Altiris and HP Enhance the Power of VMware
At our school district we basically breath HP. Our computers, printers, switches and servers are all HP because we want to be the best, and to be the best you have to have the best. We do all of our computer imaging and software deployment through Altiris Deployment Server. We have been using Altiris Deployment Server for the past five years and have had such good success with it. Like most places, we have an understaffed IT department, so it is crucial to have a software package like Deployment Server in place.
Here's the Problem We Faced:
Using Altiris Deployment Server to build and deploy images in our district and having a small IT department to take care of 2000 some computers, it is very important to have a minimal number of images to create even though we have quite a few different models to work with. This is what makes Deployment Server so great. We have been able to get one image to work on all the different computer models we've worked with in the last five years. It's so important that the computers in our district have the exact same look no matter what the model is.
However, we have grown accustomed in our IT department to building our own computer image for each of our computers. It is nice to be able to have the computer you use all day long set up the way you want it. However, because of this, our computers are not set up the same as the user's computers are. This makes it difficult when a user calls with a problem and they're using a different version of software than what's on our current computer.
We needed a way to be able to have a computer set up with quick access that looked the same as our user's computers.
Another issue we ran into was finding a server to run HP Client Manager and HP Insite Manager without having to go out and spend another five grand on a new server.
The Solution We Came Up With:
We had started using VMware about a year ago. We incorperated five ESX servers (running on HP ProLiant DL385 servers) to work in a virtual center to manage virtual servers. With this new experience in the virtual world came an idea. Could we install VMware's virtual server on each of our HP XW4300 Profession workstations and set up a way to have Altiris put our master image on them? If so, this would solve our problem. We would be able to have a computer living inside our own PC that would be exactly like the ones our users were using. We could have it there running every day ready to use when we needed to walk someone through something, or needed to test a setting change. Also, if we got this to work, could we use it to create software installations that worked on our master image.
After some playing around a I was able to create a boot disk configuration, aclient install, and bootwork installation that worked on a VMware virtual PC. Now it was time to see if our image would work on it. I set the virtual PC to boot from my host computer's floppy drive, and booted up to my new Altiris virtual PC boot disk. It work perfectly. I ran through the deploy image wizard and started imaging my virtual PC. It did take a while to image, I believe about an hour for a 2GB image, but it worked.
We had a virtual computer living on our own PC that had the master image on it.
Next came testing it with by creating software installation RIPs. After my computer imaged and configured itself into our domain, I took my baseline snapshot with the winchange.exe utility in Altiris. After this finished I took a snap shot of the virtual PC with the VMware snapshot utility. (This allowed me to put my virtual PC back to this very moment within a matter of seconds, no matter what I did to it.) Then I did my software install and took my second Altiris snapshot.
After editing and saving my RIP, it was time to test it. I restored my virtual PC back to before the software install (only takes about a minute to do) and pushed my software installation through Deployment Server.
It worked. I was so excited.
I then tested it on a live physical computer with our master image on and it also worked. Now, because of having a snapshot of my virtual PC right before a software installation, it only takes about 10 minutes to create Software Installation RIPs with Altiris on my virtual PC.
Along with this idea of using Altiris and VMWare together, I got to wondering if I could set up two virtual servers in our ESX Environment that would successfully run HP Client Manager and HP Insite Manager. We created two windows 2003 standard servers, one for HP Client Manager, and another for HP Insite Manager. We then installed each software on its own virtual server and both work great. We do not have any performance problems with either HP Client Manager or HP Insite Manager.
We are now able to manage all of our 2,000 computers plus our 30 servers without having the management software tied back to any physical hardware. If the server running HP Client Manager or HP Insite Manager ever goes down, we just migrate that virtual server to another ESX server in our Virtual Center Environment, and never have any downtime with either of those two virtual servers.
Return on Investment:
The time saved on creating software installations is huge. Right now we have well over 100 different pieces of software in our district, and not every computer uses them. We are constantly getting more software for people to try on multiple computers, so being able to create that software installation in Altiris in ten minutes (compared to about half hour) is a huge time saver.
Also, this might not seem like a huge return on investment to some, but having the luxury of keeping my own desktop PC that I work on each and every day the way I want it is a wonderful convenience. It might not seem that big, but I honestly think if I had to have my computer the same as everyone else it would drive me crazy since it is my main help desk tool. The time putting into trying to incorporate Altiris to deploy an image to a virtual PC was minimal. It was very easy to figure out.
At the time we were using Deployment Server 6.1 sp2 and now that we moved to 6.8 sp1, it is even easier.
The cost saved by using Virtual Servers for HP Client Manager and HP Insite Manager is well worth it. We would have had to buy at least one server to run this, but because these two wonderful management software packages are so flexible, we got away with using both at no additional hardware cost.
Plus, with having these two servers virtual, there really is never any downtime, because they are no longer hardware dependant. Because of these successes, we are starting to look at incorperating our Virtual Center environment with our Deployment Server.
Altiris and HP have made working with a third party provider like VMware a lot smoother and a lot more beneficial to us. Thanks Altiris and HP for allowing us to enhance how we use other products.