Dec 03 2009

Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 4.0

With Version 4.0 of MAP, you can figure out if your systems are running at peak performance and identify those ripe for virtualization.

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit is an inventory, assessment and reporting tool that you can use to securely inventory your IT infrastructure.

The latest version of this powerful free tool, MAP Version 4.0, can help plan desktop and server migrations while also making sure that an organization uses its IT resources efficiently.

One of the ways any organization can save money is by consolidating existing server workloads using virtualization. Microsoft Hyper-V lets you leverage the power of 64-bit computing with AMD-V or Intel VT hardware virtualization, to run multiple guest (virtual) operating systems on a single host (physical) server.

For example, instead of having a separate domain controller, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol server and database server on your network, you can consolidate three physical servers into one Hyper-V server that has three virtual machines running on it. This would let you retire older hardware and take advantage of newer, power-efficient systems, which reduces your electricity bill and takes up less rack space in the data center.

This also leads to more efficient use of IT assets. Instead of having multiple single-core servers utilized at 10 percent to 20 percent of capacity, you can rely on one or two dual- or quad-core servers running at much higher utilization rates. Having only a handful of physical servers simplifies management and reduces maintenance costs.

Where does MAP fit into this? One of the enhancements of Version 4.0 is that it supports virtualization candidate assessments for the latest version of Hyper-V, which is included in Windows Server 2008, Release 2. Hyper-V R2 allows up to 64 logical processors in the host processor pool, supports Live Migration across different processor versions within the same processor family, provides improved networking using TCP Offload, and includes other performance and scalability enhancements.

Run the Numbers

By using MAP 4.0 you can inventory which servers on your network can run Hyper-V R2 and gather performance metrics for them. MAP can automatically discover VMs already running on a network and configure host machine equivalents for existing servers on the network. MAP provides recommendations concerning guest placement, enabling an organization to efficiently consolidate a large number of existing servers onto fewer Hyper-V servers.

The Server Consolidation screen lets a systems administrator launch different wizards to inventory the network, assess readiness, collect performance metrics and generate recommendations for server consolidation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Server Consolidation screen of MAP 4.0

Before you inventory your existing infrastructure using MAP, you may need to take steps to prepare your environment, especially if your computers belong to a workgroup and not a domain. Depending on how your computers are configured, you may need to set passwords for local accounts, enable exceptions in Windows Firewall and perform other actions. This is because MAP uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to connect to remote computers on your network. Detailed guidance concerning these matters can be found in the “Getting Started Guide” for MAP 4.0.

Get a Clear Picture

Once you've performed the server consolidation assessment, you can use MAP to generate reports that summarize the results of the assessment and provide detailed recommendations that can be presented to senior management. You can use these reports to help plan and implement a server consolidation program to ensure maximum benefit (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Proposal for server consolidation generated by MAP 4.0

An accompanying Microsoft Excel spreadsheet provides additional technical details concerning any proposed consolidation (Figure 3). These details include identifying the virtualization technology running on the host computers, recommendations concerning which machines should be consolidated onto which hosts, a summary of the current utilization of machines on the network, and any machines that cannot be consolidated and why (for example, because of insufficient disk space on the host computer).

Figure 3: Recommendations for server consolidation generated by MAP

Armed with these reports, you can make a good case about the benefits that can be achieved through consolidation. Once management signs off on this, you can begin implementing server consolidation using the recommendations contained in the reports.

One organization used MAP to inventory its existing IT infrastructure and discovered that many of its servers were running at only 5 percent utilization, making these servers excellent targets for consolidation.

Seeing Results

Version 4.0 also provides access to Microsoft’s Integrated Virtualization Calculator, an online tool that can be used after a server consolidation assessment to estimate return on investment that could be achieved by implementing Microsoft virtualization solutions. To use the calculator, you first use MAP to export your consolidation recommendations to an eXtensible Markup Language file. Then you import the file into the ROI calculator to analyze the potential results and cost savings the organization could achieve.

MAP 4.0 can help organizations cut costs by making it easy to analyze how server consolidation can benefit them and by providing detailed guidance about how such consolidation can be achieved. MAP can do even more, however. For example, a department considering migrating desktop computers to Windows 7 can use MAP to assess its readiness for such an undertaking.

For more information about MAP, go to Microsoft’s MAP site.

Mitch Tulloch is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and lead author of the Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press. Contact him through his website.


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