServer 6.1 (Part 1) - Installation
- Using DirectAccess
- Using PowerShell Aliases: Best Practices
- Configuring an Exchange 2013 Hybrid Deployment and Migrating to Office 365 (Exchange Online)
- Step-By-Step: Virtual Machine Replication Using Hyper-V Replica
- Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Live Migration does not support pass-through disks–KB2834898
- Windows 8 Tweaks and Tricks
- VIDEO - Get Started with USMT
- VIDEO - TechNet Radio: IT Time–Get Certified! Why Microsoft Certification Matters
- Windows Server News
- What makes OpenStack public cloud tick?
- Desktop storage in-depth: Explaining diskless VDI
- Comparing the subtle differences between vMotion vs. Live Migration
- Microsoft improves Windows 8 DirectAccess as a VPN alternative
- WServerNews FAVE Links
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- WServerNews - Product of the Week
- 3 Free Tools. 1 Easy Download. Active Directory Admin Simplified.
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This week's newsletter is all about building test labs with a guest editorial by Andrew Barnes. This is a fun topic because test labs can be fun. Not sure about that? Just ask Ratbert:
From the Mailbag
In the previous issue To Flash or Not To Flash (Issue #924) we examined the question of when (and when not) you should flash the BIOS of your server and firmware of server hardware components. In response to our editorial a reader named James sent us the following feedback:
Hey Mitch, might be worth mentioning to folks that if you do flash a hardware component to a later revision you should check BEFORE doing so, to see if any associated drivers will need updating . . . then you have to check revisions (BIOS & driver) of any dependent components, that your new versions are on the hardware compatibility list of the OS etc. Something so simple can get so complex! Keep up the good work on WserverNews :-)
We also received some helpful comments from a reader named Quentin:
In some cases, the flash updates are all part of a large release from the server manufacturer - eg. Dell or HP. So you go to apply an HP Rompaq and you find you are flashing BIOS, nic firmware, scsi cards, remote access card, and every hard drive in the box all at the push of a single button. So read carefully before you accept that End User License Agreement and know what you are applying. The server management tools like the Dell IT Assistant can report on out of date drivers/firmware/management software. If you are a Dell shop, you need to look into running this tool. It can assess servers for compliance with latest releases, download them, install them, etc. Of course similar tools are available for your HP fleet or IBM fleet. Keeping up to date on firmware can prevent many other problems from surfacing, or cure some of the gremlins you have been chasing.
One thing you may not be counting on is that sometimes in order to get support from your vendor, you will have to go do a round of updates. Updates are issued for a reason - something was not working as it should and it needed to be fixed! Don't assume you can phone up 1-800-serversRus and they will jump to support your 5 versions out of date bios. In many cases your server vendor will tell you to first apply those 20 firmware and driver updates before they will talk to you. Especially if you are experiencing anything that is documented in one of the firmware or driver packs. They may already have provided you a solution in the flash release, you just need to go apply it.
I have equated firmware updates and driver updates as pretty much the same category. That is how I treat them. In many cases you will not be able to update a driver without updating firmware. In other cases, updating the firmware will cause problems with the old driver because they go hand in hand and work together. I will say that I have not had a flash failure in many years. I think manufacturers are getting better at managing these updates. For instance some servers include a redundant copy of the BIOS when you update so that you can back out a bad BIOS flash. I consider keeping current on bios/drivers/management software one of the keys to maintaining good server uptime and reliability.
Building Test Labs
And now on to our guest editorial by Andrew Barnes...
Test Labs: It all begins here!
It helps to have a Test lab whether you're implementing a new system, developing code, undertaking career training or just evaluating a new software product.
There have been free online Test Labs for quite some time now in the form of Microsoft's Virtual Labs:
For those who want to use their own hardware, there are Virtual Hard Drives (VHD's) available for download that you can use on Hyper-V. You can find a list of some here: Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk -- Test Drive Program:
Not everyone wants their lab pre-built. There are some that don't like smoke and mirrors and want to build their labs from the ground up. Also, not everyone uses Hyper-V to virtualize their servers. To this end, Microsoft has released their Test Lab Guide designs:
There are currently 2 Base Configuration designs available around which all other labs are formed:
- Test Lab Guide: Base Configuration - Windows Server 2008 R2:
- Test Lab Guide: Windows Server 2012 Base Configuration - Windows Server 2012:
In the past I created Test Labs based on my own designs but when I discovered the Test Lab Guide: Base Configuration I became an instant fan:
I then adopted the configuration for all of my test labs and evangelized about them on my blog:
There are now over 100 Test lab guides available based on Microsoft's TLG design many of which are community authored:
Why build a test lab?
In the past, there are a number of reasons why I have built Test Labs.
- Forums - I'm a forum moderator and when I respond to posts, I sometimes fire up my test servers and see if I can replicate issues.
- Blog - It usually helps to do extra research and to create screenshots that help explain my posts.
- Training - While studying for my Microsoft certifications, my test labs give me hands-on training before taking exams.
- The workplace - I've used Test Labs while working as a Microsoft DDPS consultant hosting workshops to demonstrate Microsoft's vision of dynamic IT. I've also built Proof of Concepts in order to sell consultancy services.
- Home - I remember many years ago, in my bachelor flat, I had a home network consisting of three 486 desktop computers and two 386 servers running Novell Netware. These days married with a young toddler I no longer have the luxury of turning my home into a datacenter. So my virtualized lab comes to the rescue in my home.
There are a number of tools available to help build your Test Labs (some called Hydration Kits). Hydration Kits are usually built by people who specialize in deployment using a combination of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit standalone media and scripts.
Here are a few available Hydration Kits:
- Hydration Kit for ConfigMgr 2012 SP1 -- The latest System Center Configuration Manager Hydration Kit from MVP Johan Arwidmark:
- Proof of Concept Jumpstart Kit v3.0 -- From Microsoft a Hyper-V 2008r2 server image allowing you to evaluate deployment of Windows 7 SP1, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 9, and Application Virtualization with Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack:
- Windows 8 Proof of Concept (PoC) Jumpstart -- For Microsoft Partners a Hydration Kit based on Windows Server 2012 Test Lab Guides allowing you to demonstrate Windows Server 2012, Windows 8 Enterprise, SCCM 2012 SP1, MDOP, UE-V, App-V 5.0:
- Hydration Kit - Test Lab: Base Configuration -- An open source project started by myself Andrew Barnes. This solution will automate the build of a test lab based on Microsoft's Test Lab Guide (TLG). The tool currently builds Windows Server 2008r2 but soon will also include Server 2012 and other products:
There are also installers that deploy multiple related products:
- System Center 2012 -- Unified Installer - A tool that provides an interface for the installation of seven System Center 2012 components, including all prerequisites from a central point:
- Microsoft Web Platform Installer 4.0 -- A free tool that downloads and installs the Microsoft Web Platform, including Internet Information Services (IIS), SQL Server Express, .NET Framework and Visual Web Developer. Also free web applications for blogging, content management etc:
- Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows 8 -- A collection of tools that you can use to prepare and deploy Windows Operating Systems to new computers:
I built the Hydration Kit - Test Lab: Base Configuration to save myself rebuilding my labs and later decided to share it with the online community:
So whatever your area of IT expertise is I suggest using the tools above to save yourself time and effort in developing your PoC environments.
About Andrew Barnes
Andrew Barnes a Deployment Specialist from Manchester, England, and hosts a deployment blog called Scriptimus Ex Machina that focuses around deployment and infrastructure automation.
- Link to Andrew's blog:
- Andrew's Twitter feed
- Andrew's Hydration Kit:
Send us feedback
Got comments or questions concerning anything in the above editorial? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tip of the Week
PowerTip: Easily create a record of all PowerShell commands and associated output
This week Microsoft Scripting Guy Ed Wilson shows how to create easily a record of all Windows PowerShell commands typed in the Windows PowerShell console, and the output associated with those commands.
Question: You want to create a log of all commands and output typed into the Windows PowerShell console. How can you do this?
Answer: Use the Start-Transcript cmdlet. It automatically records all commands and associated output typed in the Windows PowerShell console. The command appears here:
Ed Wilson is the bestselling author of eight books about Windows Scripting, including Windows PowerShell 3.0 Step by Step, and Windows PowerShell 3.0 First Steps. He writes a daily blog about Windows PowerShell called Hey, Scripting Guy! that is hosted on the Microsoft TechNet Script Center; for more PowerTips Check out the Hey, Scripting Guy! blog.
Contact me at email@example.com if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.
Recommended for Learning
This week we have some recent titles to help you advance in your IT career:
Building your I.T. Career: A Complete Toolkit for a Dynamic Career In Any Economy, 2nd Edition (Pearson)
Not a guide to the various certifications available but instead some practical advice on how to advance any kind of IT career. The chapter titled "12 Weeks to Profitable Consulting" might be especially helpful for those starting out in the IT consulting field.
CompTIA A+ 220-801 and 220-802 Authorized Cert Guide and Simulator Library (Pearson)
This is probably everything you'll need to ace these two exams.
Healthcare Information Technology Exam Guide for CompTIA Healthcare IT Technician & HIT Pro Certifications (McGraw-Hill)
Reviewers on Amazon consider this an excellent resource for preparing for IT certs for the healthcare industry.
Quote of the Week
"One of the best uses of your time is to increase your competence in your key result areas." --Brian Tracy
BTW feel free to:
Note to subscribers: If for some reason you don’t receive your weekly issue of this newsletter, please notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to troubleshoot things from our end.
Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
SolarWinds free NTFS Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory - get a complete hierarchical view of the effective permissions & access rights for a specific file folder or share drive. Download today!
Free Tool: Idera Server Backup Free – fast, disk-based continuous data protection for Windows and Linux servers – backs up and restore files in seconds.
Download 2X ApplicationServer XG to deliver virtual desktops and applications from a central location, providing continuous availability, resource-based load balancing and complete end-to-end network transparency for administrators.
Manage email on-premise or in the cloud. A hybrid archive solution is both scalable and compliant. Take advantage of cost-efficient cloud storage whilst maintaining compliancy.
Centrally organize, synchronize and audit your organization's passwords with the AuthAnvil Password Server from Scorpion Software:
- Microsoft TechEd North America on June 3-6, 2013 in New Orleans, USA
- Microsoft Build on June 26-28, 2013 in San Francisco, USA
- Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on July 7-11, 2013 in Houston, USA
- Microsoft TechEd Europe on June 25-28, 2013 in Madrid, Spain
- Microsoft TechEd Africa 2013 on April 16-19, 2013 in Durban, South Africa
Add your event
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Register for Webcasts
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So you want to continue using Windows XP? (The Things That Are Better Left Unspoken)
If you want to continue running Windows XP in your organization, you should begin taking measures, beginning today.
Data Tiering and Overprovisioning (WindowsNetworking.com)
This article explains the problem of storage overprovisioning and how data tiering can help solve this problem.
Back to basics: Citrix XenServer 6.1 (Part 1) - Installation (VirtualizationAdmin.com)
In this first part of our article series, the author will go through the steps to install Citrix XenServer 6.1.
Using DirectAccess (TechNet via Springboard Series Insider)
Explore a real world example that can show you how to address remote connectivity requirements by using DirectAccess, deploy DirectAccess easily using the Getting Started Wizard, and connect user devices, regardless of whether they connect directly to your corporate intranet or not.
Using PowerShell Aliases: Best Practices (Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog)
The low down on using aliases with Windows PowerShell.
Configuring an Exchange 2013 Hybrid Deployment and Migrating to Office 365 (Exchange Online) (Part 1) (MSExchange.org)
First in a series of articles that provides insight into the New Office 365 and then take you through the steps necessary to configure an Exchange 2013 hybrid deployment followed by migrating mailboxes from on-premises to the New Office 365 (Exchange Online).
Step-By-Step: Virtual Machine Replication Using Hyper-V Replica (Canadian IT Pro Connection)
A walkthrough on how to use Hyper-V Replica.
Windows Hyper-V Server 2012 Live Migration does not support pass-through disks–KB2834898 (Working Hard in IT)
Some thoughts on using pass-through disks in your Hyper-V environment.
Windows 8 Tweaks and Tricks (WindowsNetworking.com)
In this article the author shares some tweaks and tricks you might be interested in as a Windows 8 admin and user.
VIDEO - Get Started with USMT (TechNet via Springboard Series Insider)
The User State Migration Tool (USMT) can help streamline deployment by moving users' files and settings from their previous Windows version to Windows 8.
VIDEO - TechNet Radio: IT Time–Get Certified! Why Microsoft Certification Matters (Channel 9 via TechNet Flash)
In this episode of IT Time, Blain Barton and the Scripting Guy, Ed Wilson, discuss the importance of Microsoft Certifications.
What makes OpenStack public cloud tick?
While Amazon Web Services (AWS) plays a dominant role in the cloud market, recent enhancements and improvements to OpenStack may be changing the game. Inside this essential resource, learn about OpenStack's unique benefits and why it's expected to be AWS's top threat in the near future.
Desktop storage in-depth: Explaining diskless VDI
To enjoy the benefits of VDI, you must first tackle common storage capacity issues that this dynamic environment introduces. One revolutionary approach starting to gain traction is diskless virtual desktop storage – access this tip to learn why diskless VDI may be the solution admins have been waiting for.
Comparing the subtle differences between vMotion vs. Live Migration
VMware's vMotion and Microsoft's Live Migration may seem to have many similarities at first glance, but their features and capabilities are unique. So, which one outshines the other? Find out the key subtle differences between Live Migration and vMotion to learn which option is right for your business.
Microsoft improves Windows 8 DirectAccess as a VPN alternative
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are the go-to approach most organizations utilize to allow remote users to connect to their corporate network, but a new alternative is emerging – Windows 8 DirectAccess. Find out how this advanced platform addresses the shortcomings of VPNs.
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
GOT FUN VIDEOS or other fun links to suggest you'd like to recommend? Email us at email@example.com
Even though they are undoubtedly the Internet's favorite animal, cats can be real jerks sometimes...
Niagara Falls has been filmed many times using full sized helicopters. But with a remote controlled helicopter, there is no minimum altitude restriction....
Can you figure out how he does it? It is based on a phenomenon known in mathematics as the 'missing square puzzle.'
"The ultimate Elvis tribute artist" Ben Portsmouth performs "An American Trilogy" on the Late Show with David Letterman February 8, 2013:
And this video is from a reader named Alan who says if you like Scotch Guarded sand try this stuff:
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tullochis Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.