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Chapter 5: Release

Overview

Scenario...

Now that Woodgrove Bank has made the commitment to implement a new Desktop Management Service solution built on Windows Vista, Linda Mitchell, Desktop Configuration Administrator, needs to determine the optimal way to plan for and implement the OS deployment. Linda has a goal of increasing Woodgrove's return on investment (ROI) from the beginning by making this a very efficient deployment. Knowing that the best way to accomplish this is to design a well-planned project, test it, and then release it using industry best practices, she begins searching to see what's available.

When left unmanaged, the deployment of a new operating system can result in unexpected costs, poor performance, and general reliability issues. Many times, knowledge and documentation of current organizational desktop configurations is non-existent or inaccurate. This can increase the number of incidents and problems resulting from deploying to a desktop that is not ready to run Windows Vista.

Release Management encompasses the decision making, development, planning, testing, and eventual rollout of a change. Proper testing and design can both reduce costs and increase availability. The Release Role serves as the primary liaison between the project development team and the operations groups.

The Release Role incorporates three key MOF disciplines:

  • Change Management. The process of documenting, assessing the impact of, approving, scheduling, and reviewing changes in an IT environment.
  • Configuration Management. Identifying and documenting the components of the environment and the relationships between them.
  • Release Management. Facilitating the introduction of releases into managed IT environments and ensuring that all changes are deployed successfully.

This Release Role in the organization is primarily responsible for:

  • Managing the transition between development and test into production operations.
  • Planning rollout activities, procedures, and policies for repeatable practices.
  • Controlling configuration of standard desktop images and the definitive software library (DSL). The DSL is a secure storage repository, such as a filing cabinet or locked closet, where all versions of applications and licenses used in the IT environment are stored.
  • Conducting the Release Readiness Review and establishing go/no-go criteria for releases.

For more information on achieving total cost of ownership (TCO), see "Infrastructure Optimization for Windows Vista", a Microsoft-sponsored study performed by GCR Custom Research and available at http://download.microsoft.com/download/d/2/9/d2906b8a-38cf-4824-b698-3f55f6a079e4/PC_TCO_Best%20Practices.pdf.

For MOF best practice information around Change Management, Configuration Management, and Release Management, see MOF Changing Quadrant, available at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/solutionaccelerators/cits/mo/mof/mofchange.mspx.

Two areas of advancement in Windows Vista technology that directly aid in this area of deployment are Modularization and Windows Imaging Format. Combined, these technologies allow an organization to significantly reduce the number of different images that must be maintained to address differing language, hardware, and security requirements. By standardizing fewer images, an organization will reduce its overall support costs.

The functions of these advanced technologies include:

  • Modularization. Building the operating system from a series of separate but interdependent components designed to make it easier to customize Windows Vista.
  • Windows Imaging Format (WIM). A file-based imaging format that enables a single image to be deployed to multiple hardware platforms with various language requirements.

For more information on deployment technologies, see "Windows Vista Deployment Features and Improvements" at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windowsvista/aa905068.aspx.

Release Management Process

To assist customers in creating predictable and repeatable release activities, Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) has integrated roles and best practices processes into a set of Solution Accelerators that includes Business Desktop Deployment 2007 (BDD) and the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment.

The Microsoft Business Desktop Deployment guides organizations through every step to optimally deploy Windows Vista.

Figure 5.1. BDD project process and team guidance

BDD contains proven tools, templates, and MOF-based guidance that enables your organization to:

  • Develop a process-based approach to planning, building, and deploying your Windows Vista installation. For help with project planning, timelines, team roles, and other project management information, see the Plan, Build, and Deploy Guide of the BDD Solution Accelerator at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490150.aspx.
  • Set up and implement a testing solution that validates your desktop service objectives. For more information on the high-level test objectives, scope, practices, and testing methodologies, see "Test Feature Team Guide" at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490181.aspx.
  • Test applications for compatibility and mitigate identified issues. Application compatibility is a key factor in the long-term success of a deployment project. Whether the deployment project includes using new applications with the new operating system or using existing applications, the ability of users to log on after a deployment and continue their normal work is a critical goal. For more information on application compatibility as part of the larger desktop deployment project, see "Application Compatibility Feature Team Guide" at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/desktopdeployment/bdd/2007/AppCompact.mspx.
  • To set up an initial lab environment with deployment and imaging servers, see Computer Imaging System Feature Team Guide at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490181.aspx.
  • To customize and package applications to be deployed, see Application Management Feature Team Guide at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490278.aspx.
  • Ensure that the desktop is hardened to improve security within the environment.

Table 5.1. Mapping MOF Release Activities with Solutions, Tools, and Guidance

MOF Release Activity

Supporting Solutions, Tools, or Guidance

Planning

  • A software and hardware inventory to assist in planning
  • Project and team guidance
  • Checklist of features to be included in scope of design

Design and Build

  • Application compatibility
  • Computer imaging
  • Deployment Configuration Guide and samples
  • Configuration Monitoring Guide
  • Security Guide for Hardening

Acceptance Testing

  • Test guide including the building of a lab and criteria

Rollout Planning and Deployment

  • User State Migration Guide
  • Zero Touch Installation Guide
  • Volume License Activation
  • Lite Touch Installation Guide
  • Zero Touch Installation via System Center Configuration Manager (formerly SMS)

Operations Readiness

  • Desired Configuration Monitoring

For more information on using BDD 2007 to manage process and technologies to produce a comprehensive and integrated deployment solution, see "Microsoft Solution Accelerator for Business Desktop Deployment 2007" at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb490308.aspx.

For more information on using System Center Configuration Manager (SMS) to assist with inventory collection and Zero Touch installation, see http://www.microsoft.com/smserver/default.mspx.

For more information on using System Center Operations Manager (MOM) to assist with preparation for operational readiness, see http://www.microsoft.com/mom/default.mspx.

Scenario...

After completing her research, downloading and reading through BDD, and watching some of the available webcasts, Linda was in a much better position to lead her team in designing a thorough and efficient release plan. Using the tools included in BDD, she evaluated their existing hardware and application compatibility issues and determined what needed to be resolved before attempting the deployment. After submitting the necessary change requests to resolve the identified incompatibilities, Linda was able to build and test a solid image that included not only Windows Vista, but several of Woodgrove's core line-of-business (LOB) applications as well. The image was then deployed in a single coordinated push. Thanks to the included process guidance, her project team was reminded to provide both user and support team education prior to the release, thereby greatly reducing the incidence of support calls after the deployment. Neil and the IT group were very impressed with how smooth and easy she made it all look.

Windows Vista Hardware Assessment

Prior to release, it is important to inventory your environment and perform an assessment to determine if your existing computers are Windows Vista-ready. Microsoft provides the Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) Solution Accelerator to assist you with this effort. The Windows Vista Hardware Assessment (WVHA) tool performs three key functions:

  • Hardware inventory. WVHA includes the option to discover computers using Active Directory Domain Services or the Computer Browser service. Once the computers have been discovered, they are then inventoried using Windows Imaging Format (WIM).
  • Compatibility Analysis. The tool runs a readiness assessment and determines the following on each computer:
    • Whether the computer is Windows Vista-capable. This is a computer that, while able to run Windows Vista, will be unlikely to support Windows Vista Aero glass.
    • Whether the computer is Windows Vista Premium-ready. This is a computer that should run Windows Vista with high performance.
    • What hardware upgrades can be completed to improve the experience or make a computer Windows Vista-ready. The assessment includes specific hardware upgrades recommended for each computer.
    • Availability of drivers for all of the hardware devices discovered on the computer.
  • Readiness Reporting. After collecting information about the discovered computers on the network, the WVHA wizard compares the hardware and devices of each computer against the Windows Vista system requirements and compiles a report of the results. This report should be used for the following:
    • Services. Business review discussion regarding priorities and costs of upgrade.
    • Release plan. Prioritization of scheduling computers to be upgraded.
    • Support. Reports become part of the knowledge base used by the desktop support team.

For more information on WVHA, see "Windows Vista Hardware Assessment" at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/solutionaccelerators/hardwareassessment/wv/default.mspx.

Release Readiness Review

The Release Readiness Review ensures the readiness of the release for deployment and results in a go/no-go decision about whether to deploy the release. The review process ensures that the organization is prepared and in agreement about that readiness. The review considers the operability and supportability of the release itself as well as the readiness of the target production environment to support and operate the deployed release. All MOF Role team members should be present at this review in order to ensure release readiness from their perspectives.

Table 5.2. Mapping MOF Release Responsibilities with Sign-off Criteria

MOF Responsibility

Sign-off Criteria

Release

  • Has the quality bar of the desktop design and configuration been met? Has all testing been completed?
  • Have release notes from testing been captured in the knowledge base? Is the support team aware of these notes?
  • Have the images been versioned?
  • Are all images secured in the definitive software library (DSL)?
  • Has all user data been backed up?
  • Has rollback been tested on a sample set of desktops? Are results of testing documented?

Service Management

  • Does the desktop deployment meet the business requirements? Is full functionality available?
  • Does the business have a clear understanding of the timetable for release and its impact to business functionality?
  • Are business functions fully operable during the deployment? Will users be able use their systems during the deployment?

Infrastructure

  • Does the image being used meet the technical design criteria?
  • Are all computers targeted for deployment capable of running Windows Vista?
  • Are the broader IT infrastructure and supporting teams, such as Active Directory, DNS, and other relevant teams, prepared for any resulting stresses placed on IT by the deployment?

Operations

  • Has the operations team been trained on all operational tasks, such as backup and monitoring?

Support

  • Is the help desk staff trained and ready for the new features and UI of Windows Vista?
  • Has the knowledgebase been populated with Windows Vista notes and known issues?
  • If LOB applications will be affected and act differently, is the help desk ready with workarounds or fixes?
  • Has communication to end users occurred? Do they know a new system is being deployed and do they know what their responsibilities are? Are they responsible for personal backup of their current systems?
  • Have incident tickets been updated to include new intake information required to diagnose Windows Vista?
  • Has a training plan been developed to ensure that end users are trained on the new Windows Vista interface and features?

Security

  • Does the release meet organizational security requirements?
  • Does the release process ensure sufficient hardening of each computer?
  • Is antivirus software with the most recent updates installed on each computer?

Partner

  • Has all known warranty information been recorded?
  • If partners are involved, are they available for support or repair?
  • Do partners know and understand the timing and scope of the release plan?

Post-Implementation Review

Scenario...

Linda held a post-implementation review to determine the success of both the Windows Vista deployment and the process used to release it. She used the critical success factors (CSFs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) to set the parameters for team discussion. This review was conducted once sufficient time had passed for the impact of the change and deployment to be properly assessed and measured.

The following CSFs and KPIs should be tracked to measure the success of these tasks.

CSFs:

  • Provide a repeatable process for planning, building, and deploying releases into the environment.
  • Implement consistently high-quality releases.
  • Implement releases in an efficient and effective manner.
  • Meet release target dates for each collection of desktops.

KPIs:

  • Total number of releases deployed divided by the number of pending releases equals Overall Release Efficiency.

  • [releases deployed / releases pending = Overall Release Efficiency]
  • The yield of the number of failed releases divided by the total number of releases deployed subtracted from one equals Overall Release Success Rate.

  • [1-(failed releases / releases deployed) = Overall Release Success Rate]
  • One divided by the number of release-related incidents equals the overall Defect Rate of Releases.
    • [1/Number of release-related incidents = Defect Rate of Releases]
  • Number of releases not released on time / released on time.

Top 10 Things to Know About Deploying Windows Vista

When preparing to deploy Windows Vista, it is important to be aware of the following significant infrastructure changes from Windows XP that could affect your release.

  1. Image size. Windows Vista images are much larger than previous operating systems. With Windows XP and Windows 2000, images could be created under 700 MB. With Windows Vista, a compressed image begins at 2 GB and, once deployed, is often around 5 GB or more.

  2. Enhanced security. Enhanced security will affect deployment. Due to the advent of User Access Control (UAC) and other changes in the OS, configuring Windows Vista to support "low rights" users, where the logged-on user does not have administrator rights, is easier. Applications that once would fail without Full Administrator rights, due to attempts to write to restricted areas, will have those write attempts redirected to other locations in the user's profile. Further, non-administrators can now load drivers. Using Group Policy, Administrators can allow a new service to automatically install ActiveX controls for Internet Explorer using elevated rights on a user's behalf.

  3. Componentized operating system. One of the biggest architectural changes in Windows Vista affecting deployment is that it is now a completely componentized operating system. Configuring which Windows Vista features to be installed requires configuring the components to be enabled. New tools, like the Windows System Image Manager, assist with this. Security updates, language packs, drivers, and service packs are simply components, and all can be serviced offline.

  4. New setup program. Text mode installation is a thing of the past. With Windows Vista, a new setup program performs the installation, applying a Windows Vista installation to the target computer.

  5. New boot loader. The Boot.ini file is no longer used in Windows Vista and is replaced with the new boot loader, bootmgr, which reads boot configuration data from a special file named BCD.

  6. Consolidated configuration. All configuration information that was previously stored in numerous separate text files has now been consolidated into a single XML file called Unattend.xml. Another tool to aid deployment is the User State Migration Tool 3.0, which is included in BDD.

  7. Hardware Abstraction Layer. With Windows XP, the hardware abstraction layer (HAL) required multiple images for different hardware platforms. With Windows Vista, the OS will detect which HAL is needed and automatically install it.

  8. Windows PE 2.0. Windows PE 2.0 provides better performance from 32-bit and 64-bit networking stacks and tools, large memory support, and support for such tools as Windows Scripting Host, VBScript, and hypertext applications.

  9. Windows Imaging (WIM) file format. Windows Vista includes new tools that support the Windows Imaging (WIM) file format. Unlike many other image formats, WIM images are file-based, enabling them to be applied to an existing partition non-destructively. This has great advantages in deployment processes because user state can be saved locally instead of on a network server, eliminating what is frequently the largest source of network traffic during a deployment.

  10. Language-neutral operating system. With Windows Vista, the entire operating system is language-neutral. One or more language packs are added to this language-neutral core to create the image that is deployed.

For more information on the above, see "10 Things You Need to Know about Deploying Windows Vista" at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/technetmag/issues/2006/11/Deployment/.

Technical Guidance

Microsoft provides a variety of webcasts and learning resources to support your Windows Vista deployments including:

For additional educational webcasts available on TechNet, see Windows Vista On-Demand Webcasts at http://www.microsoft.com/events/series/technetvista.aspx?tab=webcasts&id=odall.

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