The "no pain, no gain" principle doesn't have to apply to deploying and using Microsoft's Systems Management Server 2.0, said Bill Anderson, Microsoft SMS lead product manager.
So, why have so many IT managers suffered so much when implementing this rich, but complex, application? Poor planning is the culprit, according to Anderson.
"Many IT professionals begin the upgrade process with the technical focus of doing the install, as opposed to really capacity planning your SMS 2.0 enterprise and designing the right architecture," he said. Loaded with advanced features, SMS 2.0 allows organizations to deliver more software, take inventory more frequently, or do new things like utilizing software metering. All of these functions and new activities will have an impact on a system's architecture and design.
To help IT professionals start off and stay on the right foot, Anderson offered these dos and don'ts for implementing and using SMS 2.0.
Do plan and design. Many of the glitches in SMS implementations arise from poor architecture and planning, said Anderson. This leads to slower implementations, unforeseen errors after implementation, and an all-around lower ROI than is optimal.
Do ask for assistance. For many IT professionals, getting some assistance from Microsoft Certified Solution Provider Partners makes the implementation easier. Also, most solutions providers are very good at teaching the best practices of using SMS to maximize return on investment.
Don't scrimp on application packaging. SMS will take care of itself after deployment, so the majority of your effort will be in packaging applications to deploy, said Anderson. Invest the majority of staffing in the packaging and testing elements to provide greater first-delivery success. Regardless of the software deployment tool, if the application isn't packaged correctly to install without damaging the system, it will fail.
Do reduce complexity in what you support. "Many SMS customers will deploy SMS for inventory only at the start, so they can get a complete picture of their enterprise," said Anderson. This helps them understand what operating systems, hardware platforms, and applications are in place throughout their organization, so they can begin reducing this number.
"If I deploy an application to 5000 desktops, every single complexity of operating system and application can increase the amount of time it takes me to prepare for a successful delivery in testing, or increase my chances of failure," Anderson explains. By standardizing on an operating system and hardware platform, as well as minimizing application complexity, customers can see exponential savings with SMS.
Don't forget that SMS is a great manager of servers, too. Windows servers need inventory and critical software updates in a short period of time. SMS can help do this. "Application hosting companies, application service providers, dot-com's, and corporate datacenters are all using SMS as a key tool to help provide inventory and software distribution support for their mission critical servers," Anderson said.
Do integrate SMS with your business. If you've already invested in SMS, why not leverage it as part of your help desk, asset management, and network management solutions?
Finally, do "read, read, read," Anderson said. Doing extensive research lays the groundwork for planning and implementing SMS 2.0 successfully in your enterprise.
Good reference materials are abundant, such as Microsoft's Systems Management Server resources at microsoft.com and searchWindowsManageability's System Management Server links.
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