MAPS accelerator

After working with the Longhorn beta builds, I know I want to roll out Windows Server 2008 onto my production servers, but, as always, caution is needed. My fear isn’t loss of data: I have backups. It isn’t downtime, either: I’ll run the new builds with the existing servers, only taking the old offline once it’s stable. No, I’m afraid of missing drivers, my hardware requiring drivers that don’t work with Server 2008 and the nagging doubt over whether all my applications are going to run.

MAPS accelerator

The latter trap is easily avoided by first installing to a test server and running the programs, crossing my fingers that I won’t need to call any vendor to say: “Your application doesn’t work and when can I expect a fix?” The answer is invariably: “Around the time Microsoft releases the first service pack.” It makes sense to check how your servers will handle a new OS version, but it’s seldom the case that your test hardware exactly matches your production servers in every detail, so you’re never 100% sure: smaller businesses just don’t have the budget to keep a spare of every server.

I was hungry for change, but short on spare servers: I wanted someone to tell me I could have 2008 without having to buy any extra hardware. Enter the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Solution Accelerator (MAPS), a really neat tool that you can install on anything from a high-end laptop or desktop to a server, depending on how many systems you have to check. For anywhere between one and 5,000 systems, Microsoft recommends a laptop or desktop running Vista on a dual-core 1.5GHz or faster CPU with a minimum 2GB of RAM (interestingly, under XP or Server 2003, this RAM requirement drops to 1.5GB). For 5,000 to 9,999 systems, you need the same processing power, but 2.5GB of RAM regardless of OS, and the numbers grow with the number of systems: the more RAM the better is the bottom line.

I already had the required .NET Framework 2 installed on my system, so I downloaded MAPS and then cleverly installed SQL Server 2005 Express Edition and Office 2007 (the former required to store survey data, the latter for reports), only to discover that MAPS installation insists on going online to grab a new instance of SQL Server Express anyway… duh. Note that if you’re assessing more than 20,000 systems you’ll need full-blown SQL Server, because the Express Edition has a 4GB disk database limit and can’t use more than 1GB of RAM.

Go configure

I kicked off MAPS installation and ground my teeth all through the second installation of SQL Server Express (unavoidable, as you need the ID of the instance Accelerator is actually using). Installation proceeded without a hitch, and I was asked to launch the MAPS wizard to configure my setup before I could select a database and get started. I ran SQL Server’s Surface Area Configuration tool to switch on remote connections, which are turned off by default: that involved expanding the MAPS component in the left-hand pane, clicking on Remote Connections, selecting “Local and remote connections” and then picking a connectivity model (I left the default “TCP/IP only”, but you could have “Named pipes alone” or a combination of both). I then restarted the SQL Server service by clicking Service in the left-hand pane, plus the relevant buttons. I enabled the SQL Browser service, needed for remote connections, by clicking on SQL Server Browser, setting its Startup Type to Automatic, and then clicking Apply followed by Start to set it running.

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