Introducing the Microsoft Product Line Architecture

Welcome to the Product Line Architecture Team (PLA) blog.

The team is incredibly excited to release this site which will serve as the public interface for core technical guidance, general availability and various other bits of information along the way. This initial post is designed to provide background information, context and shed some light on common questions we have received during the early release period. Subsequent posts from the team will be more technology oriented with an in-depth focus on key principles as well as provide informational updates.

The next post in this series will focus on the SharePoint 2013 PLA and what makes it tick like a fine Swiss watch.


Over the years, we have developed hundreds of incredible products and technologies starting with the early days of Windows through today with Office 365. We have also had teams across the company helping customers of all shapes and sizes deploy, support and use each of these technologies on a daily basis. As you can imagine, we gained a significant amount of knowledge through these efforts, but we seem to always hear one common theme – "How would Microsoft deploy this technology?" or "how would Microsoft do it?" It was from this simple question that the PLA was born.

The PLA is designed from its core to help address this fundamental question by combing the collective knowledge of Microsoft Products Groups, Services and Support Organizations in a consistent, repeatable and cost-effective manner.

The following Productivity based technologies are available for customers today in CTP release format through Microsoft Services:

  • SharePoint 2013 CTP
  • Exchange 2013 CTP
  • Lync 2013 CTP


What exactly is a PLA

The PLA at its most fundamental level is a prescriptive, well-defined architecture that provides variability through boundaries that are provided in the form of rules or constraints. It is built with an underlying framework in mind and takes a "configure first" versus customize approach to ensure deployments are consistent, repeatable and supportable. Think of it as a "directed-design" that encapsulates the collective Microsoft knowledge into a format that delivery teams can leverage to reduce the complexity and increase the delivery quality.

The Framework

Each PLA starts with a fundamental premise – it must provide a service. Therefore, it must start with a Service Description similar to those found in Office 365. The Service Description is key to the concept because it outlines the services that will be provided versus just installing a product such as SharePoint and making everything under the sun available even when not used. Once the services have been identified, the constraints or rules are defined that are required to deliver the service based on a pre-determined level of service. Each individual team is responsible for documenting the levels of service that can be expected through implementing the PLA. For example, the Productivity PLAs are aligned with the availability target of Office 365 which is 99.9%.

A PLA should consist of the following elements:

  • Service Description
  • Service Level Target
  • Service Definition Rules
  • Functional Specification
  • Operational Guidance
  • Automation (levels of automation will vary with PLA maturity and future release strategies)
  • Validation
  • Solution Alignment Workshop (SAW)

Additionally, a PLA must undergo a stringent review process from the design to release in order to be classified as a "PLA". In fact, an advisory board has been established within Microsoft to oversee and ensure the technical feasibility, quality and alignment are held to a higher standard.

All of this combined results in a pre-defined architecture that is manageable, consistent and repeatable versus the traditional approach of custom implementations.

The PLA Process

The process starts with a Microsoft qualified Architect meeting with a customer to walk through a Solution Alignment Workshop which helps determine whether the PLA is the right "fit". The workshop is geared towards helping identify any gaps or challenging areas that might impact a successful PLA deployment. If any of these items are identified then a remediation plan is developed and scoped into the project. It is also important to note that since the PLA already defines the requirements, the deployment time and project length is significantly reduced. This allows customers to quickly shift the focus from months of implementing a technology to responding to "real" business challenges with solutions.

Benefits of the PLA

The following is a list of benefits that seem to resonate most with customers when we speak about the adopting the PLA approach.

  • Aligned with the Microsoft cloud strategy such as Office 365 enabling Hybrid and Cloud migrations
  • Reduce deployment costs, administrative overhead, risks and complexities
  • Improved availability of solution (technical design targets 99.9% Service Level Target for Productivity PLAs)
  • Organizations can focus on empowering users and delivering business value via solutions such as Social versus keeping the infrastructure "lights on"
  • Efficiently deploy the infrastructure while maximizing uptime, minimizing failures and downtime
  • Introduces predictability into the deployment though measurable components such as scale and performance
  • Accelerated time-to-market and project delivery


How to obtain the PLA

Each of the PLAs listed above are available today through engaging with Microsoft Services directly. During the engagement, Microsoft Services will provide the implementation of the PLA accompanied with documentation and automation mechanisms.

Common Questions about the PLA

Question : Is the PLA currently available to Partners to deliver directly to customers without the assistance of Microsoft.
Answer: Unfortunately, not at this time. However, Partners can engage with Microsoft Services to work together in order to deliver the PLA for customers. More details will be provided through this blog as it becomes available.

Question: What products is the PLA available for today?
Answer: SharePoint 2013, Exchange 2013 and Lync 2013

Question: Is a Solution Alignment Workshop (SAW) required for the PLA?
Answer: Yes. The workshop is required to ensure each customer understands the concept, service description being provided and core fundamentals of the PLA. Additionally, an assessment of core infrastructure is performed to ensure the PLA is a "fit" and determine what remediation steps might be required in order to implement successfully.

Question: How much does the PLA cost?
Answer: Pricing for the PLA will vary by geography and technology so please reach out to your local Microsoft Services representative for more details on specific pricing.

Question: Is the PLA available outside the US?
Answer: Yes, absolutely. The PLA is available worldwide and we have trained resources in the field prepared to discuss and deliver on the technology.

Question: Are additional PLAs being developed?
Answer: Yes. Additional PLAs are under development in areas such as Dynamics CRM.

Question: Can the PLA be used by hosting companies that are planning to offer hosted private clouds of Lync, Exchange and SharePoint?
Answer: PLAs are considered core infrastructure accelerators and solution enablers. They are designed and built on the core principles we use for our own O365 Service offerings (or as close to them as possible) given certain constraints. The PLAs do not provide hosting capabilities themselves but, can be viewed as foundational and are always delivered in conjunction with Microsoft Services. Please keep in mind that hosting providers deploying the PLA may require additional functionality or add-ons that are not core to the PLA. Additionally, in the near future we will be introducing a set of IaaS based PLAs that will focus on helping rationalize some key infrastructure elements. However, please be aware that they PLAs are not designed to compete with O365 in any way shape or form and multi-tenancy is not supported. Multiple individual stamps of the same technology is fine but not multi-tenancy.

For additional information or specific questions, please reach out to the PLA Team at

Thanks – The PLA team