I am on the weird fasting diet thing of 600 cals twice a week and inevitably this means that lunch times can be hard as you can ending thinking about food if you don’t do something else instead.  So my plan for the quiet summer period is to use that time to sharpen my skills, and it occurred to me that I would not miss the food so much if I did my studying from 12am –1pm whether I had lunch or not. On that theory I reckon I can squeeze in 21 hours of training so what to study and how?

What to study is not easy in my role as I am required to have a good knowledge of several technologies all of which will have new editions over the next 6-9 months. However underpinning all of these is the Server operating system, and so an overview of Windows Server 2012R2 is going to be essential.

Because of all the changes in this new OS like the way software defined networking works now then there are corresponding changes in System Centre 2012 R2 like in Virtual Machine Manager to work with these new features.  Finally I want to sharpen my PowerShell skills with a view to being able to build and tear down servers for some of my demo setups.

So 3 topics 21 hours of time so seven hours on each, how to use that time effectively, for example sitting in front of YouTube TechNet, Channel 9?  My answer would be the Microsoft Virtual Academy specifically..

What's New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Jump Start.  I would personally skip over some of the introductions as I have done a couple of session on R2 at TechEd, but I would be going really slowly through the section on Cloud Optimized Network as it goes a little deeper and I want to be really sharp on NVGRE (Networking Virtualization using General Routing Encapsulation) and how that’s surfaced in Hyper-V Networking Virtualization (HNV).  As will all these courses you can jump to section of interest, so skip the pre-amble and get to the guts of what you are interested in.  My key learning here was that this new stuff is still only surfaced in PowerShell in Server R2 until you lay System Center over it, or use the extensible switch extension and let your network guys manage virtual as well as physical switches..

What's New in System Center 2012 R2 Jump Start. Where you might expect individual modules on the different parts of System Center, such as Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager.  However the course is designed around what you want to do with fabric, applications etc. as System Center is now much more of an integrated solution.  Of particular interest to me is the Azure Management Pack which makes your data centre look like Azure so users can select VM’s from templates and spin those up within limits set by the data centre administrators.  Doing it this way is more for a light touch agile business.  For those working in more rigid  ITIL process orientated organisations then you can also see how to do self service in Service Manager where you can have formal approval process and richer auditing and new for System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager configure chargeback/showback in 2012 R2.

I saw there were two PowerShell 3 courses on MVA and I opted for Advanced Tools & Scripting with PowerShell 3 Jumpstart, as I already “get” PowerShell and understand the basics.  This was my favourite course as Jeffrey Snover is such a good presenter, and the course is packed full of examples you can follow along to, such as packaging your functions up into a custom module to share with others.

Having watched all of that content you’ll want to makes sure it all sticks, and in my case I would want to try out some of this stuff for myself and setup a sandbox of virtual machines, ideally on a couple of dedicated hosts to get comfortable with things like the networking in windows server 2012R2.  To do that I’ll take time out to develop scripts to automate as much as possible with PowerShell so that I can rebuild everything on the final release of Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, rather than the previews you can download now.