Microsoft Operations Framework

[This is pre-release documentation and subject to change in future releases. This topic's current status is: Writing Not Started.]

Applies to: Exchange Server 2010 Beta

The Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) is a collection of process best practices from which you can design the procedures, controls, and roles required for the efficient operation of your IT infrastructure. MOF is based on the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and it adds specificity for the Microsoft platform.

MOF and Exchange 2007

It is important to understand the connection between sound operational practices and procedures and a healthy Microsoft Exchange Server 2007  infrastructure. Well-documented, thorough operational processes and procedures help make sure that all components in an organization's environment on which Exchange relies are managed efficiently and effectively. 

Changes to components of an organization's infrastructure on which Exchange relies can result in an unexpected outage. Examples of this include network changes such as firmware updates to routers and firewall rules changes. Changes to these areas could happen without the involvement of the organization's Exchange team. By using MOF-based processes to help make sure that there is documentation of these service interdependencies, an organization can help minimize the possibility for preventable outages and reduce the impact of scheduled changes.

The MOF Process Model

MOF provides guidelines about how to plan, deploy, and maintain IT operational processes in support of mission-critical service solutions. MOF is a generic model so you must adapt many of the recommendations for use in your company. When you see references to “roles” in the MOF model, understand that a single person may be assigned many roles, especially in small companies. However, even if you represent the whole IT department, the procedures and recommendations in this model are generally applicable.

MOF is a structured and flexible model that is based on:

  • Microsoft consulting and support teams and their experiences working with enterprise customers and partners, as well as internal IT operations groups at Microsoft.
  • The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL), which describes the processes and best practices required for the delivery of mission-critical service solutions.
  • ISO/IEC 15504 from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which provides a normalized approach to assessing software process maturity.

MOF provides recommendations for deployments of various Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

For detailed information about the Microsoft Operations Framework, see Microsoft Operations Framework. For more information about ITIL and ISO, see and

MOF complements and integrates with the Microsoft Solutions Framework (MSF). MSF is a disciplined approach to managing technology projects based on Microsoft internal practices, the experiences of Microsoft Product Support Services in working with customers and partners, and industry best practices in software development and project management. MSF is a deployment approach for the design and implementation of IT systems (for example, a migration project to move from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server 2007), whereas MOF addresses the daily management of a system or environment, such as an Exchange Server 2007 organization.

Components of the MOF Process Model

The MOF process model is composed of quadrants, operations management reviews, and service management reviews. Figure 1 shows how the MOF cycle works.

Figure 1    Microsoft Operations Framework cycle
Microsoft Operations Framework Cycle

From the figure, you can see how the MOF process model moves clockwise and is organized into four integrated quadrants, as follows:

  • Changing
  • Operating
  • Supporting
  • Optimizing

These quadrants form a spiral life cycle that applies to IT operations from a specific application to a complete operations environment with multiple data centers. The process model is supported by service management functions (SMFs) and an integrated team model and risk model. Each quadrant is supported by a corresponding operations management review (also known as review milestone), during which the effectiveness of that quadrant's SMFs are assessed. You should understand that although the model describes the MOF quadrants sequentially, activities from all quadrants can occur at the same time.

Briefly, the quadrants cover the following activities:

  • **Changing   **A change is planned and tested during the changing phase. After a Release Readiness Review, the change is rolled out to the production environment and enters the operating phase. The Release Readiness Review should not be the first time the release is evaluated; it should be a final review milestone before the actual deployment. Using SMFs provides a process and task road and guarantees a successful deployment and rollout for managed releases.
  • Operating   The goal of an Operations Review is to provide the processes, procedures, and tools that make supporting the system as simple and efficient as possible. Think of the SMFs in this quadrant as the typical data center activities, such as system administration, monitoring, and batch processing. These activities guarantee the smooth and predictable operation of the release.
  • **Supporting   **The supporting phase is the process of maintaining the system, using these tools and procedures. This quadrant contains the main SMFs required to provide ongoing support to the users of the IT service solutions. As with any process, system, application, or service, problems can start when operations start. The support and operations staff must identify, assign, and resolve problems quickly to meet the requirements set forth in the service level agreements (SLAs). The SLA Review is a measurement of how effectively the system is performing. Issues that come out of the SLA Review may highlight areas where improvements are required.
  • **Optimizing   **The mission of service for this quadrant is to reduce costs while maintaining or improving service levels. An improvement to the system might require a change to hardware, software, or procedures. The Release Approved Review evaluates the proposals for change, accounting for items like costs, risks, and benefits. Approved changes are fed into the changing quadrant and the process starts over. This iterative process typically occurs naturally as the various teams gradually introduce changes to the system to achieve improvements.

The MOF framework formally describes the steps involved in this improvement cycle, assigning responsibilities for each step and enabling the whole process to be managed. At the end of each phase, there is a review point. With a large IT department, this is likely to be a review meeting between the people or teams involved, such as release management, operations, and security. In a smaller company, review points are possibly only a checkpoint that indicated you are ready to proceed. Figure 2 shows the relationship between MOF and MSF.

Figure 2   Relationship between MOF and MSF
Relationship between MOF and MSF

The MSF process can help you develop a solution in response to a business need such as the requirement to consolidate server resources. In this case, the solution may outline how to deploy powerful mailbox servers that are running Exchange Server 2007. After the solution is deployed, the design and deployment team hands the environment to the teams described in the MOF model. These teams manage the daily operations, and provide feedback about requirements or suggestions for change to the design team. Again, this is an iterative process that you can use to refine and continuously improve your solution.

Service Management Functions

Service management functions (SMFs) are the roles of people or teams in the organization, such as support professional or system administration. The SMFs represent the foundation of the MOF process model. Although SMFs are cross-functional and cross-quadrant, the primary role of an SMF applies to a specific stage in the quadrant. For example, system administration is part of the operating quadrant, and release management is part of the changing quadrant. SMFs and the MOF quadrant of the cycle that each SMF applies to are discussed in detail in this section. The IT department of your company may comply with these roles and quadrants. Figure 3 shows these service management functions within the MOF cycle.

Figure 3   Service management functions in MOF
Service management functions in MOF

  • Changing   The processes in this quadrant address the introduction of new solutions, technologies, systems, applications, hardware, and processes in the environment. This includes:
    • Change management   Involves managing developing, testing, and rolling out changes to the production environment. A key goal of the change management process is to identify and provide detailed information to everyone who will be affected by the impending change.
    • Configuration management   Involves identifying, documenting, and tracking components of the environment and the relationships between them. Configuration management is also responsible for maintaining the definitive software library (DSL) which houses the master copies of all the software deployed in the IT environment.
    • Release management   Involves releasing new software, hardware, and process releases into the production and managed preproduction environment. Release management considers all aspects of a release, whether technical or non-technical. Make sure that releases are well defined, maintained, and scheduled for each IT service.
  • Operating   The processes in this quadrant revolve around effective and efficient execution of day-to-day tasks.
    • System Administration   Involves maintaining the messaging systems and coordinating the IT teams.
    • Security Administration   Involves maintaining a safe and secure computing environment.
    • Directory Services Administration   Involves managing user accounts, organizational units, and other Active Directory directory service objects. Directory Services Administration focuses on daily operations, maintenance, and support of the organization.
    • Network Administration   Involves maintaining the physical network infrastructure, such as servers, routers, and firewalls, to make sure that messaging systems can communicate with each other.
    • Service Monitoring and Control   Involves monitoring system performance to ensure that daily operations are compliant with SLAs.
    • Storage Management   Involves maintaining the data repositories in your messaging organization to ensure the availability of data. This includes backup and capacity planning.
    • Job Scheduling   Involves scheduling maintenance jobs during off-peak hours (for example, backups and batch processes), considering the available capacity.
  • Supporting   The processes in this quadrant revolve around the resolution of incidents, problems, and inquiries.
    • Service Desk   Provides guidance about setting up and running the organizational unit or department that is the single point of contact between the users and the provider of IT services. Service Desk organizes the activities and customer communications about incidents, problems, and inquiries related to production systems.
    • Incident Management   Involves managing the process of resolving any fault or disruption to the production system, including escalation to and communication with other SMFs.
    • Problem Management   Focuses on structuring the escalation process of investigation, diagnosis, resolution, and closure of problems.
  • Optimizing   Focuses on changes to optimize performance or capacity, increase availability, or decrease costs in the delivery of IT services.
    • Service Level Management   Involves monitoring the performance of the IT department and periodically reviewing its compliance with SLAs.
    • Financial Management   Involves justifying required changes and other expenditures in terms of cost versus benefit. For example, the cost of hiring additional user helpdesk staff versus the benefits of a reduced waiting time for support calls.
    • Capacity Management   Involves monitoring the capacity of your messaging systems to ensure compliance with performance measures defined in SLAs.
    • Availability Management   Involves managing, monitoring, and reporting the availability, reliability, and maintainability of your messaging systems.
    • Workforce Management   Involves providing best practices and assessing staff requirements, developing skills and positive team attitudes, and transferring knowledge.
    • Security Management   Defines and communicates the organization's security plans, policies, guidelines, and relevant regulations defined by the associated external industry or government agencies.
    • Infrastructure Management   Ensures coordination of infrastructure development efforts, translating strategic technology initiatives to functional IT environmental elements, managing the technical plans for IT engineering, hardware, and enterprise architecture projects, and ensuring that quality tools and technologies are delivered.

MOF Team Model Roles

The MOF Process Model and MOF Team Model are the core models that define the Microsoft Operations Framework. The MOF Team Model provides guidelines for organizing teams and the functions and competencies of each role cluster. The role clusters in the Team Model work with the SMFs of the Process Model. The Team Model role clusters enable the SMF processes to be followed.

The MOF Team Model also suggests combinations of functions that should be kept separate. For example, the team that tests a change before it is released to the production environment should be separate from the team that developed the change. This can be critical to ensuring that changes to your Exchange environment are effectively tested in a lab environment that mimics your production environment as closely as practicable, to ensure that any unforeseen impact that may result from implementing the change is identified and mitigated, before the change is implemented in your production environment. Examples of this include, but are not limited to, installation of hardware firmware updates, application hotfixes, and service packs.

For more information about the MOF Team Model, see MOF Team Model for Operations.