TechNet UK

Useful tools, tips & resource for IT professionals including daily news, downloads, how-to info and practical advice from the Microsoft UK TechNet team, partners and MVP's

August, 2012

UK  TechNet Flash Newsletter
  • MCSE for SQL Server

    I have to be honest I gave up getting certified before I joined Microsoft mainly because the exams didn’t keep up with the release of SQL Server specifically the Business intelligence exams. I then had the same problem as an evangelist I was working on the next release of the SQL or Windows Server.

    However that’s changed there are already exams out for SQL Server 2012 and also MCSE is back not just for Server and Desktop but also for the wider private cloud and for SQL Server.  These exams are hard and you’ll need to take five of them to get the MCSE badge. Also there are tow MCSE qualifications relevant to SQL Server; data platform and  business intelligence which I also wish had existed back in the day.

    Unlike some simpler certifications, Microsoft don’t insist you take a course and then get a simple test out at the end of it – how you get up to speed is up to you and we all learn differently so there is no right answer here.  This should see an end to the guy who has the certification but can’t really use the relevant technology in the real world.  Please come back to me on that only if you have taken one of these new exams yourself.

    So if they are hard why bother? You wouldn’t let anyone service the brakes on your car, or fix the electrics in your home and so why shouldn’t we as profession be asked to be competent at what we do as well.

    Some employers don’t like to pay for training as they might not see the value or be worried that you will leave as soon as you’re qualified, but training and exams are free in my role, and that’s a huge incentive to stay.  If you are a contractor retraining should get you better day rates and given that SQL Server 2012 is just you would have a definite edge. 

    Indeed there are loads of DBAs out there who may still not even know what is in SQL Server 2012, so I have been asked by Global Knowledge to do a couple of overview webinars on what is new .  So if you have missed me at SQL BITS, SQL Relay then please register on 12th September from 13:00 – 14:00  for an hour’s overview of the database enhancements and/or  register for the session on  10th October 13:00-14:00 if your focus is business intelligence.

  • Offer: Get 30% discount on Microsoft certification training – including Virtualization Admin in 1 week

    Now’s the time to get Hyper-V certified fast. Or get your hands on one of the brand new MCSA or MCSE certifications.

    Firebrand is offering 30% discount on all Microsoft courses. Act fast - this offer must end Friday 14 September 2012.

    Firebrand is an official Microsoft Gold Partner.

    Get your 30% discount now.

  • Case Study: Skipton Building Society U.K. Building Society Increases Business Agility with Private Cloud Solution

    Skipton Building Society needed a self-service portal for development environments for its mortgage services division HML. Its IT Shared Service Centre was tasked with finding a solution that would allow HML to provision virtual machines to keep pace with its agile development requirement. By deploying Hyper-V virtualisation technology, along with the Microsoft System Center 2012 suite of products, the firm avoided a £42,000 expenditure on a proof of concept and licences from the incumbent vendor.

    Business Needs

    With more than 8,000 employees, Skipton Building Society is the fourth-largest building society in the United Kingdom (U.K.). Established in 1988, mortgage servicer HML—a Skipton subsidiary—currently manages around £44 billion of assets for more than 50 blue-chip clients in the U.K. and Ireland.

    Skipton was looking for ways to streamline and accelerate the deployment of new business services through cloud computing. David Miskell, Solutions Architect, Skipton IT Shared Service Centre, says: “With a mainly manual process, it would have taken our team three weeks to deploy new service requests, but HML needed a faster process.”

    Around 80 per cent of the server estate in the Skipton IT Shared Service Centre is virtualised. Miskell says there would have been an extra cost of around £42,000 for deploying the capability required by HML from the incumbent vendor’s technology. On-going costs would also have risen as the solution was scaled up.

    The Skipton IT Shared Service Centre had established a strong working relationship with Microsoft and Risual, a Microsoft Partner that holds gold and silver competencies, including the gold level competency in management and virtualisation.

    Miskell says: “We took the view that with its latest releases of Microsoft System Center 2012, the Microsoft offering had matured significantly. But we still required peace of mind that the product would achieve the business goals we’d set out for the project.”


    The Skipton IT Shared Service Centre decided to use Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V and the Microsoft System Center 2012 suite of products. Craig Hartwell, Commercial Sales Director, Risual, says: “We first engaged with the Skipton IT Shared Service Centre to assist the team with making savings and increasing automation in its data-centre environment. We then worked on providing a solution that would deliver the self-service portal project and reduce time to market to deliver new services.”

    Risual made a high-level proposal to deliver a self-service capability using Hyper-V technology with the Virtual Machine Manager and App Controller components of Microsoft System Center 2012. Hartwell says: “A vital distinction was that Microsoft didn’t charge the customer for the proof of concept, whereas the incumbent supplier asked for £12,000.”

    Miskell says: “In addition to the technology aspect, we chose the Microsoft solution because it was cost-effective and presented a lower risk as there was no cost associated with delivering the proof of concept.”

    Risual also advised the Skipton IT Shared Service Centre on how to make the most of its Microsoft licensing model. The Microsoft Software Developer Network (MSDN) licences could be used during the proof of concept phase—then, once moved into production, Skipton could use its Enrolment for Core Infrastructure (ECI).

    Hartwell says: “These form part of the Skipton Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, helping customers license the Windows Server operating systems and the System Center suite in a simple way, and providing scalability with no added costs. As the usage of this platform grows, there will be no incremental penalty to Skipton.” Having started the proof of concept in January 2012, the solution went into production in July 2012.


    Microsoft Partner Risual has helped Skipton Building Society cut its licensing costs significantly and improve the time to market of new financial services based on a virtualised self-service development portal. By deploying Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center 2012, its IT Shared Service Centre has increased business agility and no longer relies on manual workload processes to develop server-based applications.

    Skipton gains agility with virtualisation solution. By deploying the self-service portal project with Hyper-V and System Center 2012, Skipton has identified a lower cost alternative for its virtualisation strategy. It gives the business the agility it needs to keep pace with market demands.

    Firm saves £42,000. The engagement with Microsoft Partner Risual meant Skipton no longer had to spend £42,000 on a proof of concept and licensing. Hartwell says: “Microsoft licensing through ECI means that the cost of delivering a virtualised environment is significantly lower than competing offerings.”

    High-level advice helps make best use of existing Microsoft licences. Software licensing specialist Risual showed Skipton how it will save money in the medium and long terms by making full use of its existing Microsoft Enterprise Agreement. Miskell says: “The Microsoft Software Developer Network licences were part of our existing agreement, and ECI provided a scalable licensing model that didn’t increase costs as the project grew.”

    Skipton looks forward to lower long-term management costs for the entire virtualised server estate. In the medium term, Skipton will look to use the Virtual Machine Manager component of Microsoft System Center 2012 to manage the entire virtual machine estate. It has the ability to interoperate with non-Microsoft technologies to provide a single management point.


    System Center 2012:Try System Center 2012 Cloud and Datacenter

  • A database is only as good as the operating system it runs on

    Simon and the rest of my division regularly rag me about how I go on about databases all the time so when Sarah asked me for a post on virtualisation I decided to ignore her and talk about SQL Server instead!

    Databases are one of the last things to be virtualised especially the larger ones and this is often down to performance and the ability to guarantee that performance.  So what are the barriers to that in virtualisation?

    The obvious limit in hyper-V is that you can only assign 4 logical processors to a virtual machine, the upside being that you will get more or less 4 times the processing in a virtual machine than if you just give it one.  I mention this because this isn’t always the case with other hypervisor, indeed it can be slower to add more logical CPUs in some cases.  Note that Microsoft best practice is not to over commit CPU by more than 2:1 on a machine running SQL Server (more on this here). 

    All this changes in Windows Server 2012; you can assign up to 64 logical processes to a virtual machine and virtual machines are also NUMA aware so that SQL Server in a VM will also be NUMA aware.

    Storage performance is also an issue and stories abound of SAN engineers and DBAs arguing when performance issues arise so it’s no wonder that the additional complexity of virtualisation is avoided.  Today this additional complexity actually isn’t an issue, you simply use pass through disks to directly reference a LUN on a SAN and put the database files on as many of those disks as you decide so that the database files are actually outside of the virtual machine.  This makes management easier and also gives the best performance – typically SQL Server will run at about 90% of the physical host it is running on i.e. you loose 10% of the power of your server.

    However at TechEd this year there was a demo of 1 million iops inside a virtual machine and  I am sure this will be improved upon.

    This also changes in Windows Server 2012 in that you can store databases and even virtual machines on file shares using the new SMB 3 protocol. This turns your file servers into a SAN with near SAN performance but more importantly with per counters that make sense to DBA trying to tune database performance.  One other change is that Virtual Hard Disks can now be up to 64TBs in size with the new VHDX format.

    Of course having a high performance SQL Server VM is all very well but what your users see is dependant on how good the networking is.  Modern servers typically have multiple network interfaces (NICs) and currently if you want to team those into one fat pipe to shower your users with data then you are going to rely on the teaming software that comes with those NICs.

    Yet another change in Windows Server 2012 is the ability to team disparate NICs in the operating system and then through group policy regulate Quality of Service over that team, ensuring that SQL Server networking gets a high priority.  

    So that gets rid of many concerns I have heard from DBAs about virtualising SQL Server, but why bother anyway?

    The main reason for virtualising SQL Server in my opinion is to improve availability and agility by decoupling SQL Server form the physical host.  For example a SQL Server VM can be moved around as desired without interrupting the service using live migration in Hyper-V.  One reason to do this is to patch the underlying server or swap it out. With the upcoming changes to System Center 2012 in sp1 you can even move a SQL Server virtual machine right out of your data centre to Azure or to a hosting provider in a couple of clicks. 

    Windows Server 2012 has other options for moving VMs around as well; for example live migrations without the need for shared storage,  and replica where you can have a copy of a virtual machine you can failover to, on another server. These options compliment but do not replace the need for high availability in SQL Server itself in that the virtual machine and underlying fabric might be OK but  there’s something wrong in a SQL Server instance itself or because SQL Server itself needs to be patched or upgraded. So you might well have a cluster of SQL Server virtual machines running on a cluster of physical servers (known as guest clustering) or use mirroring Always On etc. as well to provide continuous availability of your database applications regardless of what goes wrong with your infrastructure.

    Which is why I think the best place for SQL Server 2012 is running as a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine, and while you may disagree I would hope that you will have at least tried and can tell me what the issue is before you comment below.  Actually you should probably try Windows Server 2012 anyway whether as a the host or guest operating system for your databases or at least come along to the launch event or one of our IT camps

  • Guest Post: How to use Fine-Grained Passwords in Windows Server 2012

    This post is brought to you by Ed Baker, Windows Server Instructor at Firebrand Training

    Prior to Windows Server 2008, to allow different groups of users to have different password requirements or lockout policies, the user would have to implement multiple domains or password filters. Both of which were complex and costly.

    In the 2008 flavour of the Operating System, Microsoft provided a work-around to this. This was also complex and convoluted, to say the least. It was almost as if it had been grudgingly allowed, but was so difficult to implement that most of us wouldn’t bother trying.

    The R2 implementation added some ease-of-use functionality, but with Server 2012 Microsoft has finally embraced the concept as a day-to-day admin requirement.

    What’s the purpose of Fine-Grained Passwords?

    Well, for a large organisation with many levels of user and security, it is often necessary to set different requirements for the password complexity and for the lockout policy. For example, the office admin assistant may not require the same levels as the research and development department.

    The solution in Windows Server 2012 is implemented entirely through the Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC). ADAC was available in Server 2008 R2 but was generally ignored by ‘true admins’. It is essentially a GUI front-end to PowerShell Cmdlets - allowing creation, editing and deletion of any Active Directory object in the ntds.dit database.

    ADAC is back, and it’s on a mission. The tool is now the only place to carry-out several important administrative functions (apart from PowerShell version 3.0, where you can now do just about everything to do with Server management and administration).

    How do I get this working?

    To implement Fine-Grained Passwords you have to deploy a Windows Server 2012 Domain Controller, with the domain functional level set at Windows Server 2008 or above. You can now accomplish this task in ADAC (provided you ‘run as administrator’).

    To be able to develop your skills in this area, it is also best practice to create a number of test groups and users, so that any changes you make do not impact on your day-to-day work. It’s better to test this on a sandbox set up, but if one is not available, having test accounts, groups and OUs will prevent any disasters.

    In the scenario below, I have set-up FGP_User1, FGP_User2, FGP_GP1, FGP_GP2 - you can name yours as you choose. This can be done in AD Users and Computers, in ADAC or in PowerShell 3.0.

    Now fire-up the Server Manager application…

    In the application, select Tools and ADAC. In the ADAC window select Tree View (easier to see what’s important), then select the domain you want to work with. Expand the tree until you can select the System container, expand that and select Password Settings Container.

    Right-click and select: New à Password Settings.



    The Create Password Settings window opens. There are several mandatory selections, most of which are pre-selected - you have to enter name and precedence. (Note: the lower the precedence number, the higher its priority!)

    Here you can amend all the settings for this password object (Length, Lockout etc. - see image below).

    Best practice is to enter a description of the policy, then click Add in the Directly Applies To area. Select your previously created group from the AD, and make sure that your policy has all the correct settings which relate to the password and lockout.


    In this example I have added my User to a group with two FGP policies applied with different precedence settings


    To determine which the valid password setting object is, select the user concerned, and right-click:



    Choose View resultant password settings... This opens the policy that is active. For those of us who lived with the old way – this is a huge leap forward in usability.

    Editing and deleting policies

    Editing a policy is as simple as expanding the AD tree and selecting the correct policy within the Password Settings container. Right-click Properties; or double-click opens the policy for editing.

    To delete a policy (not forgetting that by default AD objects are protected against accidental deletion) remove the check from the Protect From Accidental Deletion box. Save the policy, then right-click it and select Delete.

    Unlike Users, it is not possible to enable or disable a policy. If it exists, it is active for any object that it is directly applied to. Don’t forget you can apply Policies to users or groups, as can be seen in the following image. This also allows you to see what will be affected when you delete the policy.

    image clip_image009

    Part of the Big Five

    This is set to be one of the Windows Server 2012 ‘Big Five’ areas of functionality. The ability to add and remove Fine-Grained Passwords at will - with little difficulty or deep-down AD knowledge - is a huge boost to those who have asked for the feature year-on-year.

    To refresh your memory, when this feature was first implemented in Windows Server 2008, it was necessary to use ADSIEDIT to create the new Password Settings Object AND all the attributes of that object (in this case Length of Password, Lockout details, etc.). It was also necessary to set the ‘applies to’ objects in ADSIEDIT. Not a friendly tool at the best of times.

    Microsoft has implemented a much-wanted feature and developed a tool that now has much more usability than its first few variants.

    And remember, ALL of these steps can be carried out with PowerShell 3.0, with relative ease.


  • Guest Post: Window 8 and Hyper-V

    clip_image002Matthew Hughes is an Independent SharePoint Consultant and the Director or SP365 Ltd. He runs various SharePoint related websites such as and is the founder of the Office 365 UK User Group who hold their first physical meeting in London on the 4th September 2012. He is a MCTS, MCITP, MOS in SharePoint and can be found on tweeting regularly @mattmoo2. An advocate of the SharePoint and Office 365 products he can be found regularly speaking at conferences and User Groups around the world.


    What a difference a couple of months make, if you didn't get excited in July when the Office 365 Preview hit the web (as well as a subtle mention of a certain SharePoint 2013) you will undoubtedly have gotten a little more excited when the powers that be over at Microsoft HQ mentioned the imminent arrival of Windows 8.

    Of course the Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been out for a little while but the RTM (Release To Manufacture) version was due on the 15th August to Technet / MSDN and Software Assurance customers, so imagine my excitement when I was able to go and grab the latest version of what promises to be Microsoft's most daring OS release since the crazy days of Windows Vista (it wasn't that bad if you had good hardware).

    Now this is not another blog post about all the wonderful features of Windows 8 as we all know, there are plenty of them, however, this is a post about one specific feature namely, the addition of a traditionally Windows Server only feature called Hyper-V.

    What is Hyper-V

    So you have been hiding under a rock since the release of Windows Server 2008 and you missed the addition of Hyper-V it is worth explaining exactly what it is?

    Hyper-V is a Microsoft Role or Feature that allows you to create a Virtual Environment inside of your Physical Environment, this is to say that you can create a fully featured Server or desktop environment (guest) inside of your current physical hardware (the host).

    Hyper-V requires your hardware to support Virtualisation or more to the point it requires you processor to support hardware virtualisation, whilst most newer CPU’s have this it is worth checking before you go getting all excited about the prospect of virtualising machines. Brad Rutkowski provides a short post about this on Technet.

    Excited? Ready to go? Let’s take a look at how to get started with Hyper-V on Windows 8.

    Introducing Hyper-V and Windows 8

    After installing Windows 8 you will not be able to find Hyper-V anywhere in the Metro style UI.

    Hyper-V runs as a Windows Service so we wouldn’t want all of the, soon to be, millions of Windows 8 customers, having a service running that not everyone will utilise, therefore, we need to add the service via the “Turn Windows features on or off” in the usual way we have been accustomed to in the last couple of Windows Operating Systems. Given that it is a service the feature will ask you to restart.

    Tip: You can also use this method to add just the Hyper-V Management Tools, which allows you to manage Hyper-V remotely.


    Excellent, so now we have the feature we can open up the Management Tool and see what we can do.


    In the screenshot above I have created three virtual machines a DC, SQL Server and SharePoint Server, these machines or guests, are now all running inside my host machine.

    Also in the screenshot you can see I have the Virtual Switch Manager which allows me to create a private network for these machines perfect for separating them on their own network avoiding potential conflicts, alternatively I can set a network that connects them directly to the internet.

    What does all this mean to me?

    For IT Pros, Developers and Power Users the options prior to the inclusion of Hyper-V in Windows 8 were Virtual PC, VMWare Workstation, Virtual Server, Box and various other 3rd party Vitualisation products, now that this has become an additional feature to Windows 8, you can simple add the feature and you are ready to setup your development environments.

    Of course, you will need to have a good level of hardware to support a couple of couple of virtual machines but laptops and desktops with 4GB – 8GB of RAM are becoming more common place as well as processors that support Virtualisation.


    I mentioned that Hyper-V is a service so remember to shut down those guests when you’re not using them, it is easy to close the Hyper-V manager and assume that means the guests shut down too, this is not the case and they will continue to consume valuable resources unless you shut them down in the usual way.

    I hope you find this article useful and welcome any feedback via my twitter account or email matt at sp365 dot co dot uk.


    Does my CPU support hardware virtualization (Hyper-V)

  • Whitepaper: Why Hyper-V…

    With Hyper-V, it is now easier than ever for organisations to take advantage of the cost savings of virtualisation, and make the optimum use of server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines that are running on a single physical machine.   Use Hyper-V to efficiently run multiple operating systems, Windows, Linux, and others, in parallel, on a single server. Windows Server 2012 RC extends this with more features, greater scalability and further inbuilt reliability mechanisms.

    Significant improvements have been made across the board, with Hyper-V now supporting increased cluster sizes, a significantly higher number of active virtual machines per host, and additionally, more advanced performance features such as in-guest Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA). This ensures customers can achieve the highest levels of scalability, performance and density for their mission-critical workloads.

    This paper will focus on comparing Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate (RC) Hyper-V, with the standalone VMware vSphere Hypervisor, also known as ESXi, and vSphere 5.0, across 4 key areas:

    • Scalability, Performance & Density
    • Secure Multitenancy
    • Flexible Infrastructure
    • High Availability & Resiliency

    Why Hyper-V - Competitive Advantages of Windows Server 2012 RC Hyper-V over VMware vSphere 5.0

  • Guest Post: Essential Tools to assist SMB adoption of Virtualisation

    imageGuest Post by Julie Caulfield who works for Veeam who won the 2012 Partner of the Year for Management and Virtualisation. 

    I was lucky enough to attend Microsoft Tech-Ed this year in Amsterdam and was very impressed with the new functionality Microsoft has managed to cram into its new release of Server 2012. It has massive scalability advancements such as with the new VHDX file format, lots of new hardware interaction and plenty of DR focused features to keep your private\public cloud floating. At the same time I was pleased to see that they hadn’t forgotten about the SMB IT shops that run a small number of servers but are also looking to benefit from virtualisation. Options like shared nothing live migrations and the use of CSV file servers to host virtual disks for the Hyper-V hosts themselves will allow SMBs to fully embrace virtualisation without massive hardware costs.

    It is the use of virtualisation in the SMB space that makes me stop and take note because it is critical to make tools available in this market to ensure that virtualisation adoption is readily available, no matter what size your organisation may be. This new functionality from Microsoft fits right in with the Veeam Essentials bundle which has recently been simplified to offer enterprise class data protection, monitoring and reporting for use on up to 3 physical hosts (6 CPU sockets) purchased in 2 socket bundles. With Windows Server 2012 offering so many great virtualisation benefits a SMB could now just as easily run an enterprise class infrastructure with high-speed backup and replication with very minimal investment.

    Windows Server 2012 coupled with Veeam Essentials will help to deliver the essential toolkit of virtualisation - a cost-effective solution that is easy to use and intuitive, allowing IT to build a functioning virtual data centre as well as a spontaneous data protection solution on a shoestring budget. The Veeam on-host proxy gives the added benefit of using the Hyper-V hosts as backup servers pushing Veeam data moving services into the Hyper-V kernel itself reducing the infrastructure footprint.

    Ease of use and affordability screams out – make things simple and affordable – Veeams agentless technology means no need to install anything into the virtual servers themselves. Veeam Essentials leverages storage based snapshots and integrates with VSS to give the IT manager transaction consistent backups directly across the SAN fabric to any location on their network as a backup repository. The inline block level de-duplication and compression of VHD files minimises the size of the resulting backup files and in turn minimises storage usage on the repository.

    The graphical user interface is easy to use; additionally all functionality is accessible via PowerShell scripts for automation of tasks. Restoring couldn’t be easier or quicker with the ‘Instant restore’ feature allowing you to run a virtual machine directly from a backup file bringing restores down to a few minutes and then running a full restore behind the scenes.

    But the ultimate cherry on the cake or should I say the final tool in the SMB toolkit comes with the Veeams bundle including a monitoring and reporting solution for your Hyper-V deployment giving you real-time alerting on CPU, memory, network and disk performance which is hardware agnostic. The monitoring and reporting dashboards allow you to identify bottlenecks and trends in your virtual environment so you can resolve them quickly and before they cause service outages.

    Try it for Free

  • Free One Day Windows Azure Developer Camp Edinburgh, Thursday 30th August

    Don’t forget about the free Azure Developer Camp we have running in Edinburgh next Thursday.

    Register here:


    Here’a a video to give you a feel for what a camp is like.



    And here is a complete synopsis.

    UK Windows Azure Camps

    We run 2 types of camp for Windows Azure; one aimed at the developer and one aimed at the IT Pro. The developer camp concentrates on the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) features of Windows Azure. Mostly this means Windows Azure Cloud Services, Windows Azure Storage, Windows Azure Active Directory Access Control Service, Windows Azure Service Bus and Windows Azure SQL DB, and Windows Azure Websites. The IT Pro camp concentrates on the Infrastructure-as-a-Service features; Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks.

    Depending on the venue, there are usually between 30 and 70 attendees. As an attendee, you are expected to bring a wireless-enabled laptop with certain pre-requisite software already installed. For the developer camp this includes Visual Studio, SQL Server and the Windows Azure Tools/SDK. For the IT Pro camp, this includes Powershell. You are expected to follow this set up before you arrive on the camp. Setup details are provided below. It cannot be stressed enough how poor an experience you will have if your laptop is not correctly configured when you arrive. If you tie-up the time of an instructor with questions about your machine setup, you are denying another delegate who has arrived with a correctly configured machine the help they need. Please be respectful of the other delegates who have followed these instructions.

    Have you ever turned up to a training day/presentation where every delegate except you seemed to have done certain preparatory work in advance? Did there come a point at which all the eyes in the room were on you and you had to say “…well, err, ummm, I haven’t done that stuff…”? Was that the point you wished you had read the material before you’d turned up? Don’t be the one who has to create some last-minute excuse while the eyes of all the other delegates are on you – simply make sure you read this and follow the instructions. You will be expected to have installed and configured your machine to work on a Windows Azure Camp.

    You will need a working Windows Azure subscription and you need to have applied for and successfully been granted access to:

    · Windows Azure Web Sites - for the developer camp.

    · Windows Azure Virtual Machines and Virtual Networks - for the IT Pro camp.

    There is a video that describes how to apply for these features here.

    Any working subscription is suitable; paid or free. You can get a free trial subscription. This grants you access to certain resources free for 90 days. You will need a Windows Live ID and a Credit Card to register. The spending limit on the free trial account is set at £0.00. When the free trial period of 90 days has passed you will be asked if you’d like to remove the spending limit and from that point on treat it as a standard paid subscription. If you use more than the free allocation of resources in a month, you will also be asked if you’d like to remove the spending limit. There is no perpetually free subscription available for Windows Azure. There are also free trial subscriptions available to certain MSDN subscribers, BizSpark partners and MPN members.

    Details of the free trial accounts are here:

    · To get a free trial subscription go to . To register for this offer, you need a credit card to activate it, but the spending limit on the subscription is set to £0.00 so you won’t be charged.

    · To add Windows Azure benefits to your existing MSDN subscription, go to

    · To add Windows Azure benefits if you are a BizSpark customer, go to

    · To add Windows Azure benefits if you are an MPN member go to

    It can’t be stressed enough how much of a dead-end it can be if you leave it till the last minute and attempt to activate a subscription while on the camp. A common example is the BizSpark delegate who tries to activate a subscription only to find a different employee has already activated the subscription. He/she wasn’t expecting that and it means they will be unable to complete the lab work. We will be entirely unable to help in situations such as this. Another example is the delegate who has an active subscription but hasn’t yet applied for access to the preview features such as Virtual Machines or Windows Azure Web Sites. As it may take several hours for the application to be processed, they will be unable to complete lab-work until the facilities are available.


    Windows Azure Developer Camp



    09:00 – 09:30


    09:30 – 10:30

    Windows Azure Compute: Windows Azure Datacentres, IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, Web Role, Worker Role, Scalability, Service healing, Windows Azure Storage, App development.



    10:45 – 12:15

    Lab: Web, Worker and Storage

    12:15 – 12:45


    12:45 – 13:15

    Windows Azure SQL DB


    Lab: Windows Azure SQL DB


    Access Control Service and Service Bus




    Windows Azure Active Directory Access Control Service

    16:45 – 17:00

    Wrap-up and Review

    Note: Because you can leave your Windows Azure service deployed and you will have all the code and projects etc. on your laptop when you leave the developer camp, any unfinished labs can be completed at home/in the office.

    Windows Azure IT Pro Camp



    09:00 – 09:30


    09:30 – 10:00

    The Windows Azure Platform

    10:00 – 10:30

    Windows Azure Virtual Machines

    10:30 – 10:45


    10:45 – 11:15

    Lab: Windows Azure Virtual Machines

    11:15 – 11:45

    Windows Azure Virtual Networks

    11:45 – 12:15

    Lab: Windows Azure Virtual Networks

    12:15 – 12:45


    12:45 – 13:15

    Active Directory in the Cloud: Windows Azure Active Directory, Running a DC in Windows Azure


    Lab: Running an Active Directory Domain Controller in Windows Azure

    14:15 – 15:00

    SQL Server and Sharepoint in the Cloud

    15:00 – 15:15


    15:15 – 16:45

    Lab: Running a complete infrastructure in the cloud (Sharepoint, SQL Server, Active Directory)


    Wrap-up and Review

    Note: Because you can leave your Windows Azure service deployed and you will have all the configuration and projects etc. on your laptop when you leave the developer camp, any unfinished labs can be completed at home/in the office.


    Developer Camp pre-requisites
    If you're a developer who uses a laptop, you'll almost certainly have most of these development components already installed. Please pay particular attention to the SQL Server setup - you'll need to use the same account during the labs as the account that was used to install whichever version of SQL Server you decide on from the pre-requisites list.

    · A working Windows Azure subscription – see details above.

    · A wireless-enabled 64-bit laptop with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 8 RTM. The camp is written with Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 users in mind. If you are using Windows 8 there will be variations in the way the UI is described.

    · Bring the power supply: you will be using the laptop all day.

    · A basic knowledge of programming concepts and familiarity with Visual Studio

    · A basic knowledge of web-programming and how Internet applications work

    · An understanding of the Microsoft web-stack (Windows Server, IIS, .Net, basic security etc.)

    · Perform the following software setup. Allow 1½ hours to complete the setup.

    1. Log in to an account that has full administrative privileges on the 64-bit machine. This is the account you will do the machine setup from and also the lab-work. It’s essential to ensure you use the same administrative account for both setup and lab-work to avoid permissions problems. By far the biggest problems on this camp are to do with permission problems on machine setup.
    2. Install Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional or above OR Microsoft Visual Web Developer 2010 Express. Ensure Visual C# is installed as a language.
    3. Install Visual Studio Service Pack 1 if you have Visual Studio 2010 installed.
    4. Install SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Edition with Management Tools from this page.
      1. Ensure you specify Mixed Mode Authentication during the setup steps.
    5. Use the Web Platform Installer (WebPI) to install the necessary tools and Windows Azure SDK. The WebPI will also install and configure any pre-requisite software for you. Use this link.
    Check the setup.

    To check that you won’t have any time-consuming machine-set-up problems on the Windows Azure camp, perform the following steps to check the installed software works as advertised. This step is important because there isn’t enough time to do troubleshooting on the camp for a failing installation.

    1. Right-click Visual Studio and select Run as administrator. If prompted click Yes at the UAC prompt.

    a. Visual Studio opens.

    2. Select File|New| Project.

    a. The New Project dialogue opens.

    3. In the frameworks dropdown list, ensure .NET Framework 4 is selected.

    a. In the Installed Templates pane, select Visual C#|Cloud and click OK.

    i. The New Windows Azure Project dialogue opens.

    b. Select ASP.Net Web Role then click the “>” button. And click OK.

    i. It takes a few seconds but eventually a Windows Azure ASP.Net project appears in the Solution Explorer.

    c. Press the F5 key to run the naked Windows Azure ASP.Net solution in the local Compute and Storage Emulators.

    i. After a short time the default ASP.Net template appears in the web browser.

    d. If errors occur at this stage, fix them before you attend the Windows Azure Camp. Almost all problems with lab work on the Windows Azure Developer Campare related to laptop setup. It can take a long time to fix these errors and you will therefore lose useful coding time. It is therefore best to fix any setup errors before you attend the Windows Azure Camp. The most common errors are to do with the Storage Emulator and the SQL Server setup. SQL Server is used as the store for the Storage Emulator. The most likely errors are that the Storage Emulator is confused by which instance of SQL Server it should use. If there are multiple instances of SQL Server this is very common.

    Try some of the following commands to fix the problem:

    e. Open the Windows Azure Command Prompt by right-clicking and selecting run as administrator.

    i. If you have multiple instances of SQL Server (including SQL Express) installed, the Storage Emulator needs to be initialised to use the correct instance of SQL Server. It is preferable to use SQL Server Express. The following commands are ways to set the Storage Emulator up to point to the correct instance. It is likely that the syntax of one of the following commands will fix the problem. Notice that you may need to provide your own SQL Server <instance_name>.

    1. dsinit /sqlinstance:.\SQLEXPRESS

    2. dsinit /sqlinstance:\SQLEXPRESS

    3. dsinit /sqlinstance:.

    4. dsinit /sqlinstance:

    5. dsinit /sqlinstance:.\MSSQL

    6. dsinit /sqlinstance:.\<instance_name>

    7. dsinit /sqlinstance:<instance_name>


    · The first two commands are syntactical variations that set SQL Express up as the database for the Windows Azure Storage emulator. In theory, either one should work, in practice, if one fails, try the other.

    · Commands 3 and 4 are syntactical variations that set the default SQL instance up as the database for the Windows Azure Storage emulator. In theory, either one should work, in practice, if one fails, try the other.

    · Command 5 should set up the default SQL instance named MSSQL as the database for the Windows Azure Storage emulator.

    · Commands 6 and 7 are syntactical variations that set the <instance_name> (you need to provide the SQL Server instance name) up as the database for the Windows Azure Storage emulator. In theory, either one should work, in practice, if one fails, try the other.

    4. Once the errors are fixed – your machine is ready for the Windows Azure Developer Camp. If as a result of step 1 you have had to fix the SQL Server setup, please go back to step 1 in “Checking the Setup” and retry the creation of a project to make sure you have no errors.

    You will need administrative access to SQL Server.

    Note: Of all the problems we get on this camp, delegates not having administrative access to the SQL Server they have installed on their laptop is the biggest. For example:

    · If the laptop is domain-joined and an administrator from the domain installed it, that is a problem that is impossible to fix in the camp and you are guaranteed a wasted trip if you were hoping to complete hands-on labs on your laptop.

    · If you are using a domain account (with cached credentials) that doesn’t have administrative access to the laptop, you will be unable to de-install/re-install SQL Server from your machine. Again, you are guaranteed a wasted trip if you were hoping to complete hands-on labs on your laptop.

    · If you have no knowledge of the password for a local administrative account on your laptop, you will similarly be unable to de-install/re-install SQL Server and yet again, you are guaranteed a wasted trip if you were hoping to complete hands-on labs on your laptop.

    It is not possible to stress enough how much of a dead-end it is to be a delegate on the camp who has a machine on which he/she cannot complete the lab work because of permission issues.

    IT Pro camp pre-requisites

    As an IT Pro who uses a laptop, you’ll almost certainly have the required software already installed. You will need:

    · A working Windows Azure subscription – see details above. You need to have successfully applied and been granted access to the Windows Azure Virtual Machines preview.

    · A wireless-enabled 64-bit laptop with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 8 RTM. The camp is written with Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows Server 2008 R2 users in mind. If you are using Windows 8 there will be variations in the way the UI is described.

    · Bring the power supply: you will be using the laptop all day.

    · A basic knowledge of the Windows infrastructure stack (Windows, Windows Server, Active Directory, Web, Security, SQL Server etc) to the level required by an IT Pro.

    · Perform the following software setup:

    1. Log in to an account that has full administrative privileges on the 64-bit machine. This is the account you will do the machine setup from and also the lab-work. It’s essential to ensure you use the same administrative account for both setup and lab-work to avoid permissions problems. By far the biggest problems on this bootcamp are to do with permission problems on machine setup.
    2. Install the Windows Azure Powershell Cmdlets by following the instructions on this page:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How much do I need to know about Windows Azure to attend this Camp?

    You don’t need any prior experience or knowledge about Windows Azure to attend this Camp. The purpose of the event is to provide you with the basic skills and knowledge to get started with learning about Windows Azure.

    Who can attend the Camps?

    Students, developers, technologists, IT Pros, architects, hobbyist, technology enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome! All we ask is that you are ready and keen to learn about Windows Azure.

    How much does it cost to attend this Camp?

    Your luck's in - it's free.

    What do I need to prepare in advance to make the most of the Camp?

    There are a basic set of things you should prepare before attending the Camp, listed above. Please make sure you are prepared so you can make the most of your day at the Camp.

    What if I have registered already and cannot make it on the day?

    Please let us know as soon as you can if you can’t make the camp as there’ll be plenty of people who are keen to take your spot. Please respect the trainers and your fellow delegates by turning up if you have registered and committed. Thanks!


  • Guest Post: Managing Hyper-V with PowerShell Version 3

    MVP Logo

    Thomas LeeThomas Lee is a UK IT Pro, with over 40 year’s experience in the IT field. He’s presently a PowerShell MCP and is very busy doing writing, consulting and training around some of the key Microsoft technologies including PowerShell, Lync and Windows Server/client. In his spare time, he lives in a small cottage with wife, daughter, a nice wine cellar and a large collection of Grateful Dead live recordings.


    Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization solution. It was first released with Server 2008 and improved with Server 2008 R2. The latest version comes with both Server 2012 and Windows 8. The inclusion of Hyper-V in both the client and server version is a great step forward and for me, at least, it means the end of 3rd party virtualization products I needed to use in the past.

    PowerShell is Microsoft’s strategic task automation platform which has been significantly upgraded to Version 3. PowerShell Version 3 is included in all versions of Windows Server 2012, and Windows 8. A downloadable version will also be made available at some point for Windows 7, Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2. Beta versions of PowerShell v3 are available in the mean time for down-level operating systems, but you’ll want the full V3 once that’s available.

    The cool thing, or should I say one of the many cool things, about Hyper-V and Server 2012 is that you can manage Hyper-V using PowerShell. There is a new Hyper-V module that ships, in the box!, for both Windows 8 and Server 2012. However, the module and the Hyper-V features are neither installed by default. On Windows 8, you need to bring up Control Panel, click Programs, then click Turn Windows feature on or off and then select Hyper-V. For Windows Server 2012, you can use Server Manager GUI, or the Server Manager PowerShell Module and use the Add-Windows Feature cmdlet. Personally, I find the latter quicker in most cases.

    On a Windows 8 and Server 2012 systems, you can install the Hyper-V software itself and the management tools (i.e. the PowerShell module) separately. This enables you to manage a set of VMs remotely.

    The Hyper-V module

    The Hyper-V module contains a huge number of cmdlets, 164 in total. That’s a lot of cmdlets – but there’s a lot to manage in Hyper-V! The first thing to remember about this module – you need to be in an elevated prompt in order for the cmdlets to work. I got a bit of a fright when I ran the Get-VM cmdlet on my windows 8 box (which had a number of VMs) and had it return nothing (not even an error).

    The Hyper-V module allows you to manage all aspects of the virtualization package. You can manage VMs, VHDs, network witches, network adapters and other fundamental objects. You can also manage all aspects of running Hyper-V in a clustered environment with SANs, ,etc.

    To create a VM, using the Hyper-V module, you just use the New-VM cmdlet, as shown here:


    As you can see from this screen shot, there are just three cmdlets to run in order to create a simple VM: New-VM (to create a new VM and VHD virtual disk drive), Set-VmDvdDrive to add a DVD into the VM (in this case the Server 2012 installation DVD), then Start-VM to start up the virtual machine. If you then run the Virtual Machine Connection applet, you see the following


    Now if I’d been clever, I could have done a whole lot more, including injecting a floppy disk into the VM containing the unattend.xml file that would automagically configure the installation, in this case, of Windows Server 2012.

    Once the server has been started, I can go back to PowerShell and view the VM using the Get-VM cmdlet, as follows:


    This screen shot shows the Get-VM and some of the properties of the newly created VM (there are a total of 54 separate properties you can make use of!

    Using the Hyper-V Module

    I’ve been using the Hyper-V module throughout the Server 2012 beta period to create and manage VMs. Most of the VMs I’ve created are server VMs, but I’ve also created several Windows 8 Beta VMs. I can’t be bothered to create an unattend.xml file, so I’ve been just creating a basic VM as you see it, using the VMC applet to just ‘next-next-next’ through the installation. Once I have a basic VM created, I can run a Configure-VM.ps1 script that configures the system (changes hostname, updates the IP configuration etc). I have further scripts that do further configuration. I can now setup a 5vm ‘farm’ including a DC/DNS/CA system, a SQL server system, an Exchange server plus a couple of additional basic servers all in around half an hour.

    Hyper-V module – good but not perfect

    I’ve found the Hyper-V module great for most things, but there are a few omissions. For example, I cannot create a virtual floppy disk on a host machine and write directly to it (then remove it from the host and add it to the vm. This makes unattended setups harder than I’d like.

    There are a lot of cmdlets in the module and they operate at a fairly basic level. I found it took a few hours of playing around to find all the things I needed. But having said that, it isn’t that difficult – I found myself writing scripts as I went along and by the end of a few days playing, I had a wealth of provisioning scripts that will keep me in good stead.

    Learning PowerShell v3

    For many of you, PowerShell is still a bit of an unknown quantity. If so, consider coming on the Windows PowerShell PowerCamp weekend training course I’m running over the weekend of October 27/28. For fuller details, see my blog at The PowerCamp, which will be held in Microsoft’s Cardinal Place offices, is intended to take you through the basics of PowerShell V3 and I plan to spend some time looking at the Hyper-V module.

    PowerShell and Hyper-V Module summary

    While not perfect, the module is a lot faster, for me, than using the GUI, especially given the number of VMs I regularly create. For some users, the Hyper-V module might be a good alternative to using a VM management tool such as System Center Virtual Machine Manager. You could write all the scripts to create/manage VMs, do VM Checkout, etc!

    All in all, the combination of Hyper-V, Windows 8/Server2012 is a great set of virtualization and virtualization management software.