Getting your head around the "concept" of Opalis – it's about "building blocks"

I think it's easy to get intimidated by Opalis if you don't know what it is. You hear the term "workflows" or "runbooks" and you envision some really complex tool that's like software development. You envision having to spend several weeks in training so you can understand how to build these things and put them into action. However, I hear customers, partners and Microsoft-internal folks all the time saying how quickly they were able to ramp up and start creating workflows (useful workflows) within hours – not days or weeks. The thing is that you don't have to start with the perfect workflow and then avoid changing it once it's activated. It's just the opposite. Workflows grow over time. You start with a basic idea of what you want to do, then you build on it as you discover you need additional things – logging, error handling, different condition branching, and so on. Like fine wine, Opalis workflows get better with age.

I was looking through the newspaper last weekend and saw all the stores with their Christmas toy advertising when it hit me - there's really no better analogy to Opalis workflows and objects than LEGO® building blocks. Think about it…here are some points about LEGOs – see how they relate to Opalis:

  • You can use LEGOs whether you've just purchased your first box or you've been playing with them your whole life. The basic blocks all fit together the same way no matter how experienced you are with them - your experience level only determines what kinds of end products you can create

  • Most everyone starts with a basic set of blocks, and with those you can do basic things or you can create masterpieces

  • Using add-on kits you can build more specialized things that you couldn't with the basic blocks. The specialized things fit together with the basic blocks to allow you flexibility in your design, but they are not general-purpose blocks. For example, airplane wings on a castle might not make sense.

  • Over time, you gain expertise and acquire more and more basic blocks, kits, and probably even fashion your own blocks. You build small things that become part of larger things, until you end up having a collection of objects you've put together into potentially town-sized creations

    (Model of Trafalgar Square in London, as seen in LEGOLAND Windsor – Copyright © 2003 by Kaihsu Tai)

You see, Opalis is entirely like LEGOs! You start out with the base product which gives you a whole bunch of basic, general-purpose objects. With these objects you can create all sorts of interesting workflows, from simple to advanced. You can add on Integration Packs that give you new specialized objects for use with things like System Center products, third-party management platforms, and even other operating systems. And, you can even create your own objects to fit custom scenarios or do specific work. Even though the objects work differently behind the scenes, with different inputs and outputs, they still all fit together the same way.

So those of you who are still trying to decide whether to try out Opalis or not, just picture a box of LEGOs. Open the box, dump them out on the floor and just start putting them together and see what you can create!