Windows Vista Deployment Features and Improvements
By Tony Northrup
While everyone else is reading about the new user interface (UI) and the performance improvements, seasoned information technology (IT) professionals think one thing when Microsoft releases a new client operating system: How hard will it be for me to deploy?
It will be easier than ever, and the Windows Vista Deployment Enhancements white paper explains exactly why. Microsoft has designed Windows Vista from the ground up to be easy to deploy, so you can give your users all the productivity features of Windows Vista without breaking your budget.
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Realizing Windows Vista Value-Add Sooner
As a business, you must consider ROI when making investments in software. If the benefits are hard to quantify, moving to the new operating system is a hard decision. The benefits to Windows Vista are clear: improved user productivity and reduced IT management costs. It might surprise you, however, to learn how much lower the deployment costs will be than they were when you deployed previous client operating systems.
In the past, deploying a new client operating system could be extremely complex and time-consuming. Your IT department needed to engineer the client platform to meet your security requirements, ensure compatibility with your applications, and then deploy the new operating system on your client computers. Only then could you begin realizing the benefits of the new software.
With Windows Vista, each of these steps has been simplified to minimize your deployment costs:
- Engineering the client platform. With Windows Vista, platform image engineering is much easier than with Microsoft Windows XP, because Windows Vista uses new imaging technologies and tools to engineer and customize the image. This makes deployment easier, because you don't have to spend as much time engineering the platform to meet your unique requirements.
- Ensuring application compatibility. Windows Vista supports the majority of applications that run on Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows. In fact, you can run most of those applications with standard user privileges, even if the application required administrator privileges on Windows XP.
- Deployment method. With Windows XP and earlier versions of Windows, most enterprises purchased third-party imaging products to deploy the operating system. Imaging (deploying an entire operating system as a single file) is built into Windows Vista, so you can achieve the same results with out-of-box technologies.
Windows Vista Deployment Technologies
Microsoft has made a significant investment in Windows Vista to make it easy and inexpensive for businesses to deploy. The following are the two most significant improvements:
- Modularization. Windows Vista is built with separate but inter-dependent components, which makes it easier to customize Windows Vista, to a certain degree, to your needs. Modularization also simplifies adding optional components such as device drivers, testing and installing updates, and adding languages.
- Windows Imaging Format (WIM). WIM, a file-based imaging format, enables a single image to be deployed to different types of computer hardware with different language requirements. Maintaining WIM images is easy, because you can add and remove drivers, updates, and Windows components offline, without ever booting the operating system image.
While modularization and WIM alone would dramatically simplify deployment, together they will revolutionize the way client operating systems are installed. Most notably, the combination of the two technologies significantly reduces the number of operating system images you'll need to maintain. In other words, if your IT department currently maintains images for each language and computer type, you can probably use just one or two Windows Vista images, which will free your staff for other priorities.
Windows Vista also includes other new deployment technologies. A single XML-based answer file replaces the multiple files used by Windows XP. Extensive scripting support enables automation of complex deployment tasks. Installation reliability is improved, too; using the new imaging technologies makes for a more deterministic and predictable installation.
Windows Vista Deployment Tools
Windows Vista deployment tools are included with the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD 2007) solution, which is Microsoft's proven methodology and guidance on how to optimally deploy Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system. These tools have each been designed to be easy to use, so IT professionals can start using them immediately with minimal training. The tools available within the BDD 2007 solution include the following:
- Windows Vista Hardware Assessment. Assess PCs network-wide with Windows Vista Hardware Assessment to determine the PCs’ readiness for Windows Vista upgrades, including hardware and device driver compatibility.
- Application Compatibility Toolkit. Inventory and analyze your organization's applications to ensure they work with Windows Vista.
- Microsoft Windows User State Migration Tool (USMT). Automatically migrate the files and settings you specify from Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP to Windows Vista, whether performing an in-place upgrade or migrating to a new computer.
- ImageX. Capture and edit WIM images.
- Windows System Image Manager. Configure Windows Vista images by configuring components or adding/removing optional components such as languages.
- Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE). Edit system configuration, format drives etc without starting the primary operating system.
Deploying a new client operating system is a business decision. To make that decision easier, Microsoft has made Windows Vista an easy client operating system to deploy. Two fundamental changes are key to this improvement — modularization and WIM. Combined, these two technologies enable you to maintain far fewer images, which in turn reduces your administrative and engineering costs. To further simplify maintaining images and deploying the new operating system, Windows Vista includes a suite of deployment and migration tools. In addition, enhanced deployment best practices in the form of a Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) Solution Accelerator is also provided.