Microsoft is planning to ship assessment tools for IT shops so they can get their networks in order before the launch of Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1.

The tools, due out by the end of February are aimed at easing IT organisatons' migrations to the new products.

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Solution Accelerator is designed to help IT shops take an inventory of their network, assess the readiness of their infrastructure for a migration and generate reports and recommendations.

The tool is for users planning migrations to Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Microsoft Virtualisation technologies (Virtual Server 2005 R2 and the forthcoming Hyper-V), and Microsoft Application Virtualisation (formerly SoftGrid).

Baldwin Ng, of the Microsoft assessment and planning team wrote in a 26 January posting on the MAP blog that the assessment tool would be released on the Web in approximately four weeks. A beta programme is already under way.

Microsoft is planning a launch event 27 February in Los Angeles and is likely to release both Windows Server 2008 and Vista SP1 close to that event.

Vista SP1 typically is a milestone that many corporate users wait for before planning migrations. Vista and Windows Server 2008 work in tandem on a handful of new features, including Network Access Protection (NAP).

Vista SP1 will include a number of bug fixes and performance enhancements but no new features, Microsoft said.

Microsoft also is updating other Vista migration tools, including the Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.0, and Microsoft User State Migration Tools (USMT) 3.0.

Uptake of Vista by corporate users has been slow. Many enterprises have standardised on XP and are reluctant to undertake another migration.

Over the past two years, Microsoft has launched five versions of its migration assessment platform starting with the Assessment and Planning Solution and concluding with the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment tool (WVHA). Each one has built on the other and WVHA will be folded into MAP this time around.

MAP will allow IT executives to discover how many servers and desktops they have, which ones are ready to migrate to Windows Server 2008 with little modification, which desktops can move to Vista SP1 with minimal investment and which servers are candidates for consolidation via virtualisation.

MAP does not require agents to be installed on each node and can inventory up to 100,000 computers, according to Microsoft. The hardware assessment tool analyses specific hardware and device compatibility based on requirements published by Microsoft.

The tools can discover and collect data from computers and devices on networks that support Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP).