At its annual Inspire conference this year, Microsoft formally announced that development for MAP Toolkit, a widely used inventory tool for Microsoft environments, will end. In its place Microsoft will focus on the new Azure Migrate product for companies looking to move on-premises workloads to public cloud. With so many customers still using MAP Toolkit, we want to explore what this new Azure Migrate tooling is and how it can replace MAP. We will also look at options for users who still need critical MAP functionality such as Software Usage Tracking.
What is MAP Toolkit?
Microsoft’s free MAP Toolkit is a popular starting point for IT professionals tasked with managing their Microsoft estates. In their 2019 Inspire announcement Microsoft reported that it’s downloaded 79,000 times per quarter. Its use of agentless scanning technology and delivery of reliable insight into key Microsoft technologies makes it an important building block for delivering value across a number of scenarios. These include;
- SQL Server Optimisation
- Exchange Licensing Assessment
- Client Access License (CAL) tracking/reporting
- Cloud readiness assessments
- Windows upgrade paths
- Software Usage Tracking
And it’s not just about Microsoft products – MAP Toolkit will provide a full software inventory for your estate and insight into common technologies such as VMWare virtualisation and Oracle Database.
Beyond being freely available, MAP toolkit benefits from being very easy to install and configure. A server isn’t required, and the wizard-based install means that potentially any end-user with the right credentials to scan their network could have it up and running in less than an hour.
MAP toolkit’s focus has always primarily been on Assessment and Planning rather than pure ITAM capabilities. As such, it finds willing users beyond the ITAM team – architects, business analysts, server teams and desktop teams can all benefit from what it offers. This is reflected in the upcoming transition to Azure Migrate as the core capabilities of that offering are primarily focused on non-ITAM professionals.
What has Microsoft announced?
Microsoft announced to their Partner Network in July 2019 that MAP will receive no further development. They recommend that partners and end users instead use Azure Migrate to provide the following services:
- Server assessment and migration from on-premises to Azure
- Database assessment and migration from on-premises to Azure
- Web application migration from on-premises to Azure
- Migration of on-premises Windows VDI estates to Windows Virtual Desktop in Azure
In addition to these high-level capabilities Azure Migrate provides insight into Azure VM sizing, cost estimates, and dependency mapping.
MAP toolkit will continue to provide planning services for Windows client/server operating system upgrades and software usage tracking. Importantly, this includes usage tracking capabilities which are important to ITAM professionals wishing to calculate CAL requirements in order to ensure license compliance and optimise renewals. In the Inspire presentation they confirmed that MAP Toolkit has funding for at least a further year – beyond that its future is uncertain.
How is Azure Migrate deployed?
Azure Migrate is provided as a lightweight appliance that’s deployed on-premises either as a virtual machine running in VMWare or Hyper-V, or as a physical machine. Deployment requires access to the organisation’s Azure portal and VMWare or Hyper-V infrastructure and thus will require involvement from your IT team. For smaller organisations its reliance on VMWare vCenter may also be an issue – as they may not use vCenter to manage their virtual estate. Similarly, for very large organisations the required 1:1 mapping between Azure Migrate and vCenter will require multiple instances of Azure Migrate to be configured, as large organisations will often have more than one vCenter instance.
Is Azure Migrate free?
Importantly, and in a change to the “forever free” status of MAP toolkit, certain components of Azure Migrate become chargeable after 180 days.
These include the Dependency Mapping component in Server Assessment, Server Migration, and Database Migration Service. Other scenarios and tools are permanently free. Technical Support is also available, chargeable on a monthly basis, and users can leverage additional capabilities from ISVs such as Turbonomic, Cloudamize, and Carbonite that will be chargeable. For more on pricing and restrictions see https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/details/azure-migrate/
The pricing approach suggests that Microsoft see Azure Migrate as a short-term product most useful to companies undertaking a “lift-and-shift” migration program, rather than managing a hybrid infrastructure. In this regard it makes sense although we doubt whether migration activities relying on services such as Dependency Visualisation & Database Migration will complete for large organisations within 6 months.
The key takeaway here is that if you sign up for Azure Migrate make sure you’re ready to go with your migration programme. Furthermore, set a checkpoint for 6 months out in order to avoid incurring any unexpected costs.
But we’re not migrating to Azure?
Microsoft’s key strategic objective is to move on-premises customers to Azure, and they see Azure Migrate as a key enabling technology in support of that objective. But what if you don’t want to (or can’t) move to Azure? What capabilities are you going to lose or start paying for?
First and foremost, let’s be clear that MAP toolkit isn’t going away in the short term. It’s no longer being developed but it is still being supported and Microsoft are directing customers who need capabilities not provided by Azure Migrate to continue to use MAP toolkit. The functionality you have today as a MAP Toolkit user will continue to be available to you and will therefore work as expected with your existing estate. But with no further development it is unlikely to support new versions of, for example, SQL Server & Windows Server. MAP toolkit users historically saw new releases on a quarterly basis, at least for the current 9.x version, but these ceased in November 2018. In part, those new releases provided updates necessary to support new versions of Microsoft software so with no further development it seems that MAP Toolkit will eventually become obsolete. That has an impact for ITAM teams using it to manage on-premises estates.
For ITAM teams, the key capabilities provided by MAP that aren’t included in Azure Migrate include software inventory & usage tracking. In particular, usage tracking is able to track user sessions per server/application, which is useful for tracking and estimating CAL requirements for Exchange, Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint, and RDS. CAL measurement is complex and mistakes have the potential to be a major and expensive source of license non-compliance, particularly for RDS & SQL Server.
For further details on the capabilities per product, please see the feature comparison below:
What’s the alternative to MAP Toolkit?
The end of development for MAP presents organisations relying on it for Microsoft estate management with a problem. There’s no longer a guarantee that the output it provides will be accurate. In time it’s reasonable to assume that Microsoft will retire it entirely. The announcement at Inspire mentioned that it has funding for another year – but beyond that, the future is uncertain.
MAP’s great strength lies in providing a wide variety of stakeholders (architects, business analysts, ITAM pros) with a sufficiently accurate picture of their Microsoft estate in order to enable informed decision making. This is backed up by its ease of deployment and use and the fact that it’s available for free. However, it has never provided coverage for some key non-Microsoft deployment scenarios such as Citrix, Apple Mac, Linux, and peripheral devices. Fundamentally it is a Discovery and Inventory tool for Microsoft estates enhanced with a suite of Microsoft-specific reports and so Discovery & Inventory applications is where your attention should turn if you’re looking for an alternative.
Discovery and Inventory is foundational to IT Management – and not just for ITAM professionals. Security teams, Infrastructure teams, and architects will all benefit from rich, accurate discovery and inventory data. If you’re a MAP user that isn’t ready to invest in a full ITAM suite then a dedicated discovery and inventory solution can make sense. Typically, these will be lower cost than a full ITAM suite and may well start to deliver value more rapidly, particularly those that leverage the same agentless technology as MAP Toolkit. With no agents to install, all that’s required to get up and running are the necessary admin credentials used every day by your server and desktop teams. There is still a big challenge in gathering the accurate and complete inventory that unlocks the full power of rich Discovery and Inventory data but applications such as Lansweeper and the others featured in our Inventory Tools Market Guide will enable you to deliver insights and value across a number of use cases such as;
Active Directory Audits: https://www.lansweeper.com/use-cases/active-directory-audit/
Network Management: https://www.lansweeper.com/use-cases/network-management-software/
Azure Migrate’s key differentiator from MAP Toolkit is the automation capability it provides. Whereas MAP Toolkit could be used to plan Azure migrations it wasn’t possible to action them. If you’re primarily focused on migrating your existing virtual environment to Azure, then clearly it should deliver value for you. However, for many organisations there is an ongoing need to maintain their on-premises estates, and large-scale public cloud migration is not on the table. For these organisations, particularly those running perpetually licensed versions of Microsoft server and application products, MAP toolkit will continue to provide some value.
It is important to note, however, that MAP toolkit is very much tailored to occasional use – for continuous discovery and inventory you need to look elsewhere. For organisations concerned about the future of MAP now that development has ceased, it is time to start looking for either a dedicated, standalone Discovery & Inventory tool or a full ITAM suite. By selecting the right tool to replace MAP you’ll benefit from new capabilities such as continuous discovery, history tracking & trending, and full estate coverage.