If you haven’t seen the opening post in this series, I encourage you to read it.The TL;DR version is this: I’m an IT guy in Infrastructure supporting the Microsoft stack, specializing mostly in virtualization & storage. I’ve been in IT for almost 15 years now and I love what I do, but what I do is being disrupted out of existence by the Microsoft cloud.
Cloud Praxis is my response. It’s a response addressed to my situation and to other IT guys like me. It’s a response & a method that’s repeatable, something you can practice, hone, and master. That’s how I learn- hands-on experimentation. Like the man Cicero said at the top of the mission patch above, “Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill.”
Above all, Cloud Praxis is a recognition that the 1) The Microsoft cloud is real & it’s here to stay, 2) my skills are entirely based in the old on-prem model, 3) I better adapt to the new regime, lest I find myself irrelevant, 4) it’s urgent that I tackle this weakness in my portfolio; I can’t wait on my workplace to adopt the cloud, I need some puffy cloud stuff in my CV post-haste, not next year or in two years.
This is I how did it.
It may not be the Technet way, or the only way, but it was my way. And I’m sharing it with you because maybe you’re like me; a mid-career IT generalist with a child partition at home, perhaps a little nervous about this cloud thing yet determined to stay competitive, employable and sharp. Or maybe you are just a fellow seeker of #InfrastructureGlory.
If that’s the case, join me; I’ll walk you through the steps I took get a handle on this thing.
Oh, it’s also a lot of fun. Join me!
|Item Type||Suggested Config||Cost||License?||Notes|
|Compute/Storage||A PC with at least 16GB RAM & ethernet||Depends||No||Needs to be virutalization capable|
|Compute/Hypervisor||Windows 8.1 Pro or Ent||$200 or free 90 day eval||Yes||2012 R2 eval works too|
|VM OS||Windows 2008 R2-2012R2 Standard||$0 with 90 day eval||Yes||Timer starts the day you install|
|Network||Always-on high speed internet at home/work||$-||No||Obviously|
The very first step on our path to #InfrastructureGlory in the Microsoft Cloud is this: we need to build ourselves some on-prem infrastructure of sufficient size & scope to simulate our workplace infrastructure.
The good news is that the very same technology that revolutionized Infrastructure 4-5 years ago (virtualization) is now available downmarket, so downmarket in fact that you can build an inexpensive yet capable virtualization lab on a cheap consumer-level PC your family can use at home.
And you don’t even need a server OS on your parent partition to do this. As remarkable as it sounds, you can build a simple virtualization lab on consumer hardware running (at minimum) Windows 8.1 Pro as long as your PC is 1) virtualization capable and 2) has sufficient memory (16GB RAM but I suppose you could get by with as little as 8GB) and 3) storage resources and 4) a NIC (the one in your motherboard will likely work fine, just connect it to your home router).
How’s this possible?
Client Hyper-V baby. It’s the first and only feature you need to build a modest virtualization lab at home on your road to #InfrastructureGlory in the cloud. Client Hyper-V has about 60% of the features server Hyper-V has and uses a common management snap-in and cmdlets. You can’t build a converged fabric switch in Client Hyper-V nor play around with LACP and Live Migration, but at this scale, you don’t need to. You just need a place to park two or three VMs, an ethernet adapter on top of which you’ll build a virtual switch, and a bit of storage space for your VMs.
And some focus & intensity. I’m a virtualization guy and anything prefixed with a “v” gets me excited. It’s easy to get distracted in lab work, but my advice is to keep it simple and keep your focus where it belongs: Azure & Office 365. As much as I love virtualization, it’s just a bit player now.
Broadly outlined, here’s what you need to do once you’ve got your lab infrastructure ready.
- Make with the ISO downloads!: Check with your IT management and ask about your organization’s licensing relationship with Microsoft and/or the reseller your group works with. You might be surprised by what you find; though Microsoft has stopped selling Technet subscriptions to individuals, if your IT group has an Enterprise Agreement, Software Assurance, or MSDN subscriptions, you may be able to get access to those Server products under those licensing schemes. See how far your boss lets you take this; some licenses, for instance, give you $100 worth of credit in Azure, something I’m taking advantage of right now. I am not a licensing expert though, so read the fine print, get sign-off from your boss before you do anything with licensed products and understand the limitations.
- Consider your workplace Domain Functional level: If you are at 2008 functional level at work, try to get the Server 2008 iso. If you’re at (gasp!) 2003, get that iso if you can and start reading up on Domain Functional Levels & dirsync requirements. I see some Powershell in your future. At my work, we’re relatively clean & up to date in AD: Forrest functional level is at 2012, limited only by Exchange 2010 at this point (haven’t done the latest roll-up that supports 2012 R2). The idea here is to simulate, to the greatest degree possible, your workplace-to-cloud path.
- Build at least two VMs: You can follow the process as outlined here on Technet. VM1 is going to be your domain controller, so if you’re at 2008 functional level at work, build a 2008 VM. Your second VM will host dirsync and other cloud utilities. Technet says it can run 2012 R2, so you can use that. In my lab, I stood up a 2008 R2 server for this purpose
- Decide on a domain name: Now for some fun. You need to think of a routable domain name for your Windows domain, unless your workplace is on a .local or other non-routable domain. My workplace’s domain is routable, so I built a routable domain in the lab, then took the optional next step: I purchased the domain name from a registrar ($15) as this most closely simulates my workplace (on-prem domain matching internet domain) You should do the same unless you’re really confident in yourself; this step is very important for the next stage as we start to think about User Principal Name attributes and synchronizing our directory with Office 365 via Windows Azure.
And that, friends, is how Daisetta Labs.net* was born. I needed a domain name. Agnostic Computing.com was taken by some jerk blogger and I wanted something fast.
In retrospect, it might have been better to use Agnostic Computing.com as my lab domain because that’s a more realistic scenario; in the real world, I gots me some internet infrastructure tied to my routable domain and a 3rd party DNS host. I also gots me some on-prem Windows domain infrastructure tied to a routable domain name tied to my Windows DNS infrastructure on-prem. If you’re rusty on DNS, this is your chance to get up to speed as it’s everything in Microsoft-land.
On the domain name itself; pick a domain name and have some fun with it but maintain a veneer of professionalism and respectability. I want you to be able to put this on your resume, which means someone might ask you about it someday. If you take the next step and buy a domain from a registrar, you’ll want a domain name you’re not ashamed to have as an SMTP address.
In Cloud Praxis #3, we’re going to take some baby steps into Office 365. Hope you check back tomorrow!
*Some readers have asked me what a Daisetta is, and why it’s a lab. Not sure how to answer that. Maybe Daisetta is the name of my first love; or my first pet dog. Perhaps it’s a street name or a place in Texas, or maybe it’s the spirit of innovation & excitement that propels me forward, that compels me to build a crazy home lab. Or maybe it’s a fugazi, fogazzi, it’s a wazzi, it’s a woozie..it’s fairy dust.