The idea is to offer proven, tested guidelines and designs to save IT staffs time and sweat when planning, building, and even managing an enterprise data center. Among the services outlined in the MSA EDC are messaging, authentication, access control, database, file and print, and Web access.
"As customers deployed more and more servers, they started asking us, 'How do I integrate these into a data center?'" said Alfredo Pizzirani, a group product manager in the Windows Server Product Group.
Rather than rely on case studies, a traditional way to demonstrate the viability of a technology, Microsoft combined with a number of its partners to bring hardware, software, and services into a lab in Redmond, Wash. A complete data center was assembled and tested. The result is the MSA EDC.
"By bringing all the technology into a lab," said Pizzirani, "we were able to build a solution, and most important, document what we built."
Naturally, these designs make use of Microsoft's product line, specifically Windows 2000 Server and .Net Enterprise Server, but other vendor partners are represented as well. Configurations highlighted and recommended include both hardware and software, as well as services and support.
Among participating partners are companies such as Hitachi (storage) and Nortel Networks (firewalls) to Unisys (server hardware) and NetIQ (management services and software).
The MSA EDC blueprint includes three major components, each of which can be viewed or downloaded separately at no charge.
The Reference Architecture Kit outlines the data-center scenario assembled by Microsoft and its partners, and includes the information needed to design the scalable, secure center. The Prescriptive Architecture Kit provides the hardware and software recommendations, and details the process of building the center. Finally, the Solution and Service Kit defines the pre-sales, planning, deployment, operation, and support for the data center.
IT departments should see some substantial time savings by relying on these blueprints, Pizzirani said. Compared to the from-scratch design and implementation process, which he says can take close to a year, companies that have followed MSA EDC can assemble and deploy a data center in as little as one or two months. Among the firms that have used MSA EDC, Microsoft touts ServiceMaster and Clear Channel Communications.
But even Pizzirani admits that MSA EDC isn't flawless, or suitable for all situations.
"It's difficult to come up with one configuration that will solve all problems for everyone," he said. "The lab configuration isn't found in the real world."
Still, he thinks companies can benefit, especially after Microsoft adjusted this MSA to make it more modular.
"By structuring the configuration in a modular way, users can look at [the data center] not as a monolith, but at those pieces they're most interested in," he said. If the concern is messaging, MSA EDC users can pull out the information and advice on integrating message servers.