This post if part of the Student Project Express, a series in which I am showing how to complete a Student project using Microsoft technologies. The table of contents for the series is available here and I will keep it updated as as publish more content. 

It is now time to start setting up our environments… I am using the plural because I will take you through using a development/integration/staging/production model.

One of the most common problem I see when “beginners” start working on their solutions is that they perform all the development and testing on a single box and as such miss out on the complexity of deploying their solution to additional servers.

In real life, developers will develop on their own development environment, where they will have all their tools and all the additional software they need to build and test their code. In the production environment (the one which goes live and that customers will use) will not have all these tools and as such may miss some pre-requisites that are needed to run the solution.

To learn more about the development/integration/staging/production model, you can read some of these blog posts:

The idea behind the model is well described by the following chart:


In a real world scenarios, the various deployment steps should be fully automated. In our case for simplicity we will only use 2 environments “dev” and “prod”. This is because we only want to test that deployment works and don’t have the need for a full integration and QA process.

While we are going to install the development tools in the base OS of our computer, we are going to use virtualisation to create our production environment. In real life we would probably have our integration server(s) in a virtualised environment and typically QA and Prod would be on “metal” (although this is changing as virtualisation technologies such as Hyper-V built into Windows Server since the 2008 version are becoming more and more efficient).

The first thing to do then, is to create our virtual machine and install there the software we are going to need to run our solution. And of course configure our development environment too…

Getting the software

Now we are ready to install the software and the question is… how do we get it? Usually we should buy it but as students you have access to all the software we are going to need here at no cost!

You have two different ways to get it… if your University has a Microsoft Developers Network – Academic Alliance (MSDN-AA) subscription they will be able to give you all of it. And if they enabled it, you will be able to download all the software from the web… Just ask your secretary or your lecturers if they offer this service.

If not… you can go to, register as a student and get access to all the software we need from there, again at no cost.

To access Dreamspark, you need a Windows Live ID (the same you have if you use Hotmail or Messenger) and you need to click on the sign-in button on the Dreamspark homepage and enter your Live ID and password as shown below:


Then you need to select which product you want to download. For this project we are going to need:

1. Windows Server 2008 Standard

2. SQL Server 2008 Developer

3. Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition

4. Expression Studio 3

The first time you try to download a product, Dreamspark will ask you to verify your status of student. You can do so entering the required data in the Student Verification page (continent, country and selecting your school). Probably the easiest method to get verified is by using your email address, but you can also scroll the list of schools and find yours there or using either your Athens ID (provided by most universities) or ISIC (number on ISIC or NUS Extra cards). In case you have any problems with this, check Ed’s Blog for some advice.

Once you are registered, all you need to do is to select the product you want and confirm the options form the Download Page:


Click on DOWNLOAD to get the .ISO file with the product’s bit and on the GET KEY button to get the required product key… it is really simple. Once you are through you should have the .ISO or .IMG files for the 4 products above.

Now… what can we do with ISO or IMG files?

Well, in the case of our Virtual Machine this is really easy as we can simply “mount” these as a DVD drive and it will simply use those as if we were using a physical disc. To install the software on our on machine, we will need a way for reading this format (more on both in the next post).

So…  go ahead and download all the software, in the next post I will take you through installing and configuring it all!