Spinning Up Temporary Virtual WFE’s for Fun and Profit

I was one of 20 or 30 (or maybe 100?) panelists last night at the New York SharePoint Users Group meeting.  Instead of the usual presentation format, this was all about Q&A between the audience and the panel members.  Early on, Michael Lotter introduced me to a new idea and I wanted to share.

An audience member described how his company had paid a consultant to write an application for his company.  The consultant wrote it as a console application using the SharePoint object model.  As a result, this meant that the program had to be run on a server in the farm.  This meant that anyone that wanted to use the app would have to log onto the server, do the work and log off.  At first, this wasn’t a problem, but soon, more and more (non-technical) users needed to use the utility.  His question was (paraphrasing):

"What are my options?  I don’t want to keep letting users log directly onto the server, but they need that functionality."

Michael Lotter suggested that he configure a new virtual machine, join it to the farm as a WFE and let users run the application from there. 

This is a pretty stunning idea for me.  Generalizing this solution brings to mind the notion of essentially temporary, almost disposable WFE’s.  I think it’s a pretty neat concept.  This temporary WFE can run a console application that uses the SharePoint object model.  You could also use it to run stsadm commands.  It doesn’t have to be part of regular local balancing.  If it goes down or gets wrecked, you can just spin up a new one.  I repeat myself, but I just have to say that I think it’s a really neat idea.


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