Microsoft aids data centres

Microsoft Corp. last month rolled out a set of architectural guidelines to help IT managers in larger companies build and manage working datacentres made up of Windows and non-Windows technologies.

Specifically, the goal of the Microsoft Solutions for Management (MSM) is intended as a soup-to-nuts service that helps IT executives achieve operational efficiencies – improve the manageability of their shops to reduce its overall cost of ownership.

Using the Microsoft Operations Framework in concert with the company’s Systems Management Server and Operations Manager, MSM is intended to allow IT departments to implement and automate proven industry best practices faster. Such practices can address common problems such as patch management and software updates, new application installing new applications, and monitoring and controlling a range of services.

“We are trying to create a prescriptive architectural guidance for a range of scenarios starting with the core infrastructure on up through how to build a working datacentre, how to manage it. It can even help in creating specific vertical applications that might conform to something like HIPPA or address a B2B relationship,” said David Hamilton, director of the Management Business Group at Microsoft.

In a survey conducted by Microsoft, CIOs generally said that about only 25 per cent of projects they rolled out successfully delivered everything they were originally intended to deliver, Hamilton said. They said that about 50 per cent of the time spent on projects is “churn” or non-productive, largely because they are stymied by which approach or direction to take.

Some of the capabilities in the first launch of MSM include guidelines for critical patch deployment, new applications installation, monitoring and control of Windows 2000 services and applications. It also contains an operations management service that helps identify important issues, process gaps and the operational maturity of an IT shop’s operating environment, company officials said.

“There are a series of pain points that exist for many users in the operations space. They are either not as proactive as they want to be in terms of identifying problems, or it is too hard to roll out apps or when you need to patch systems. These sorts of guidelines can help point out what areas of your operation you need to improve,” said Chris Burry, technology infrastructure fellow at Avanade.

In a related December announcement, Avanade Inc., which works with Microsoft on integrating enterprise-class solutions, became the first independent provider to offer the MSM service along with Microsoft Consulting Services.

CNF, an early adopter of the service, has used MSM’s operations assessment and critical patch deployment capabilities to create its 4,000 workstations across the company. Prior to its use, CNF did not have any process in place for patch management. The company distributed patches via e-mail requesting users to run them and had no way to confirm that they were actually implemented.

CNF fell victim to the Nimda virus, which ended up costing the company thousands of dollars in productivity and IT support costs. Since then, the company has used MSM’s recommended best practices to deploy 7,000 patches to 2,000 workstations in less than a month, which has lowered the company’s cost of ownership significantly, CNF officials said.

“We think our enterprise is in better shape now than we’ve ever been before,” said Roger Wilding, senior technical engineer at CNF. “I think knowing that we were getting the guidance to apply industry-standard best practices to our unique situation was a huge comfort for us,” he said.

Users and developers wanting more information about Microsoft Solutions Management can be found at the Microsoft Web site at