General availability has sparked a great deal of excitement amidst the IT community as all the evaluation software is now available for download.  It has been an interesting exercise to observe on social media those literally counting down the bytes in anticipation to test the new Release 2 offering of server software.  Until recently, that "download and wait" exercise has been the most common practice for IT professionals eager to trial new software. Most readers of this blog may remember a previous post entitled Step-By-Step: Building Your Own Lab on Windows Server 2012 which followed that very premise. What's been interesting this time around is that Microsoft has now provided an option to allow for trials to be conducted in Windows Azure in less time then it takes to download and setup the evaluation itself.  As reported by my colleague, Keith Mayer, the evaluation can now be deployed in 5 steps and enabled through a free 30 day subscription of Windows Azure.
 

Step 1: Sign-up for a new Microsoft Account ( previously known as Windows Live ID )

A Microsoft Account allows the ability for IT professionals to both sign-up for a free Windows Azure Trial, as well as sign-in to the Windows Azure Management Portal to provision and manage Cloud resources.  Many IT Pros prefer to sign-up for a unique account to better track Windows Azure resources even if they already have a pre-existing Microsoft Account.


 
Note: Country and Postal Code: When completing this form, please be sure to accurately reflect your country ( Canada ) and Postal code to take advantage of this special offer.
 
 

Step 2: Navigate to the FREE Trial Page

 

Found here: Windows Server 2012 R2 Evaluation Page
 

 
Select Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter on Windows Azure from the drop-down list and click the GET STARTED NOW button to continue.
 
 

Step 3: Register for the FREE Windows Azure Trial

On the page following the Windows Server 2012 R2 evaluation page, register for a Windows Azure FREE Trial subscription by clicking on the TRY IT NOW button.
 
 

Step 4: Submit the Trial Registration Form for Windows Azure

 

Complete each field on the registration form and click the SIGN UP button.
 

 
Note: A valid Credit Card will be requested when completing the form for the Windows Azure Trial Registration in Section 3 of the form.  This information is securely processed for validating your individual identity.  The supplied credit card will not be charged during the trial subscription period.  You must provide approval to convert your trial subscription to a paid subscription.  This comes as common practice as most cloud providers generally require credit card information to validate the identity of individuals when signing up for trial programs of their offering.
 
 
Step 5 - Build Your Windows Server 2012 R2 Virtual Machine

 

At this point you should now have an active Windows Azure Trial Subscription to use for building your cloud-based lab environment. 
 

 
To build your Windows Server 2012 R2:

  1. Sign-in at the Windows Azure Management Portal with your Microsoft Account that you defined in Step 1.
     
  2. At the bottom of the Windows Azure Management Portal page, click the +NEW button on the black toolbar.
     
  3. After clicking the +New button, select Compute | Virtual Machine | Quick Create.
     
  4. Complete the form with your unique DNS Name.
     
     

     
  5. Once the form is completed, click Create A Virtual Machine to begin provisioning the new VM.
     
  6. The new VM will be listed with a Running status on the Virtual Machines page of the Windows Azure Management Portal once the provisioning has completed.
     
  7. Connect to your new VM via a Remote Desktop connection, select your new VM and click the Connect button located on the bottom black toolbar.  
     
  8. When prompted, login with the LocalAdmin user credentials defined in the Quick Create form.
     

As mentioned, this lab setup will take you less time then downloading, installing and setting up a lab allowing IT professionals to learn Windows Server 2012 R2 practices and capabilities that much quicker.  To take your learning to the next level, be sure to visit the Microsoft Virtual Academy and review the What's New in the Windows Server 2012 R2 Jump Start session.