Over the past few years, one of the tools that I’ve been recommending highly is MAP, and now MAP 8.0 has been released and is ready for mass consumption. While I would normally shy away from recommending beta versions of software in a production environment, MAP is one of those tools that I think I think is an exception.

There are a few reasons for this, firstly it means you have the chance to provide feedback on something that will help shape future deployments for yourself and others. Secondly, as you are using it for information gathering purposes, it’s not going to be as potentially disruptive as a service pack or operating system beta, for example. Third, but far from the final reason, is that it allows you to plan further out even if you aren’t going to be deploying the technologies it is targeting any time soon.

What do I mean by that third point? Let’s take a look at the main new features and benefits of MAP 8.0, and explore how MAP benefits some of them.

Windows Server 2012 readiness
Windows 8 readiness
Office 2013 readiness
Office 365 readiness
Windows Azure Virtual Machine migration
Track Lync Enterprise/Plus users

A recent project I was involved with was the migration of a multitude of Windows Servers on aging hardware platforms, previous versions of Hyper-V and VMWare. This organisation didn’t have a great inventory of their existing environment, which is now being addressed, but MAP exposed enough information to allow the planning of the high availability Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V cluster, including insight into the memory requirements for the servers. It’s a great experience when you can see that maxing out the memory on the Hyper-V servers isn’t just something that is desirable, but also highly affordable and has a strong business case to support it.

While Windows 8 isn’t on the radar of many customers at this point, it will inevitably work its way into many organisations due to some of the new laptops, tablets and convertible devices that are entering the market. I’ve already encountered one IT department that asked if they could load Windows 7 onto their brand new Lenovo Twist purchases, to which the answer should be a resounding “no”! With Windows 7 deployments still being fresh in the minds of many IT departments, MAP will highlight that from a software and hardware perspective there won’t be too many surprises.

With the upcoming branding of Office 2013 and Office 365 seeming to become interchangeable in some scenarios, potentially leading to some confusion in the marketplace, MAP will help paint a clearer picture of potential issues that may be seen during client and server migrations to new on premise and hosted versions. The move to Office 2013 on the desktop from Office 2010 should be fairly painless for users from an interface perspective, in fact most of the concerns I’ve had about the new version is about the colour scheme and contrast as opposed to differences in the layout or functionality. The ribbon UI has matured from what we first saw in Office 2007, and I just don’t hear requests to bring back the old menu system like was heard in the Office 2007 timeframe. I wonder if this can be extrapolated to mean that people will stop asking for a Start menu by the Windows 10 timeframe? One can only hope!

The more forward thinking elements here is the Azure VM migration component of MAP. Working for an organisation that is primarily focused on Microsoft online services, the changes taking place within Azure are things we openly embrace. We are finding more and more scenarios where a hosted server of some description is required, as hybrid scenarios can often provide scenarios that provide the best of the online world while retaining some on-premise capabilities that can’t be duplicated without some type of infrastructure.

That’s a bit more than I was planning on writing for what was supposed to be a news announcement, but it’s worth getting the message out wide on MAP because I find that too many Microsoft partners and customers don’t know about the product, or do know about it, but have never gotten around to using it.

So, don’t delay, grab it now!

Download MAP 8.0