imageOver the last few months I’ve been having some conversations with a number of people about the Test Lab Guides and the Business Ready Security (BRS) demo environment. For those of you who haven’t seen the BRS Demo environment, it is a collection of virtual machines and step by step documentation that provides a “hands-on lab” experience for all the technologies and server applications that are part of the Forefront line of products. You can find a full description of the BRS demo and how to download the virtual machines and documentation over at

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=726f943e-d107-4b4d-a86e-dfb605e30ce5&displaylang=en

On the other hand, Test Lab Guides provide information on how you can create your own Test Lab, so that you can see how a product or technology works in your own Test Lab. Test Lab Guides have you build out both the front-end and back-end components of the solution so that you can learn more about how all the pieces that enable the solution to work fit together. You can find more information on Test Lab Guides over at

 http://blogs.technet.com/b/tomshinder/archive/2010/07/30/test-lab-guides-lead-the-way-to-solution-mastery.aspx 

And for a comprehensive list of the currently available Test Lab Guides, check out the Test Lab Guide clearinghouse over on the TechNet Wiki at

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/test-lab-guides.aspx

Both the BRS demo and the Test Lab Guides are useful for their intended purposes. The BRS demo provides a convenient method to demonstrate all the products that participate in the Forefront family of products. All the virtual machines are created for you, and both the front end and back end of each of the solutions is preconfigured. The scenarios are built out to support the scripts (documentation) that are included with the demo. Like “hands on labs” they provide a nice introduction to some of the things each of the products covered in the BRS demo can do.

We like to think of the BRS demo as the first step. After you see what the products can do, you’ll probably want to see how you can built out your own solutions based on the technologies you saw demonstrated in the BRS demo. The problem is “where do you start”? The BRS demo doesn’t document the comprehensive back-end configuration that was required to make the solutions work, nor does it provide you guidance so that you can replicate the BRS demo environment so to have a better understanding of the products and technologies that you’re interested in. In addition, it’s difficult to customize the environment or update it it to support new versions of the product, service packs, etc. Sure, you could cobble together your own test lab, pull down the planning and deployment guides for those technologies, and hope that you’ll be able to come up with a working solution. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t – and whether it works or not, it takes a long time for you to figure out what needs to be done.

That’s where the Test Lab Guides come in. With the Test Lab Guides (TLGs), we provide you a standardized, tested, and proven methodology that you can use to quickly build your own Test Lab.The TLGs are designed to provide you with end-to-end information on how to build a Test Lab, using a modular format that enables you to re-use your Test Labs and test additional scenarios. You get coverage of both the front-end and back-end, and you learn the requirements and the terminology while building out the Test Labs. In addition, the labs include a lot of tips and tricks, as well as validation information so that you can avoid common pitfalls that you might run into when deploying the product or technology in your production environment. After you go through a Test Lab Guide, you’ll find that the information you read in the planning and design guides will end up making a lot more sense.

We’re working on trying to get all the Forefront product teams to produce some Test Lab Guides – however, since this is a new initiative, it takes a while to get everything in line. So, there are a number of products covered in the BRS demo that we don’t have Test Lab Guides out for yet. But if everything goes the way we want it to – there will be TLGs for all of them, and also for a number of cool features included in the Windows platform itself.

If you have any questions about the Test Lab Guides or the BRS demo, and which one might work best for you and your intended purpose, please feel free to write to me at the address in my sig line.

HTH,

Tom

Tom Shinder
tomsh@microsoft.com
Microsoft DAIP iX/SCD iX
UAG Direct Access/Anywhere Access Group (AAG)
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