Several groups at Emory University wanted to further their use of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and prepare for SharePoint Server 2010, but they weren’t sure how best to deal with their infrastructures. IT staff took advantage of the Microsoft Technology Center, where they worked with experts to establish best practices. Emory now has greater confidence, increased insight, and the ability to more efficiently conduct IT projects.
Originally chartered in 1836, Emory University is a private university in metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia. The university comprises four undergraduate divisions, nine graduate and professional schools, and 13 graduate programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Emory’s faculty, staff, and students work collaboratively for positive transformation in the world through leadership in teaching, research, scholarship, healthcare, and social action.
Working together requires the right technology tools to support communication and collaboration. Multiple groups within the university wanted to adopt Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as the basis for collaboration workspaces, document repositories, and intranet functionality, but they weren’t sure about the best way to configure their infrastructures.
||Like nearly all universities, our resources are limited and we have to choose wisely. Going to the MTC was an incredible investment of our time—the payback was immediate and very large.
Associate Dean, Emory University Goizueta Business School
Another group, Emory University Goizueta Business School, already used the product for student collaboration and for communication between faculty and students, but it wanted to validate its existing infrastructure, better understand its licensing options, and learn more about SharePoint Server 2010 technology and how the future product might affect current infrastructure decisions. For instance, the group was considering the virtualization of an instance of its Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, which is part of its collaboration solution. “We weren’t sure whether moving to a virtual instance would create performance issues or unnecessary downtime for our users, either now or when we upgrade to SharePoint Server 2010,” explains Nathaniel Poon, Senior Technical Product Manager for Emory University Goizueta Business School.Solution
After receiving an invitation from Microsoft, a team of Emory IT staffers who represented three groups at the university attended a one-day Architecture Design Session at the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) in Atlanta in April 2009. “We’d never heard of the MTC before,” recalls Denys Lu, Senior Desktop Consultant for Emory University Goizueta Business School. “But we found out that it wasn’t a sales pitch but rather a customer-centric facility where we could test ideas alongside experts who would help us build and validate our infrastructure.”
The team spent the first portion of the engagement in the MTC’s Envisioning Center, where MTC architects conducted a demonstration of the capabilities of Office SharePoint Server 2007, showing various facets of its functionality and the way it works closely with products such as Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007. “Going to the Envisioning Center was an eye-opening experience,” says Lu. “It was really helpful to see what optimal use of the product looked like and how all those technologies worked together in real-world scenarios. And because we were watching live people, as opposed to a video, we got to ask questions and have them answered then and there.”
Following the demonstration, the Emory groups discussed their various requirements for Office SharePoint Server 2007. They also asked the MTC architects for infrastructure-related recommendations, learned more about licensing, and brainstormed about potential usage and configurations. “We received not only guidance about our specific situation, but also best practices that the whole team could use to get the Emory groups headed in the right direction,” says Poon.
The MTC architects then showed the team a preview of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and shared details about the product’s functionality and overall look and feel. “We appreciated the chance to both validate our current setup and see what was coming so that we could properly prepare for it,” says Lu. For example, the business school group wanted to know whether to deploy an extra application server to handle requested functionality, such as the expanded use of Excel Services in Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, so that faculty could share spreadsheets with students without sharing the formulas behind the data.
“We learned that another application server would be a good idea because of the requirements of SharePoint Server 2010,” says Poon. “And we also were advised not to virtualize our SQL Server 2008 instance as we’d been planning to do. Those suggestions from MTC architects will really streamline our upgrade later this year.”Benefits
Several Emory University groups have moved forward with plans to deploy Office SharePoint Server 2007 using the knowledge that they gained as a guide. “Like nearly all universities, our resources are limited and we have to choose wisely. Going to the MTC was an incredible investment of our time—the payback was immediate and very large,” says Barbara Maaskant, Associate Dean of the Emory University Goizueta Business School. Benefits of the MTC engagement include:
Higher degree of confidence. Emory came away from its MTC experience with a greater comfort level with its technology choices. “Following the MTC visit, we were able to map out our strategy, feeling secure that we were making smart decisions for the future and that we weren’t wasting money on resources that we might not need,” says Maaskant.
Insight for more efficient projects. The university will be able to conduct a more effective upgrade project because of the knowledge that it gained at the MTC. “We can be more proactive in getting ready for the upgrade,” says Lu. “We know more about the memory, server, and database requirements and are prepared to meet them, so we’ll be able to avoid the downtime that we would have encountered if we’d gone ahead with projects like database virtualization.”
Greater internal collaboration. Since the MTC engagement, the university has formed the Emory SharePoint Users Group, which meets quarterly to share experiences and best practices. “Our MTC engagement helped get us talking. We’re collectively saving time and headaches because we can learn from each other’s mistakes and successes,” says Lu.
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