Virtualisation Case Study – ASP.NET Teaching

For practical assignments when teaching subjects that involve ASP.NET the students need access to the following software:

  • Visual Studio 2005 or Visual Web Developer Express
  • IIS web server
  • A database such as SQL Server 2005 or SQL Server 2005 Express Edition

Allocating each student a Windows Server 2003 virtual machine with full administrator rights would allow them to be taught how to:

  • Ensure their virtual machine is secure against external access from other machines
  • Configure and manage the IIS web server with ASP.NET and other extensions
  • Be familiar with creating and managing user accounts and access permissions
  • Install, configure and manage a SQL Server database
  • Install, configure and manage Visual Studio and associated MSDN libraries
  • Install, configure and use ASP.NET testing tools and utilities

Note that none of these topics can be taught with current teaching lab machines.

Students will require 24/7 access to the virtual machine both on and off campus using the remote desktop administration tool built in to Windows XP or Windows Server 2003. Remote administration using RDP and port 80 access to the Internet will be needed for Windows updates and new software downloads.

Since students have administrator rights they can, and inevitably will, make significant mistakes in configuring their virtual machines leading to corruption. Fortunately, a virtual machine simply consists of two files: a machine definition file and a file representing the contents of the hard disk drive. Virtual machine administrators can recreate a virtual machine under script control in a few seconds, allowing students to continue quickly with the practical work.

This is a concrete example of the concepts reported in my ‘I have a dream …’ post.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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