A. When you're thinking about any OS deployment or virtualization consolidation, one of the first things you do is perform discovery. You need to understand your current environment—its hardware, software, and the utilization (which is very important when consolidating physical instances to virtual instances on a smaller number of physical boxes).

Microsoft provides the MAP toolkit to discover information about your environment using information from Active Directory, the network, or manually entered server names and then discovers information from them using Windows Management Instrumentation and Remote Registry, without having to install any agents.

Once the machines are discovered, you run an initial collection that gathers data about the machines, including their hardware, applications installed, and OS. You can use this information for several base reports, including:

  • Windows 7 Readiness
  • Windows Vista Readiness
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Readiness
  • Windows Server 2008 Readiness
  • Virtual Machine Discovery
  • Windows Server Roles Discovery
  • Microsoft SQL Server Discovery

These reports may be all you need if you just want to see how many of your machines could run Windows 7 based on their hardware. Other times, you need performance data.

You can take the next step and gather performance data from all or some of your machines, data that's vital if you're looking to virtualize workloads, because you need to understand the utilization your machines to understand the optimal consolidation design. You can configure how long to perform Performance Metric gathering. The longer the collection, the more confident you can be in your results. At minimum, you need to ensure your collection covers the peak times for usage of the environment.

Once you have the metric data, you can run reports of our performance data and run a server consolidation wizard. This wizard lets you configure specifications for target virtual servers and then calculates the optimal virtual machine placement based on the utilization information gathered. It produces an executive summary in a Word file, gives a detailed breakdown of the consolidation in an Excel workbook, and provides an XML file summarizing your number of servers before and after consolidation. You can feed the XML file into the online ROI tool for Hyper-V.

Below is an example summary based on the performance data gathered over a one-week period, and its consolidation recommendations. Note that it's going from 508 physical boxes to 65 running Hyper-V. I'll have a lot of spare servers to donate somewhere Smile.

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit

I've used the tool at a number of locations and while the interface takes a little getting used to, it does a great job and gathers the critical information you need to make the right decisions.

The MAP can be downloaded from TechNet and requires Office 2007 to be installed on your machine.