Pushing the Button on Vista

By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2007-04-25

Pushing the Button on Vista

OK. Your organization has made a decision to move to Windows Vista. Youve weighed the good against the bad, youve tested the new operating system with your existing apps, and youve navigated the complex licensing landscape to determine how much a migration it will cost over time.

Now, you just have to deploy Vista to your users. Simple, right?


eWEEK Labs recently put Vista deployment to the test, using Microsofts own latest and greatest, System Center Configuration Manager 2007. We tested Beta 2 of SCCM at Blade Network Technologies, using dozens of servers and laptops.

Click here to read Labs review of SCCM 2007 Beta 2.

Microsofts SCCM 2007 is filled with tools and surrounded by best-practice guides to make field deployment of Vista a reality. Yet, despite having almost twice the number of developers—59 compared to the 39 who worked on SCCM 2007s precursor, SMS 2003—and nearly double the lines of code, deployment procedures are still complex and fragile.

When it comes of deploying Windows Vista, its hardly groundbreaking to recommend that IT managers deploy the OS in a centralized depot and then send systems out to their new homes.

Vistas hardware requirements alone mean that most organizations will likely deploy the OS during the regular hardware refresh cycle. There are a couple of scenarios, however, in which field deployment of Vista will likely happen sooner than later: laptop deployments and upgrades within IT.

In many organizations, laptop systems refresh on a faster schedule than desktop systems do. In addition, laptop users are more likely than desktop users to be in remote locations without convenient access to a central depot. For these systems, the new ability of SCCM 2007 to create standalone upgrade media will likely be welcome: a DVD or USB stick can be created using new wizards in SCCM 2007 and then sent to remote workers for an in-place upgrade.

Click here to read how to put USB drive protection in place.

IT organizations seem likely to be among the first groups of users that will get Vista. And for these users—whether they are in desk-side support, a call center or IT engineering—in-place upgrades will likely make the most sense. This is especially true if users in these groups will be making component changes, such as memory or graphics cards upgrades, that are necessary to get the full Vista "experience," as Microsoft calls the Windows Aero Glass interface.

Deploying to the IT department is clearly one of the best ways to become familiar with the OS deployment tools now included in SCCM 2007. Based on our tests with SCCM 2007 Beta 2, this type of deployment will give IT staff a training ground to work out inventory collection quirks.

Many of the Microsoft management platforms improved (inventory) and new (task sequencing) features have a significant learning curve, even for administrators experienced with SMS.

Next Page: Are we there yet?

Are We There Yet


Vista field deployment will take on a whole new meaning after the initial wave of installations into the organization.

Because SCCM 2007 and broad client security initiatives, including network access control, seek to maintain a desired configuration state, IT managers can be sure that redeployments of Vista will be in their future: One way to bring a noncompliant system into spec is to re-image the OS with all the correct applications and user data.

Field deployment options with task sequencing mean that this kind of slash-and-burn approach to correcting systems may become more common. Especially as botnets continue to be a threat, OS and application redeployment may become a cost-effective alternative to hours of help desk trouble-shooting.

User State Migration

The ability to migrate user state is now built in to SCCM 2007. Migrating user state—sometimes called the "personaltity" settings of a computer, including shortcuts, favorites and desktop customizations—can make a big difference in getting newly updated machines back online and returning end users to work on their newly upgraded systems.

Capturing user state is particularly useful in side-by-side migrations, where new Vista-capable hardware is being introduced. A side-by-side migration requires that IT administrators set up a carefully choreographed series of steps, including the task sequence component in SCCM 2007. For new hardware, the IT staff must create an association in SCCM 2007 between the two computers. User state is then captured and stored in a secure repository using the new State Migration point server role now included in SCCM 2007.

To restore user state, a new task sequence is used that can associate the restore sequence with a boot image in SCCM 2007. The task enables the new computer to access the saved user state and restore the appropriate settings. The sequence is then advertised to the new machine, the last step in the ballet of the side-by-side Vista upgrade.

IT managers can smooth a future Vista migration by setting up appropriate-use guidelines for users. Basically, mandate that business assets should be used only for business purposes.

IT managers should also start to regularize the applications associated with certain groups of users, and ruthlessly standardize configurations. The more uniformly user desktops are configured, the more effective user state migration will be when the time finally comes to upgrade.

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