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Microsoft Should Know Better…some assembly required…


Setting

Midsized company with a large technical department and 100 of years of experience takes on Microsoft Products for an infrastructure upgrade.  Why?  The promise of collaborative tools with the Office 2010 suite plus updates to Exchange would really improve operations.  Not for the faint of heart and such, the company started on the quest with about a year planned into the cycle to spin up on the new products.  Sure, this change represented a feature jump of 1 to 2 versions but it was staying with the same manufacturer.  There are a lot more gory details for sure but this is enough to set the stage.  So far we’ve got:

  1. A years worth of planning and research
  2. Years worth of experience with Microsoft Products
    1. Exchange
    2. Windows Server
    3. Office Products
    4. SharePoint
  3. Staff with broad technical expertise

Notes on the research and project background

The setting wouldn’t be complete without a side trip down bing alley.  Resource that were used heavily were both print and web based.  TechNet was used, MSDN, along with publications from various including Wrox Press, Microsoft, sAms and O’Reilly.

Stops and Starts and Fits…

This is where we get to where Microsoft should know better.  I’ll get to what would have been fantastic at the end.  First it was SharePoint.  Of course, SharePoint!  I heard SharePoint being described as Microsoft Kudzu at a recent conference.  SharePoint…  It sprawls… It runs away with you… It consumes whole people at a single feeding….  Ok, let me tell you how I really feel right?  First, if using the Farm Configuration Wizard puts you behind the eight ball unless you are doing a demo, call it something else!  Not a Configuration Wizard!  Reality with limited resources is that you use shortcuts if they are available because I can guarantee that it isn’t in the budget to hire the local gunslinger to fix or deploy the issues.  Every book I’ve read on SharePoint 2010 advises against using the FCW yet very few provide any discernable guidance.  Much of the material is written from a single point of view when a product like SharePoint requires a dev and a couple of IT pro positions to effectively run a complete set up.

Security, Hello?

I’m not sure but I think there was a song or two out of the 80s that dealt with the state of security.  From Microsoft, you here “Live and Let Die” if you are using the recommended Kerberos security.  Problem with Kerberos is you have to have almost the obsessive behavior of “Monk” (TV Show) to get through all of it’s requirements.  But wait, there’s more!  What more you say?  When you start down the path of network infrastructure upgrade, you need the skill of a ninja, the vocal range of Freddy Mercury and a finely tuned Maserati to get through it all.  Funny, yes? Painful, yes!

It all builds

Somewhere along the lines there should be a mapping tool.  One tool in one place that you can use as a resource.  We all know that Microsoft offers a lot of stuff.  In fact, many tools do a lot of the same stuff at the same time.  Part of that has to do with the fact that with a large company, stuff get’s siloed and good ideas aren’t exclusive.  That’s why there is such a mess with patents and rules to protect good ideas.  Sorry, segued a little…

Back to the mapping tool…

Microsoft is a smart company and creates great products.  But like even the small guys, there seems to be the resistance in telling folks how to put things together.  Nobody wants to create the documentation.  When it is created much of the time it is only about the “how” and not so much the “why” you need to do some things.  Imagine, using the tools that Microsoft provides, you merrily install SharePoint.  When you are done, things look pretty good and things are working.  Sure, the Health and Status reports are yellow, but yellow is a caution or warning right?  Not a show stopper?  Warning Will Robinson, yellow does mean danger.  A warning that there are shoals ahead should be taken seriously right?  Keep going and your tear out the bottom of your boat.  Same thing with SharePoint warnings.  But back to strolling merrily along…  Your SharePoint site seems happy and you’ve managed to resolve most of the yellow errors.  Then you run into this pesky error about the User Profile Synchronization Service.  Pesky!  Research shows that you’ve got to do some serious work in Active Directory.  This is a show delayer no matter how you slice it.  Unless you’ve get ninja AD skills in your SharePoint tool kit, you’re calling on the IT Ogres to make changes to AD.  This is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you!  IT Ogres DO NOT LIKE AD Changes.  They like their AD the way it is.  It looks right, smells right and feels right.  Now, some upstart quasi IT/Dev is asking for changes because of SharePoint???????????

I’ve been to some great presentations on stuff they’ve got ideas to make.  Some of them, I really really really wish were available.

Back to the project at hand

The request is simple. 

It should be readily available.

Not like the data is hidden or anything like that…

image

So, perhaps I gave it:

SharePoint 2010 Std, Exchange 2010, Windows 2008 R2, Lync 2010 and Office

2010.

What would it say?

  • Minimum server 64bit with xgigs ram yterrabytes, raid x, etc etc etc
  1. two servers for SharePoint
  2. one for Exchange
  3. etc.
  • Kerberos security
  • High Availability suggestions
  • etc…

Finally, an output of check lists advising best practices for order and warnings (if needed) if the order was changed.

Why?

Small to medium sized businesses have limited resources, staffed by generalists rather that specialists and have a do it yourself point of view.  Oh, did I forget to mention smart?  Smart people work for small companies too.  With the right set of directions, you can put it together.  With poor directions, sometimes parts get left out.  If you’ve ever experienced the “Some Assembly Required” set, you know that sometimes parts are simply left over, left out or not included.  Microsoft can really help out the small guy by giving them the tools on how to use there services.  Heck, they could even add a cost comparison tool based on averages and allow the small guy to put in some of his or her know factors like salary rates and compare  the product / service to the cloud based version.

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