Microsoft’s Solution Accelerators have been around for a while now and, as the name suggests, are intended to accelerate the deployment of solutions built on Microsoft technology.Â Each solution accelerator is a free download from the Microsoft website but they don’t seem to be as well-known as they should be – with many IT organisations still producing their own documentation or purchasing third party tools that duplicate this free of charge functionality.
One of the earliest solution accelerators I worked with was the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) toolkit, which has since made major advances in its maturity and is now known as the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT).Â This is just one of the more commonly used accelerators though – the full list of solution accelerators covers a diverse set of technologies from using Windows PE to create a malware removal kitÂ to migrating custom Unix applicationsÂ to discovering the ports used by Windows Server System productsÂ to planning for payment card industry (PCI) compliance.
As the complete set of solution accelerators is so extensive, and growing, it’s not practical to go into detail about each one but here are just a few that technical architects and administrators might find useful:
- Infrastructure Planning and Design (IPD) Guides: intended to complement product documentation by focusing on infrastructure design options, each guide leads the reader through critical infrastructure design decisions, in the appropriate order, evaluating the available options for each decision against its impact on critical characteristics of the infrastructure. The IPD Series highlights when service and infrastructure goals should be validated with the organization and provides additional questions that should be asked of service stakeholders and decision makers.
- Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit:Â an agentless toolkit that finds computers on a network and performs a detailed inventory using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and the Remote Registry Service. The data and analysis provided by this toolkit can significantly simplify the planning process for migrating toÂ a variety of Microsoft products including device driver availability and recommendations for hardware upgrades.Â MAP can also be used to gather performance metrics from computers being considered for virtualisation before modelling a library of potential host hardware and storage configurations for “what-if” analysis.
- Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT):Â MDT is the recommended process and toolset for automating Windows desktop and server deployment, providing unified tools and processes in a common deployment consoleÂ together with guidance documents for reduced deployment time and standardised desktop and server images, along with improved security and ongoing configuration management.Â MDT can integrate with System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 and Windows deployment tools for zero touch deployment and, for those without an SCCM infrastructure, MDT makes use of Windows deployment tools for lite touch deployments.
- Microsoft Security Compliance Manager: Intended to reduce the time and cost associated with hardening the security ofÂ and infrastructure this solution accelerator provides access to the complete database of Microsoft recommended security settings so that baselines can be created and exported in multiple formats including .XLS, Group Policy objects (GPOs), Desired Configuration Management (DCM) packs, or Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) to automate the security baseline deployment and compliance verification process.
- Service Level Dashboard Management Pack for System Center Operations Manager (SCOM): This dashboard integrates with SCOM 2007 R2 to assist in tracking, managing, and reporting on line-of-business (LOB) application service level compliance, displaying a list of applications and their performance and availability against a target service level agreement (SLA).Â
- Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF): Providing is practical guidance for IT organisations, MOF reflects a single, comprehensive IT service lifecycle to help IT professionals connect service management principles to everyday IT tasks and activities in order to ensure alignment between IT and the business.Â Where ITIL is descriptive and describes “what to do”, MOF is prescriptive and provides the “how to do it” guidance.
- IT Compliance Management Guide: Intended for IT managers, professionals, and partners who configure Microsoft products to address specific IT governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) requirements, implementation of the recommendations in this series of guides allows enforcement and management of IT GRC requirements to be shifted onto the underlying Microsoft technologies.
There are also a huge number of specific solution accelerators for given technology scenarios: like servicing offline virtual machines, applying the principle of least user access (LUA) to user accounts on Windows XP, using Windows security and directory services with Unix or server and domain isolation using IPSec and Group Policy,Â as well as product operations guides for Active Directory, DNS, DHCP, file services, print services, etc.Â and migration guidance for scenarios such as Novell NetWare to Windows Server or Oracle on Unix to SQL Server on Windows.Â These are just a few examples so check out the full list of Microsoft Solution AcceleratorsÂ for more options.
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