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Understanding the Value of IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server

IntelliMirrorTM, Remote OS Installation, and Microsoft® Systems Management Server work together to offer a full complement of change and configuration management features for Windows-based systems. This article is a guide designed to help administrators select the right combined solution to configure and maintain users' desktops in their respective corporate computing environments.

IntelliMirror and Remote OS Installation are features included as part of the Microsoft Windows® 2000 operating system. Together they provide a base set of change and configuration management features for IT administrators to manage their Windows 2000 Professional user community through centrally administered policies. Systems Management Server 2.0 complements IntelliMirror and Remote OS Installation, providing additional, scaleable change and configuration management options to support a full range of Windows-based computers and more complex environments.

IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server (SMS) each perform a complementary range of change and configuration management tasks. The following table shows how each can be used separately or in combination in order to provide specific management functions:

Table 1 Range of Management Functions Each Solution Provides

Management Function

Remote OS Installation

IntelliMirror

SMS

Install Windows 2000-based desktop images

=

Yes

 

 

 

 

Follow Me user environments (persistence of data, software, and settings)

=

 

 

Yes

 

 

Basic disaster recovery for Windows 2000-based systems

=

Yes

+

Yes

 

 

Inventory, advanced deployment, troubleshooting and diagnostic tools

=

 

 

 

 

Yes

Manage environments that are not Windows 2000-based

=

 

 

 

 

Yes

Comprehensive change and configuration management for Windows

=

Yes

+

Yes

+

Yes

The Value of IntelliMirror

Using IntelliMirror, IT administrators can give users Follow Me functionality for their respective desktop environments. This provides users consistent access to their personal computing environments from any computer running Windows 2000 Professional, even if the computer is subsequently disconnected from the network.

IntelliMirror also gives IT administrators centralized control of each user's desktop resources, by applying change and configuration management policies based on the business needs and location of users. The Windows 2000 Professional operating system uses these persistent policies to dynamically reconfigure and repair the desktop configuration to meet the predefined needs of the logged on user. This helps IT administrators reduce the day-to-day support overhead associated with maintaining users' desktop environments, and simplifies the task of protecting user-generated corporate data.

At the core of IntelliMirror are three separate management functions:

  • User Data Management: Policy settings defining the properties and locations of users' files, documents, workbooks, and other information, so that the user's data is available both on- and offline from any computer.

  • Software Installation and Maintenance: Policy settings defining the installation, configuration, repair, and removal of applications, service packs, and software upgrades.

  • User Settings Management: Policy settings defining both customizations and any restrictions that should be applied to the operating system, desktop environment, and applications for each user, including language settings, custom dictionaries, desktop configuration, and other user preferences and restrictions.

IntelliMirror features can be used on their own or teamed with other management features. For example, to augment the installation and maintenance functions of IntelliMirror in multi-LAN environments, IntelliMirror can be teamed with the Windows 2000 Distributed File System (Dfs) to provide a network of distribution servers. In more complex multi-LAN environments the User Data Management and User Settings Management functions of IntelliMirror can be used in conjunction with Systems Management Server to provide the broadest range of features for change and configuration management of Windows-based desktops.

The Value of Remote OS Installation

The Remote OS Installation feature works during initial startup, before the resident operating system has been loaded. It allows computer hardware that is connected using a LAN to find a networked computer running Windows 2000 Server, and request installation of a fresh copy of Windows 2000 Professional, appropriately configured for that user and that computer. The ability to autoinstall the operating system by policy, without the need for additional technical support, can significantly reduce the IT support overhead in bringing new computers online and in reinstalling operating systems on computers in the field.

Remote OS Installation uses a Windows 2000 Server-based computer as a remote source, serving as the network equivalent of a CD-based installation of Windows 2000 Professional or a preconfigured Windows 2000 Professional desktop image. These work in the following manner:

  • CD-equivalent installation: Similar to setting up a computer directly by using the Unattended Install options available on the Windows 2000 Professional CD. However, rather than residing on a CD, the source files are placed on Windows 2000 Servers and made available across the network.

  • Pre-configured desktop image: Allows a network administrator to clone a standard Windows 2000-based corporate desktop configuration, complete with OS configurations, desktop customizations and locally installed applications. Once configured, the cloned image is stored on computers running Windows 2000 Server. On request, the server downloads these images to new computers. The new computer's hardware does not have to be identical to that of the computer on which the image was created, because the Windows 2000 Professional operating system support for Plug and Play can adjust for hardware differences.

Using IntelliMirror and Remote OS Installation Together

IntelliMirror and Remote OS Installation provide IT administrators the key management functions necessary for configuring and maintaining users' Windows 2000 Professional desktop environments in a Windows 2000 Server-based environment. One use of this is to provide a basic level of disaster recovery.

When used together, IntelliMirror, and Remote OS Installation offer the following benefits:

  • Reduce the costs incurred in setting up new computers running Windows 2000 Professional.

  • Provide dynamic configuration and repair, making it easy for users to log on anywhere in the network.

  • Provide better recovery from computer failures.

Whether a user is adding or replacing a computer, or returning a repaired computer to the network, Remote OS Installation provides the services to reload the operating system, while IntelliMirror provides the services to quickly regenerate applications and restore user data and personal computer settings.

The Added Value of Systems Management Server

In simple network configurations, where subnets are interconnected at LAN speeds, the combination of IntelliMirror and Remote OS Installation provides the change and configuration management features required to maintain a well-managed network of computers running Windows 2000 Professional in a Windows 2000 Server environment. However, as enterprises become more distributed and complex, IT administrators need to supplement this base set of change and configuration management functions with advanced planning, deployment, and diagnostic tools. Systems Management Server provides these tools. Used together, IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server provide a comprehensive range of change and configuration management functions to track, maintain, and manage all Windows-based desktop computers in Windows NT-based and NetWare-based environments. This combination also provides full Follow Me functionality for users of Windows 2000 Professional systems operating in Windows 2000 Server environments.

Specifically, Systems Management Server 2.0 adds the following management functions:

  • Planning Tools: Systems Management Server uses Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) and inventory scanning utilities to upload detailed hardware and software inventory information into a Microsoft SQL Server™–based repository. Additionally, Systems Management Server includes tools that can monitor and report on application usage, and check for product compliance such as Windows 2000 readiness, Euro currency support, and help address year 2000 issues. This collection of planning tools helps administrators to understand the configuration of their environment, complete audits and compliance checks, monitor and restrict application use, and plan for operations such as new software deployments and upgrades.

  • Deployment Tools: Using Systems Management Server, IT administrators can schedule and synchronize the deployment of software to Windows-based computers. This distribution is fully integrated with inventory to allow sophisticated targeting, while also allowing detailed status reporting on the progress and success of each scheduled deployment. Systems Management Server is WAN-aware, allowing IT administrators to define what percentage of inter-site bandwidth can be used for management tasks. With Systems Management Server, an IT administrator can distribute and install software in the background to one, ten, or tens of thousands of computers, even when no users are logged on.

  • Diagnostic Tools: Systems Management Server provides a range of advanced remote diagnostic tools to help manage desktops and servers without onsite visits. These include tools such as remote control and remote reboot, a Network Monitor with real-time and post-capture "experts" to analyze network conditions and performance, and a server health monitoring tool, which can track critical performance information on Windows NT®-based servers and Microsoft BackOffice® systems.

Which Software Deployment Method Should I Use?

In addition to their other functions, IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server each have a software deployment component. Each offers different capabilities, as follows:

  • Remote OS Installation: This component is used specifically to deploy Windows 2000 Professional or company-standard Windows 2000 Professional-based desktop images. Remote OS Installation will reload the operating system or desktop image even where the existing system configuration is non-operational. (Note: The Microsoft System Preparation Tool used with a third-party cloning tool provides similar desktop image replication.)

  • IntelliMirror: This component uses a pull model for software deployment. This provides a highly dynamic solution that makes software available to users as it is needed, installing software just in time. However, for a satisfactory end-user experience, IntelliMirror typically requires high-speed LAN connectivity between the client computer and the distribution server where the installable software is held.

  • Systems Management Server: This component uses a push model to deploy software to computers or to distribution points, where it can then be locally pulled down onto a computer either by the user or through use of IntelliMirror. Using Systems Management Server IT administrators can coordinate and schedule software deployments, allowing single- or multiple-phase rollout of software and even arranging for off-hours distribution and installation. Using the push model, Systems Management Server provides IT administrators with the ability to control and synchronize software deployments over multiple sites, helping to reduce compatibility issues that may otherwise occur.

Which Combination of Management Solutions Do I Need?

IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server (SMS) can be used either separately or together. The following table provides recommendations for the optimal combination of IntelliMirror, Remote OS Installation, and Systems Management Server for a given corporate computing environment.

Table 2 Recommended Change and Configuration Management Solution

Client OS mix

Network Type

 

 

Single LAN/simple multi-LAN with LAN speed interconnects

Complex multi-LAN/multi-site systems

Windows 2000-based systems

Intellimirror
Remote OS Installation

SMS
Intellimirror
Remote OS Installation

Mixed Windows environments, including Windows 2000-based systems

SMS
Intellimirror
Remote OS Installation

SMS
Intellimirror
Remote OS Installation

Windows 3.1
Windows for Workgroups
Windows 95
Windows 98
Windows NT 3.51/4.0
based environments

SMS

SMS

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