Sure Step in action: Architecture Assessment

Implementing a new Microsoft Dynamics solution doesn’t merely introduce a new piece of software into your environment. Yes, the software is an important part, you need to deploy it successfully, configure it as necessary, probably even customize it and change the business logic under the hood.

One component, however, is easily overlooked, and you wouldn’t believe how often it’s not addressed until late. Or too late. It’s the infrastructure.

Infrastructure is tough. It’s not just servers and desktops with some wires, switches and access points in between. Its a lot more. What kind of hardware do you need for your servers or desktops? What kind of performance do you really need? What kind of network layout is optimal for your transaction volume? Should you run the client on desktop machines, or would a remote desktop access be a preferred method? Do you virtualize your servers? What kind of failover capacities do you need? Can you retain any of your old hardware? How many users will use the system? Tomorrow? In five years? What about interfaces and integration to other systems or applications?

A couple of wrong answers, and down you go.

Sure Step Architecture Assessment is an offering from the Diagnostic phase of Sure Step methodology which “provides prescriptive guidance about production infrastructure and hardware requirements” for your Microsoft Dynamics solution.

It basically means that it is there to ensure that the environment and the infrastructure into which you are going to deploy your solution is really aligned with your business goals, needs, and that it will support your workload. It takes into account all of your requirements (not only the number of users and transactions per day), and gives you complete guidance about your entire infrastructure (not only how much memory or disk space you need, and how fast your network should be).

When you are implementing a new system, you must be absolutely sure you make the right decisions about your infrastructure. If you just decide to keep your old servers and network without giving it the proper thought, the system might work, but it might fail as well. If it does, it’ll cost you a lot of money in lost productivity or downtime, it’ll maybe even lose you customers or revenue. And it will definitely cost you dearly to update your infrastructure to an adequate one with software already running on top of it. Do you really want to gamble?

Analyzing the infrastructure up front and making sure that it will really be able to cope with the burden of your new system is crucial. It costs far less to upgrade your infrastructure while the system is in development, than to be forced to stop your business in order to upgrade it once the system has been deployed.

But how do you know that your system design, old one or an upgraded one, will really be able to perform to expectations? Do you just trust your gut feeling with this? Or do you oversize everything just in case? Or are you just feeling lucky? All can cost you far too much.

To mitigate for the risks of inadequate architecture and infrastructure, there is the Architecture Assessment, which will make sure that everything that can influence the infrastructure decisions has really been addressed, that there are no little details hiding the devils, and that once you go live you really stay alive.

There are two kinds of architecture assessments:

  • Sure Step Architecture Assessment: this one is a part of the methodology itself, and it can be done by your Microsoft Dynamics solution provider, provided they have experienced architects.
  • Sure Step Business Systems Architecture Assessments: a set of offerings provided officially by Microsoft through its Microsoft Services and Microsoft Premier Support channels.

Sure Step Architecture Assessment

If your implementation partner has experienced architects in their team, who are able to analyze and understand the whole of your business and technical requirements, and who are up-to-date with technology, hardware and software, and are able to design scalable architectures, then you can ask them to perform a Sure Step Architecture Assessment as a part of your Diagnostic phase.

In Sure Step methodology there is detailed guidance on how to conduct this assessment for Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, but it is largely still applicable to other Dynamics flavors: Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL. However, keep in mind that this is not a cookbook exercise—performing this assessment requires serious technical expertise.

Sure Step Business Systems Architecture Assessments

If you are a customer enrolled in Premier Support, or you have been working with Microsoft Services, you can engage them to perform an official Microsoft’s offering called Sure Step Business Systems Architecture Assessment. A mouthful.

The difference between generic Sure Step Architecture Assessment and Business Systems Architecture Assessment is that the later is conducted by a dedicated team in Microsoft, specialized precisely in these assessments, and that when you get the results of that assessment you can rest assured that Microsoft, as the vendor of the software you are deploying, is standing behind the recommendations, and that these recommendations are following the latest Microsoft’s best practices.

If you want to learn more about Business Systems Architecture (BSA) services, there are some publicly available materials:

Conclusion

In the end, whichever way you choose, you’ll get a report explaining in actionable language exactly what you need to do with your infrastructure to have it support your future Microsoft Dynamics solution.

But make sure you choose one of these, because your infrastructure is a vital component of your future system, and you simply don’t want not to pay good attention to it. On the other hand, if you decide to engage in this activity, you are making one big and sure step towards a successful deployment.

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