I’ve just finished writing another book on PowerShell. The book looked at a number of core Windows Features and components, from AD, DHCP/DNS, SMB file sharing and FSRM, Hyper, V and more. Having gone through the process of witting over 125 scripts using a dozen Windows Server 2018 features has given me a perspective on both PowerShell in use today, and in what it takes, what you really need to know in order to progress from a Google-Engineering assisted journey man into a PowerShell master. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with using Google to get the job done. And for many their career path possibly precludes acquiring deep skills. But if you are the folks who aspire, please read on!
So what do you need to know, to know how to do? The following list is not in any order:
- Understand and be able to use the PowerShell language - the starting point, for me, is that you know the PowerShell language and can use it. You should understand the core concepts of cmdlets, objects, and the pipeline. You should be familiar the the core approach to discovery (Get-Module, Get-Command, Get-Help, and Get-Member). You need to know how each language feature works and be able to leverage it in your scripts. Knowing the internal architecture of PowerShell is also almost expected.
- Understand the .NET Framework. Powershell is built on top of .NET – cmdlets work by using .NET. Get-Process, for example, just calls [System.Diagnostics.Process]::GetProcesses(). Also known as a static method (GetProcesses()) on a .NET Class (Systems.Diagnostics.Process). You should understand the architecture of .NET (CLR, BCL, IL and JIT Compilation, .NET Security, and more). The .NET Framework can often provide functionality for which there are no cmdlets. For example, there a number of .NET classes useful for localisation. Time zones, clock types, DST/ST, etc are all a method call away and therefore easy to use if you know how.
- Understand how to read C# and be able to convert C# to PowerShell. There is a feast of wonderful examples of more obscure tasks often written in C#. You should be able to read the C# sufficiently to see how the code is doing things, and be able to concert simple snippets into working PowerShell Code. Knowing enough VB.NET to convert it into PowerShell is also a useful skill.
- Understand COM and COM objects. There are a number of features that make use of COM. The Microsoft Office products can each be automated using PowerShell’s COM interop features. The Performance Logging and Alerting subsystem makes use of COM. You use PowerShell's New-Object cmdlet to instantiate a COM object to specify PLA data collector sets.
- Know how to use XML. Some features such as the Task Scheduler make use of XML. You should know how to use the XML emitted by windows as well as knowing how to manage XML documents and the DOM. XPath is also a useful skill. The FSRM, for example, produces reports. The report format is fixed and cannot be modified. But the FSRM also produces XML files containing the report’s raw data for you to format to your own needs. PowerShell also makes use of XML for default object formatting. which you can customise to change how PowerShell formats objects.
- Know how PowerShell modules work. Cmdlets are delivered in modules and you can write your own. Both DSC and JEA leverage modules. You should know where modules are stores, how PowerShell finds them and how it builds the Module cache, what a manifest is.
- JEA – Also known as Just Enough Administration. It’s a neat feature that enables you to provide delegated permissions to do just those things necessary for a person’s job and nothing more. This is a very useful security feature of Powershell that appeals to large and distributed organisations.
- Understand how to implement DSC. DSC is a great way to configure hosts and to ensure they stay configured. You should know about DSC resources, setting up DSC pull servers (SMB and Web), and DSC reporting and error logging. You should also know how DSC resources work as well as how to write your own DSC resources)
- Master Remoting – This is a rich topic area. You should understand the PowerShell Remoting stack (including PSRM, SOAP, WinRM), how end points work and how to create a constrained end point.
- Understand at Depth Core Windows Features. I suppose it’s obvious, but to be a PowerShell master you have to be able to apply your skills to Windows. You should really understand AD (and GPO), SMB (SMB3 SOFS, Clustering and Hyper-Converged S2D), Containers and Docker, Hyper-V (and maybe VMware too!), TCP/IP Networking, Disk/FIle Storage, PLA, Task Scheduler, and probably more.
- Leverage Azure – Organisations are increasingly moving to the cloud and knowing Azure (or AWS) is also an important skill. With Azure, you should be able to build IAAS objects in cloud including web sites, VMs, and Virtual networks. You should also be able to manage Azure Storage and Content distribution.
- Be competent at Windows Troubleshooting – There are a variety of good PowerShell tools that assist in Troubleshooting, particularly network troubleshooting. These tools really are second nature to a PowerShell master. And to be a good trouble-shooter you really need to understand what you are troubleshooting. Knowing how to leverage the information in the event logs is also critical. You should become very familiar with docs.Microsoft.com. And if you ever work out how to fully automate the Windows trouble-shooters – let me know.
- Use PowerShell Core and VSCode – PowerShell Core 6 is almost a re-invention of PowerShell. Cross-platform, open source, based on .NET Core which is also open source along with a totally new development tool (VS Code). Arguably,6.1 and 6.2 are not quite ready for hard core usage across all features. But it’s close – I am now using the developing 6.2 and VS Code in preference to the ISE and Windows PowerShell. My Grateful Dead scripts even work in PS Core! There are a number of features that do not work with PowerShell Core. Today, for example, DSC and Windows Forms are not supported (although 6.3 should support Windows.Forms!).
So a baker’s dozen of things you really need to know, and know how to do with PowerShell.