PowerShell combines command-line speed, the flexibility of scripting, and the power of a GUI-based admin tool. See why now might be the time to master it.
PowerShell is a powerful scripting tool that can greatly expedite your admin tasks. If you haven't had a chance to learn how to use it, you might want to make time for it now. Here are some reasons why the effort will pay off.
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1: It's not going away any time soon
Microsoft has made it clear that PowerShell is here to stay. In fact, PowerShell version 2 is not only included in Windows Server 2008 R2 and in Windows 7, it is enabled by default. Part of the reason why Microsoft has done this is that going forward, many add-on products will be based on PowerShell.
2: Most Microsoft products will eventually use it
Virtually all of the server products Microsoft is producing right now can be managed through PowerShell. From an administrative standpoint, this means that if you become proficient in PowerShell, you will have the skill set necessary for managing most of Microsoft's newer products. The basic built-in PowerShell commands are used in every product that supports PowerShell. However, some server products extend PowerShell to include additional cmdlets.
3: You can't do everything from the GUI any more
When Microsoft created Exchange 2007, it designed the GUI so that it could be used only for the most common administrative functions. Any obscure functions or anything potentially destructive has to be performed using PowerShell. I expect this design philosophy to carry over to other Microsoft products.
4: It can make your life easier
Believe it or not, using the command line can make your life easier. Suppose for a moment that you need to update an Active Directory attribute for a thousand users. Performing the task manually would likely take hours to complete. Using PowerShell, though, you can complete the task using a single line of code.
5: Many GUIs are PowerShell front ends
Many of the GUI interfaces that Microsoft has been designing for its various products are actually front end interfaces to PowerShell. Probably the best known example of this is the Exchange Management Console. Although this utility looks like a standard management tool, it is built entirely on top of PowerShell. Any function you perform through the GUI actually generates PowerShell code that completes the requested task. In many cases, the console even shows you the PowerShell command that was used at the completion of the task.
6: Microsoft certification exams contain PowerShell questions
Microsoft has been adding PowerShell-specific questions to many of its new certification exams. My experience with these exams has been that you don't necessarily have to know the full command syntax, but you do need to know which command you should be using in a given situation.
7: You can use PowerShell commands to manage your domains
If you have domain controllers running Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 2 or higher, you can install the Active Directory Web Services on at least one domain controller. After doing so, you will be able to use the Windows 7 RSAT Suite to manage Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 domains.
8: It enables interactivity between products
PowerShell is the common thread between all the new server products Microsoft is creating, so I expect to start seeing PowerShell used as a mechanism for providing interactivity between server products. I have yet to see a real world example of this interactivity, but eventually I would expect to be able to use a PowerShell script to work seamlessly between products such as IIS, SQL Server, and Exchange.
9: Microsoft says it's important
Just because someone at Microsoft says that something is important, that doesn't mean I take it as gospel. However, In the October 2009 issue of TechNet Magazine, Microsoft says, "It's safe to say that the single most important skill a Windows administrator will need in the coming years is proficiency with Windows PowerShell."
Such a bold statement is hard to ignore. This is especially true given the fact that this statement mirrors what I've been hearing from various people at Microsoft every time I have made a trip to Redmond lately.
10: If you don't learn it, someone else will
As we all know, the economy is in a slump, and many companies are downsizing. Needless to say, there is a lot of competition for the few IT jobs that are available. Therefore, if you suddenly find yourself looking for another job, your odds of finding one may be better if you can list PowerShell among your skill set.
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Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.