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The following post is contributed by Sami Laiho, Windows MVP and experienced MCT.

Having been an instructor for 15 years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over 1000 classes of Microsoft related courses, over those years I’ve often been asked the same question, almost daily - ”What should I be learning to keep my job?”. This question comes from customers, blog readers, family and friends and I’ve had the same answer for about five years now: ”PowerShell, PKI and IPv6”.

To further explain my opinion I’ve gathered a few explanations why below:

PowerShell

I believe that most of us already realize that Powershell is one of those things that we should be learning, perhaps down to the vast amount of posts and articles featured around the topic across numerous blogs. However, the question is - will you actually benefit from it and does this mean you really have to learn it?
One reason you should really consider learning Powershell is because Microsoft have clearly stated in documentation, out of the three available UI’s for post Server 2012 management tools  (GUI, CMD, PowerShell), PowerShell is the only one that has a “Mandatory” stamp on it.  This alone should be enough to emphasize the importance in learning it, but where can you get started?

There’s already some great TechNet UK content out there around learning Powershell thanks to Andrew Fryer and Ed Baker, If you want additional resources, below are a few links to two guys I’ve learned from the most:

  • Jeffrey Snover: Blog / Channel 9
    Jeffrey Snover is the architect behind the whole PowerShell and he can show you how the whole thing was actually planned to work. You don’t ever have to be guessing if the information is correct and beneficial when you hear it from Jeffrey.
  • Don Jones: Blog / Channel 9
    Don Jones is an MVP I’ve been listening to for years. Don can explain even complicated areas of PowerShell in an easy to understand way. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at TechMentor conferences and TechEd at the same time as Don and I always try to catch his sessions when ever possible.

Jeffrey and Don are experts in the field, so if you’d like to learn more I’d definitely recommend them.

PKI

Just as a small introduction for PKI here’s a few key points to it: PKI stands for Public Key Infrastructure and is a way to identify parties, establish trust and exchange information between parties and prove that content hasn’t changed during transportation for a party to another. PKI can be something that is hosted by yourself at you company or a public PKI hosted by a trusted provider. When you need to encrypt or digitally sign an email message, when you need to prove who you are and if your computer is to be trusted when establishing a VPN connection or when you need to know that the downloaded driver or hotfix from Microsoft hasn’t been tampered with, that’s when you need PKI.

In the old days when Active Directory first came into the picture, I tried explaining the need to learn DNS. For the first two years however, the DNS classes I’ve ran have been almost empty, as people were of the impression it was just the Internet name server giving you a working Internet access.
By 2002 I saw a large increase in attendee’s for these classes, as people started realizing that DNS was behind most of the errors they were having with AD.

During the past five years I’ve seen the same thing happening with PKI. PKI is everywhere: email, authentication, device drivers, updates, IPSec, VPN’s, RDP, DNSSEC, HTTPS, File transfers, signed applications – just to name a few. But how many people have actually taken the time to learn how it really works? How many times do you still hear: ”Just press ‘Yes’ when it says the certificate cannot be trusted – It’s normal”? As having DNS knowledge around AD, I’d say PKI knowledge should be considered as a core skill for all IT Pro’s nowadays, but how to get started?

I’d safely say I’ve learned the most from Brian Comar, having been to his classes and read his books, I think they’re awesome. You can find out a little more info about him here.

IPv6

Again another topic everyone seems to agree you should learn, but do you really have to?
You shouldn’t just take my word for it (although I think you should), you should look at the facts below:

  • In 2009 China Telecom said it will need 30 million IPv4 addresses in 2010 and that it only has 10 million.
  • On 14 September 2012, the RIPE NCC essentially ran out of IPv4 addresses. They began to allocate IPv4 address space from the last /8 of IPv4 address with a very restrictive policy.
  • On the 10th of June 2014 LACNIC reported:” Latin America and the Caribbean have entered the IPv4 exhaustion phase; the delay in deploying Internet Protocol version 6 in our region is cause for concern.”
  • Now you can actually see from the IANA Registry that there is nothing to give to the ISP’s when they run out of what they have.

Just looking at the numbers above, it’s quite obvious this is a topic you should consider learning. Some people tell me that IPv6 is on by default in Windows 7 and 8 and I don’t really need to do anything about it. This I can tell you is as wrong as it gets. You can just read any forum and see how many answers indicate that you can get rid of all problems by disabling IPv6.
If you have to start using it without learning how to do it right, it can cause you a lot of issues.
I think this backs up the importance of browsing a book or better yet taking a course to start learning it!

You can also start by looking at the IPv6 Learning Roadmap or the numerous great articles on TechNet’s IPv6 site.

I really do hope more and more people start to hope for IPv6 to be available rather than fear it. I just see it as a way for us as IT Professionals, getting to the good old Internet that works the way it was always meant to work stage – A network that can connect any two nodes on the global network without VPN’s or NAT’s.

How to get started with learning? I can highly recommend one author to look into:

So taking all of the above on board, I’ve recently changed my answer to ”What should I be learning to keep my job?” Instead I tend to say: “There are three things you need to learn and one to accept to stay in Business. Learn PowerShell, PKI and IPv6 and accept the Cloud”.
As IPv6 is needed for transporting information, PKI to secure it and PowerShell to manage everything, there is still the question on where to host everything. A few years ago there were still a lot of Hosted Exchange providers but now they are almost completely gone. Looking at what Office 365 can offer for the money you spend on it there’s actually no way to compete against it with hosted exchange. It’s safe to say that the cloud is here to stay and in many cases offers a far more cost effective way to host your services than keeping them on premise.

I hope this article gives you enough reasoning and motivation to learn what I think all of us IT Pro’s should be learning.

If you would like to know more on what IPv6 and PKI is, how you use it and why it’s important, stay tuned for a few follow up articles in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading,

Sami Laiho
http://blog.win-fu.com/
http://www.samilaiho.com/
Twitter
: @samilaiho
Free newsletter: http://eepurl.com/F-GOj

Do you agree with Sami that these are the top three things all IT Pro’s should be learning? Have you dabbled in either or all? Let us know your thoughts below or via @technetuk.