ADS 1.0 Aids Server Management

Microsoft tool handles basic Windows 2000/2003 deployment chores.

Microsoft Corp.s newest addition to the Windows Server 2003 platform, Automated Deployment Services 1.0, makes it easier to automate the provisioning and deployment of large Windows server farms.

In eWEEK Labs tests, ADS 1.0 was easy to set up and provided helpful automation tools for deploying Windows 2003 or 2000 server images to bare-metal systems. ADS, released this month, will be useful for tackling server automation tasks at small and medium-size server farms.

However, large enterprises with heterogeneous systems and bigger budgets should take a look at more comprehensive automation solutions, such as Veritas Software Corp.s OpForce and Altiris Inc.s Server Provisioning Suite. These systems provide support for non-Windows operating systems (including Linux and Unix); support for multiple deployment servers (for distributed networks) and inventory and tracking features; and more advanced reporting capabilities. (For eWEEK Labs review of Veritas OpForce 3.0, go to www.

ADS is similar to RIS (Remote Installation Services) in Windows 2000 Server: Its a free, built-in tool for deploying operating system images in a Windows-only environment. RIS is used primarily to deploy Windows 2000 Professional images, while ADS is designed solely for deploying Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 images.

Using PXE (Preboot Execution Environment) boot and a bare Windows 2003 agent, an ADS Controller can deploy multiple server images over the network to bare-metal servers. ADS also provides the means to execute scripts and batch files to large Windows 2000 and 2003 server farms.

ADS uses a sequence-based approach, where every operation—from partitioning the hard drive to the copying of operating system files and the last system reboot—is done in sequence. Sequence files, which are written in XML format, are used by ADS to run the automated deployment processes. ADS also provides a sequence editor that allows administrators to easily customize their own deployment sequences.

Although ADS is free, it requires at least one Windows 2003 server to be the deployment server. In addition, ADS Controller can be installed only on a server running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition. Controller also requires a minimum of 5GB of disk space and either MSDE (Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Engine) or Microsofts SQL Server. (SQL Server provides the database engine that ADS Controller uses for its device database.)

eWEEK Labs set up an ADS Controller on a network with two server systems. We used ADS to quickly image one server running Windows 2000 with preconfigured applications and deployed the reference image to another bare-metal server.

The setup and management of ADS will be especially easy for Windows users familiar with MMC (Microsoft Management Console). We were able to easily run jobs and view job history using the ADS MMC (see screen).

The current version of ADS does not integrate with Active Directory, but Microsoft officials said the next version of ADS will.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at