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Microsoft Adds to Library of Prescriptive Guidance Docs

Microsoft Corp. this week announced the newest edition to its Microsoft Systems Architecture (MSA) configurations, Microsoft Systems Architecture for the Enterprise Data Center or EDC.

Microsoft describes its MSA configurations as “prescriptive architecture guides” for designing and rapidly implementing scalable, reliable and secure Windows systems in various environments. The software giant certified the first MSA configuration, Internet Data Center (IDC), in February.

Since that time, says group product manager Alfredo Pizzirani, Microsoft’s customers have requested that it make available additional MSA configurations. The result, he indicates, is EDC: “Our customers told us that there are more aspects of their infrastructure that they would like to design similar to what we did with IDC, so together with our partners, we are coming back with a blue-print for their data centers.”

The EDC can be found at: www.microsoft.com/solutions/msa/evaluation/overview/EDC/default.asp.

According to Pizzirani, the MSA guides describe a baseline configuration that companies can use to rapidly design and deploy, for example, a variety of Windows operating systems and applications to support an EDC. The EDC guide, in particular, provides a general overview of the framework and design philosophy of a Windows-based datacenter, along with specific architectural and configuration instructions. “These [MSAs] minimize the costs and the risks associated with implementing this kind of [enterprise data center] infrastructure. Together with our partners, we have already done most of the work.”

Microsoft’s partners include Avanade Inc., Brocade Communications Systems Inc., CommVault Systems Inc., HP, Hitachi Data Systems Corp., McDATA Corp., NetIQ Corp., Nortel Networks and Unisys Corp. Microsoft that it will expand its partner base in the future, as well.

Partnering is important, Pizzirani says, because almost all IT organizations will choose to customize certain aspects of the certified MSA configurations. “This is not going to be something that customers want to do on their own, because there’s going to have to be some customization. No blueprint that we come up with would fit all users, so the partners that have been with us through the development process will help them with this.”

Lest you think that the software giant is merely puffing its chest, Pizzirani asserts that each of the system hardware and software configurations listed in the MSA books has been assembled and tested by Microsoft, by a group of its partner vendors, and by third-party integrators. “We bring it all into one place, and we actually build the configuration that we’re going to recommend and test it, so this is all actually pre-tested. So we stand behind the guidance that we offer because we have thoroughly tested it.”

According to Mark Feverston, vice-president of platform marketing with long-time MSA partner Unisys Corp., the process is even more complicated than that. “You have to develop the prescriptive architecture, then you have to go ahead and build it out, test it and make sure it works. Then you have to document it, then you tear it down, and then you try to rebuild it via your own documentation. Then you tear it down again, and this time you bring in a third-party who is going to certify you. Then they use your documentation to literally build your own system configuration on the floor.”

Also this week, Microsoft introduced several blueprint guidelines -- dubbed Microsoft Solutions for Management (MSM) -- that it says can help IT organizations manage its Windows operating systems and .NET applications more effectively.

Two of the new blueprints describe a set of practices by means of which IT organizations can push out software updates and other patches to servers and other client systems by means of Microsoft’s Software Update Services or Systems Management Server (SMS) platform. Another blueprint, New Application Installation Using SMS, also describes a configuration by means of which IT organizations can exploit SMS to facilitate the automated installation of Office or other desktop productivity software.

Other blueprints include:

  • Service Monitoring and Control Using Microsoft Operations Manager, a guide to facilitate the management of Windows 2000, Active Directory, and other Microsoft applications from MOM.
  • Microsoft Operations Framework Operations Assessment, is designed to help IT staff compare the current state of their operational processes against industry-recommended standards and best practices.

  • About the Author

    Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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