Lack of scripting skills could derail a Windows career

Active Directory and Exchange Server administrators must learn scripting language and command prompts to keep their careers on track.

Microsoft has made no bones about switching from graphical user interfaces for administration to a command line tool scripting language.

PowerShell, Microsoft's command-line scripting language, is already part of Exchange Server 2007, System Center Operations Manager and other newer Microsoft products. Microsoft will eventually include a componentized version of the .NET Framework in Windows Server 2008's Server Core minimal installation option to leverage both ASP.NET and PowerShell.

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The Server Core role option that ships initially has a command line but does not yet use PowerShell.

But Server Core, for a minimal Active Directory install, will be widely used in large distributed organizations. "So if you want to move into a larger organization, you will certainly run into Server Core and need to know how to deal with things from a script or command prompt rather than a GUI," said Brian Desmond, who manages Active Directory operations of enterprise corporations for a technology outsourcing company.

For administrators who want to boost their career, learning PowerShell is not their only path to advancement. But, in general, Desmond recommended learning any scripting or programming language if you hope to graduate to a job with a larger company.

Another expert said you can get by in smaller shops without learning how to script if you're only supporting 30 users or so. But if you want to administer at scale, scripting is the only viable way, said Dean Wells, the director of technology solutions at Active Directory customized training provider MSE Technology in Pompano Beach, Fla.

"You can't right click [using a GUI] when you have to change a thousand passwords that are across hundreds of organizational units," Wells said.

Wells said he recognizes that not everyone likes scripting, but Windows administrators will have little choice when it comes to learning at least scripting basics, particularly when PowerShell becomes a part of all future Microsoft desktop and server releases.

Some IT managers in small shops are starting to play with PowerShell. "The beta tests we've done with Exchange Server 2007...you can do a fair amount with the GUI, but you can do a whole lot more with the scripting language," said George Podolak, an IT manager at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, an architectural design firm in New York.

Although he sees the benefits of a command-line admin tool, Podolak said he questions why Microsoft would move away from the GUIs that made the company so popular with administrators and go back to an administration format that is, for some, harder to learn and use.

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