Uncovering the Microsoft Application Platform
Software applications are the lifeblood of business today, with many companies running an average of 40 line of business (LOB) apps simultaneously. Today's CIO is buffeted by demands to utilize unrelated systems and disparate LOB applications, ensure business continuity, drive competitive advantage, and provide a seamless user experience across diverse client and mobile devices - all while trying to reduce IT costs. In essence, his or her job comes down to meeting a set of four disparate but highly dependent accountabilities: keeping the business running, responding quickly to business needs, managing complexity while adopting new technologies, and managing costs.
So, how can our harried CIO accomplish this? By utilizing a platform approach that builds on strong infrastructure and database layers, adds dynamic and robust middleware technology, and finally, utilizes visualization media such as PCs, smartphones, tablets, and the Web.
It sounds simple enough, but does such a platform exist that's fully interoperable?
We are happy to say that it does. The Microsoft Application Platform puts together a complete and interoperable technology stack that meets the most demanding IT needs for running applications. What's more, it can be configured for an on-premise datacenter, the cloud, or a hybrid model. Let's take a quick look at the components of the Microsoft Application Platform.
Just like building a structure, you have to start with a strong and stable foundation, and the Microsoft application platform starts with the infrastructure, which is based on Windows Server for on-premise installations and Windows AzureWindows Azure for cloud implementations. This layer provides security features, networking, and virtualization functions in a uniform developer environment.
Next we have the database layer, where transaction processing, data warehousing, and reporting and analysis take place. This layer is comprised of Microsoft SQL Server on premise and SQL Azure in the cloud.
Moving upward, we get to the middleware tier, in which we find application servers, workflow management software, and enterprise integration tools. The on-premise products in this layer consist of Microsoft BizTalk Server, Windows Server AppFabric, and Microsoft.Net. In the cloud, the middleware tier is made up of Windows Azure Platform AppFabric and Microsoft.Net.
At the applications layer, which is the top of our Microsoft Application Platform stack, we find the various applications that keep your particular business running, including packaged, custom, and web-based software. Along with all the LOB apps particular to your business, you'll find more familiar Microsoft titles such as Office, Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Dynamics in the on-premise stack and Office 365, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online in the cloud implementation.
Finally, to allow for greater interoperability and collaboration, there are composite apps straddling the middleware and application layers. These include Microsoft SharePoint for on premise and SharePoint Online for the cloud.
In addition to being able to run existing or pre-built applications, the Microsoft Application Platform also includes a robust set of development tools and framework - these include Visual Studio and .Net, respectively. Meanwhile, Microsoft System Center manages the infrastructure, development and virtual environments, providing the tools that you need to help keep the whole thing running smoothly.
From the end-users' perspective, the beauty of the Microsoft Application Platform is at the top, where the applications layer offers access to information on virtually any device and enables end-users to make faster, better business decisions. These devices can utilize familiar tools employees use today, particularly Microsoft Excel, to gain better insight into their business to help mitigate risk and capitalize on trends. This self-service business intelligence (BI) capability is made even more powerful with PowerPivot, a free Excel 2010 add-on that lets users perform in-memory BI analysis on millions of rows of data - all within seconds. And using SharePoint, companies can share the insights they've discovered and collaborate - on a global scale - how to use that information to make their company better.
For you, as CIO, the benefits of an application platform that offers built-in BI include not just happier, more efficient employees and better business outcomes but also rapid time to value, a roadmap from the datacenter to the cloud, and the ability to run mission-critical applications.
What do we mean by rapid time to value? Well, consider this: with the Microsoft Application Platform, you achieve collaboration across the business and you attain common insights across the company. What's more, you have contextual business intelligence embedded right within the workflows, you create scorecards that drive actions, and you provide enterprise search for content and insights-all of which add up to a rapid ROI.
Furthermore, the Microsoft Application Platform offers a complete platform that spans the desktop, datacenter, and the cloud, providing attractive choice and flexibility. You can reap the benefits of uniform IT management and developer productivity, a dual-purpose collaboration platform for information workers and business intelligence, a singular developer experience across all types of content, and even design alerts that point to best practices.
Finally, you get the all-important assurance that your mission-critical operations are being handled by an interoperable system of trusted, scalable, and security enhanced components. This highly compatible set of tools and technologies supports critical business applications with management dashboards to provide IT visibility, a resource governor that helps ensure high performance, and policy-based management that drives a consistent experience.
Let's take a look at how one midsized company is using the Microsoft Application Platform to run its business more effectively. Edgenet is an Atlanta-based data services company with about 200 employees. Its Edgenet Network collects and shares information from thousands of sources, helping clients-including retailers, distributors, and media corporations-sell their products.
Looking to provide real-time analysis of customer behavior both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, Edgenet ran smack into the constraints imposed by the sequence of collecting, storing, and then analyzing large volumes of data. "One of the challenges we faced was the large volume of data that we would be collecting," says Charles Heinzelman, Senior Database Administrator at Edgenet. "We needed to work with data from multiple sources, turn it into a structured format, and ensure timely availability."
Faced with this burgeoning data stream, the company decided in 2009 to commit to the Microsoft Application Platform by adopting SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise running on the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise operating system. The company immediately activated the solution's change data capture and table partitioning features, which help it track changes and manage large tables more efficiently. It is also using utility control points to view performance information from more than 100 SQL Server instances across Edgenet. By using SQL Server 2008 R2, Edgenet expects to respond to incoming information better and faster. The company is also easing data management and server administration with new tools.
By taking advantage of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 StreamInsight, a complex event processing technology, the company will be able to immediately monitor, analyze, and act on both streaming and stored data. "With our current solution, we're about one hour delayed from a real-time response to incoming events," says Christopher Barwick, Enterprise Data Analytics-Team Lead at Edgenet. "But with SQL Server 2008 R2 StreamInsight, we expect to cut that time to seconds."
In addition, adoption of the Microsoft Application Platform has simplified IT administration, streamlining the management of multiple servers. Heinzelman notes that the SQL Server 2008 R2 utility control point feature "provides a single source of truth for our environment" that can also be integrated with other performance monitoring features, such as data collectors that gather system configuration information. Adds Barwick, "The fact that such tools exist out of the box with SQL Server 2008 R2 saves us a lot of time and money."
Want to learn more about the Microsoft Application Platform and how it can help your company? Then check out the resources here.