Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MS BI Infrastructure Architect - Developing readiness for the role and responsibilities

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Architect is a very appealing word to all the aspiring technical minds, but most people do not realize that architect is an adjective-free role. Have you ever heard terms like SSIS Architect, SSAS Architect, SSRS Architect, PPS Architect etc.. ? If yes, then I would say that Architect word has been loosely used instead of the term SME.

The first difference between developers and architects in my vision is the broadness of domain. Most developers would stick to a technology instead of a platform, whereas this ideology does not suit the JD for an architect. If you have the ideology that "I have worked with SQL Server for 5 - 8 yrs, I am good at T-SQL programming, SSIS, SSRS and have theoretical idea of DW. And if you ask me what is Sharepoint, .Net, Webservices, Cloud, Infrastructure, Data Modeling, etc.. this is not my domain.", I would stamp "Biased MS BI Developer" on your CV. Architect requires changing many hats like Technical Architect, Data Architect, Solution Architect etc, and being an Infrastructure Architect is one such hat. If you are an Architect, many a times you would find yourself in a role where you are the Infra Architect + Data Architect + Application Architect + Solution Architect, and you might be given few technology specific SMEs for consulting. I have been in such situations as I had experiences with all these individual roles as a tech lead through the course of my career. Whatever I am sharing is based on my experiences.

When a solution encompassing application development technologies and MS BI technologies are promoted from environment to environment i.e. from dev -> staging -> APT -> Prod, this requires infrastructure estimation, capacity planning, software configuration, server connection topology etc before the environments are built. If you think that to setup such environment, one can just procure servers, add memory and rig the systems, probably you must be setting up infrastructure for solutions of very modest size. If you are developing solutions for an enterprise class client, there is a high probability that there would be a Data Center with shared application environments where your solution would be hosted.

Here comes the first lesson as well as challenge for the Infra Architect. Virtualization is the SQL of Infrastructure capacity planning. You would have to deal with infrastructure teams, who would discuss, advise and challenge your estimations and talk about technologies like Hyper-V, VCPUs, RAM, Ports and Protocols. You might be using MS BI Stack, Sharepoint and .NET Stack, Microsoft System Center and each of these would have different connectivity and hardware requirements. At a minimum you should know what MS BI stack needs in terms of infrastructure design. Ideally in a virtualization environment, development servers run on 4 VCPU, 4 - 8 GB RAM and Production servers of modest size run on 8 VCPU and approx 16 GB RAM. If you are not aware of what is a core, vcpu, ports etc you should start developing an understanding of the same.

The next major challenge you would be faced with is memory capacity planning, this mostly depends upon data and load. Application Performance Testing environments would be setup to test performance, and you should learn how to interpret the results from those environments. Testing teams would be using Load Runner kind of tools to perform a load testing, and you would be getting regular reports containing performance counters, concurrent users, memory utilization, CPU utilization etc. This is second area where would act as your profiler.

The final major challenge is allocation right amount of memory for different aspects of the solution. For example, if you have SQL Server and MS BI technologies, you need to allocate memory for logs, backups, installation, data etc. Based on this calculation you need to estimate total memory requirements and also setup designs for hosting application environments on the planned infrastructure.

You would not be practically building servers and installing softwares. In an enterprise class IT environment, there are dedicated teams for the same, but the order to march forward comes from the architect of the solution and not the architect of infrastructure teams. So at the minimum you have to create a technical architecture diagrams from infra setup to communicate your design and estimation. Being in such a role is a challenge, and fortunately or unfortunately I have been in such role and had learned a lot from the same. I hope this post brings some vision to professionals prone to such challenges. If you need to borrow my experience, feel free to drop me an email.


Anonymous said...

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Siddharth Mehta said...

This blog is on blogspot, not wordpress.

Siddharth Mehta

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