A brief review of ‘Windows PowerShell 4.0 for .NET Developers’, a fast-paced PowerShell guide, enabling you to efficiently administer and maintain your development environment.
Recently, I had the opportunity to review ‘Windows PowerShell 4.0 for .NET Developers‘, published by Packt Publishing. According to its author, Sherif Talaat, the book is ‘a fast-paced PowerShell guide, enabling you to efficiently administer and maintain your development environment.‘ Working in a large and complex software development organization, technologies such as PowerShell, which enable increased speed and automation, are essential to our success. Having used PowerShell on a regular basis as a .NET developer for the past few years, I was excited to see what Sherif’s newest book offered.
The book recommends the following minimal software configuration to work through the code samples:
- Windows Server 2012 R2 (includes PowerShell 4.0 and .NET 4.5)
- SQL Server 2012
- Visual Studio 2012/2013
- Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2012/2013
To test the book’s samples, I provisioned a fresh VM, and using my MSDN subscription, installed the required Windows Server, SQL Server, and Team Foundation Server. I worked directly on the VM, as well as remotely from a Windows 7 Enterprise-based development machine with Visual Studio 2012 installed. The code samples worked fairly well, with only a few minor problems I found. There is still no errata published for the book as of the time of review.
A key aspect many authors do not address, is the complexities of using PowerShell in a corporate environment. Working individually or on a small network, developers don’t always experience the added burden of restrictive network security, LDAP, proxy servers, proxy authentication, XML gateways, firewalls, and centralized computer administration. Any code that requires access to remote servers and systems, often requires additional coding to work within a corporate environment. It can be frustrating to debug and extend simple examples to work successfully within an enterprise setting.
Windows PowerShell 4.0 for .NET Developers, at 115 pages in length, is divided into five chapters:
- Chapter 1: Getting Started with Windows PowerShell
- Chapter 2: Unleashing Your Development Skills with PowerShell
- Chapter 3: PowerShell for Your Daily Administration Tasks
- Chapter 4: PowerShell and Web Technologies
- Chapter 5: PowerShell and Team Foundation Server
Chapter 1 provides a brief introduction to PowerShell. At a scant 30 pages, I would not recommend this book as a way to learn PowerShell for the beginner. For learning PowerShell, I recommend Instant Windows PowerShell, by Vinith Menon, also published by Packt Publishing. Alternatively, I recommend a few books by Manning Publications, including Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition.
Chapter 2 discusses PowerShell in relationship to several key Microsoft technologies, including Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), Common Information Model (CIM), Component Object Model (COM) and Extensible Markup Language (XML). As a .NET developer, it’s almost impossible not to have worked with one, or all of these technologies. Chapter 2 discusses how PowerShell works with .NET objects, and extend the .NET framework. The chapter also includes an easy-to-follow example of creating, importing, and calling a PowerShell binary module (compiled .NET class library), using Visual Studio.
Chapter 3 explores areas where .NET developer can start leveraging PowerShell for daily administrative tasks. In particular, I found the sections on PowerShell Remoting and administering IIS and SQL Server particularly useful. Being able to easily connect to remote web, application, and database servers from the command line (or, PowerShell prompt) and do basic system administration is a huge time savings in an agile development environment.
Chapters 4 focuses on how PowerShell interfaces with SOAP and REST based services, web requests, and JSON. Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) based service-oriented application development has been a trend for the last few years. Being able to manage, test, and monitor SOAP and RESTful services and HTTP requests/responses is important to .NET developers. PowerShell can often quicker and easier than writing and compiling service utilities in Visual Studio, or using proprietary third-party applications.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS), Microsoft’s end-to-end, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution. Chapter 5 details the installation and use of TFS Power Tools and TFS PowerShell snap-in. Having held the roles of lead developer and Scrum Master, I have personally found some of the best uses for PowerShell in automating various aspects of TFS. Managing TFS often requires repetitive tasks, the place where PowerShell excels. You will need to explore additional resources beyond the scope of this book to really start automating TFS with PowerShell.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and felt it was well worth the time to explore. I applaud Sherif for targeting a PowerShell book specifically to developers. Due to its short length, the book did leave me wanting more information on a few subjects that were barely skimmed. I also found myself expecting guidance on a few subjects the book did not touch upon, such as PowerShell for cloud-based development (Azure), test automation, and build and deployment automation. For more information on some of those subjects, I recommend Sherif’s other book, also published by Packt Publishing, PowerShell 3.0 Advanced Administration Handbook.