Monday, November 28, 2011

Alternative to Project Server 2010 Playbook utility - looking for beta testers


Over last 2 years our company participated in over 50 Project Server 2010 implementation projects (small and big ones, clear deployments, upgrades and PWA instances merge) via partners and directly. There are 2 possible hosting scenarios - on-premise and hosted; but there is always a problem no matter where your are hosted: How to migrate configuration from one development environment (at customer or at your development / staging servers) to the test servers and then to the production servers and to make sure that everything is moved correctly.

Microsoft provides a really great and FREE utility - Playbook for Project Server 2010 (included into Project Server 2010 Resource Kit), that allows to do such migrations (backup and restore configurations). There are some issues - first of all warnings on use of Playbook on production environments and secondly - in more than 50% of cases we've used the Playbook we've experienced  errors and exceptions and crashes of different kind when restoring configurations.

To optimize our deployment experience and time we spend on deployment, we've developed alternative to Playbook - FluentBooks, that supports more granular selection of items for migration and migrates items that we had most of the issues with - Fields, Lookups, Views, EPTs and PDPs. We've used it in-house for last 6 month to perform most of our deployments and decided to release it as product for other companies.
Our experience shows that use of FluentBooks allows to optimize process and cut time spent by consultants and PPM partners for configuration migrations between servers (we estimate savings over  hundred of hours for "busy" Project Server 2010 consultant within 2-3 years period) and will remove significant amount of "pain" associated with those migrations and deployments.

Quick overview of our FluentBooks functionality:
  • FluentBooks support migration of Custom Fields, Lookup Tables, Views, EPTs and PDPs between Project Server 2010 environments the same way as Playbook does but we allow user to select elements that he wants to migrate (not just custom fields)
  • FluentBooks is build with using PSI calls only, no database read / write operation.
  • FluentBooks provides functionality for comparison of environments for difference - for example Dev and Test and you can visually see the difference and generate difference configuration.
  • One great features that users can benefit from is migration of data and projects from external sources (Excel, SharePoint lists) -  FluentBooks support migration of projects (without schedules) with attributes from one environment to another (all projects with all values in project level custom fields).
  • FluentBooks support import of project information with attributes and fields from Excel; it will create enterprise custom fields and lookup tables as well. It means that you can import projects from/to EPM Live, ATTask and other systems
  • FluentBooks implements 2 level of validation of elements - same element UID or just same Name (in addition to other matching attributes to element)
  • You do not need to deploy solutions remotely anymore - send a free version of utility and configuration to customer and they can deploy configuration without your participation
  • FluentBooks work over internet (if Project Server 2010 is available via HTTP); Only NTLM authentication is supported as well as Kerberos authentication.
  • FluentBooks will be licensed per user and will be tied to machine.
  • Migration of Security Settings, Workflows, Timesheet / Tasks settings and other settings are not supported at this version (we plan to add Security Configuration and resource migration later functionality later but we will not replicate 100% of Playbooks functionality).
  • FluentBooks is not replacing process of creation of configuration, development and customization in Project Server 2010 PWA via Server Settings - it helps to move and deploy configurations and data.
Possible usage scenarios:

  • Migrate configuration from development server to test server (Project Server 2010 PWA)
  • Compare 2 PWAs
  • Merge configurations of 2 PWA
  • Migrate projects and project information (without schedules) between PWA
  • Import and export projects from Excel or from SharePoint list to PWA


We've done the internal testing and  Beta 1 testing with our partners - limited number of Microsoft PPM partners. Right now we are looking for about 10 more companies / consultants to participate in Beta 2 testing. Every company / consultant  selected to participate will receive one free license of the software for use after commercial release (we plan to release FluentBooks end of December 2011).

Please leave your comment on this blog post with your company name and email and we will contact you on your participation in Beta 2 testing.

9 comments:

  1. BHS
    andre.xavier@bhs.com.br
    We are PPM gold partner here in Brazil.

    ReplyDelete
  2. CPS (Corporate Project Solutions)
    Lester.Lovelock@CPS.co.uk

    Gold partner for PPM and Portals and Collaboration in the UK.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sogeti USA
    Jeff.Almloff@us.sogeti.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pcubed (Program Planning Professionals)
    Byron.Garbutt@Pcubed.com

    Global Gold EPM Partner

    ReplyDelete
  5. Springhouse
    nalcott@springhouse.com

    Gold PPM Partner

    ReplyDelete