Choose the Right Microsoft Deployment Tool
Microsoft has a slew of deployment tools to choose from so how do you know which one is right for you? Do you base your decision on the number of computers you need to deploy? How about your company's geographical topology? Or the current skill set of your IT pros? I've had people ask "Do I need to install ConfigMgr, Windows Deployment Services, the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, and the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 just to get started? And what is this Modena thing?"
System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr)
Microsoft's flagship deployment product is ConfigMgr and it comes with all the bells and whistles of a dream deployment: scheduled/mandatory OSD ZTI, the ability to target specific machines with an OSD based on criterion determined by you (for example, 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor, 2GB RAM and 40GB of available hard disk space). ConfigMgr allows you to push an OSD to the machines of your choice at the time of your choosing due to its built in Wake on LAN (WOL) feature.
Along with OSD, ConfigMgr offers so much more: hardware and software inventory, patch management using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and detailed reporting capabilities allowing you to follow every step of an OSD. ConfigMgr also scales great to any size organization regardless of the number of offices or geographical disbursement. On the down side, ConfigMgr can be difficult to install and set up correctly – the Active Directory schema must be extended, SQL Server is required, and there are multiple site server roles to be configured. If you're new to ConfigMgr, find a class taught by a reputable source and learn the ins and outs of installation and configuration to avoid making costly mistakes that can waste valuable time. Performing OSD deployments requires Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010, and MDT 2010 requires Windows AIK for Windows 7, so integration is a must. You can also choose to integrate Windows Deployment Services (WDS) for its multicasting functionality. WDS offers the ability to send an OS image to multiple machines at the same time instead of unicast traffic which puts a much larger burden on your server.
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010
If ConfigMgr is not an option for you, the next best tool is the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. MDT 2010 Update 1 (U1) requires Windows AIK for Windows 7; both are free downloads from Microsoft. MDT 2010 U1 performs LTIs and provides built in templates for refresh, replace, upgrade and bare-metal installations. One of my favorite features of MDT is the way it compartmentalizes your entire deployment solution. This makes it a snap to manage your images, from adding/removing drivers to easily swapping out the operating system you would like to deploy.
You can also integrate WDS with MDT 2010 U1 for two features: the ability to PXE boot (F12) to begin a deployment and multicasting functionality for MDT images. Integrating MDT and WDS for PXE boot requires you to store the MDT generated Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) to WDS's boot images.
Windows Automated Installation Kit For Windows 7
The Windows AIK contains tools that both ConfigMgr and MDT 2010 U1 use "under the hood." The Windows AIK includes ImageX to create and apply images, plus Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) to mount, un-mount and manage images (add/remove drivers and packages to an OS image). Other tools include:
Most of the tools in the Windows AIK are command-line only and the few that provide a user interface have a steep learning curve. Although you could perform a complete deployment using the Windows AIK, the tools can be difficult to learn because each has its own unique syntax.
Windows Deployment Services
WDS is a role that is out-of-the-box with Windows Server 2008 (and Windows Server 2008 R2) and the latest evolution of Remote Installation Service (RIS). WDS requires Active Directory, DHCP, and DNS (unless you implement the Transport Service only) and provides LTI only. Microsoft supports deploying both .wim and .vhd image formats. Installation and configuration is pretty easy although the driver management is a bit cumbersome. WDS provides PXE boot capabilities and multicasting of images to your target machines. Two of the drawbacks of WDS are image management and the fact that WDS can only provide bare-metal installations. Thick images are your only option and if you want to make a change to an OS image you have to export the image from the WDS snap-in, use the Windows AIK tools to make your changes and add it back to the WDS snap-in. If you need to perform a refresh or replace scenario you would need to fully script them yourselves. I say why bother – MDT 2010 U1 does all this for you and more!
About the Author
Rhonda Layfield has been in the IT industry since 1982. She is a Microsoft Setup and Deployment MVP and Desktop Deployment Product Specialist who also offers lecture-based (demo-driven) and hands-on deployment courses. For more information, visit www.DeploymentDr.com.