Many of us download ISOs and build test VMs when a new OS preview comes out. We muck about, creating new VMs, building, reverting, adding, and snapshotting to get a feel for the new operating system. With a preview OS, we know we aren’t going to keep those VMs around long term. They’re VMs that we take out for a test drive. When we’re finished with them, we wipe them from our hypervisors and give them no more thought.
Rather than build new VMs in your own lab, Windows Azure offers a great alternative for finding out about Windows Server 2012 R2. The preview release of Windows Server 2012 R2 gives you an excuse to go and kick the tires on Windows Azure – something that I know many administrators haven’t done yet. Rather than waiting until you “get around to looking at Windows Azure when I have time” – why not sign up for the 30 day trial of Windows Azure so you can go kick the tires on the preview version of Windows Server 2012 R2?
Windows Server 2012 R2 is available in the VM gallery on Windows Azure (as are Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, a bunch of computers running different versions of SQL, Biztalk, SharePoint, and different distributions of Linux). The Azure VM gallery hosts the templates of the virtual machines that you can quickly deploy. Setting up a new VM is a matter of filling out a few questions in a wizard including specifying a unique name for the VM, providing unique credentials for the local administrator account (you can’t use administrator or root, but pretty much everything is on the table). You specify a location, VM size (which determines the billing rate – a small VM has 1 core and 1.75 GB of memory, more than enough to start testing Server 2012 R2) and you’re ready to go. The VM starts up, you are prompted to download a custom RDP file for the VM, you open that and you’re signed on to a server running Windows Server 2012 R2.
You can get a free 30 day trial of Windows Azure by going to the Windows Azure website ( http://www.windowsazure.com) and signing up. To sign up you do need a valid credit card number, but this is for ID purposes only and you won’t be charged. If you exceed the capacity of the trial, you don’t get charged, you just don’t get to use Windows Azure anymore. It’s also important to point out that the trial isn’t one like other internet services have where they automatically roll you over into a paid subscription once the free trial period ends. You’ll need to be really explicit about wanting your credit card to be charged before that actually happens.
The best way to learn about a product is by doing – and by giving Windows Server 2012 R2 a try in Windows Azure, you’ll not only learn about the new server operating system, but you’ll get more of an understanding about what Windows Azure is and how it might be useful to you in your job as an IT Pro.