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Is this feasible?, what I am planning to do. Please Advice.

Created: 27 Jan 2011 • Updated: 31 Jan 2011 | 6 comments
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I work at a large college I have been given the daunting task of consolidating our 37 + images for all the different hardware we have in house, into a handful of images. To get the job done I plan to use sysprep to make a universal base image which will contain all the drivers we have for our current hardware we have. Once I have verified the base image works on all the hardware we have in house these are the next steps I plan to take.

1.Make a base universal image of all the apps I know that goes on every computer we have in the building. I plan to make this image as "thin" as possible. After this is done I plan to script the installations of the unique applications needed after the base universal image has been laid down.

I have a few questions and concerns that I am hoping someone here can answer.

1.To script the applications after the thin universal image has been laid down, what kind of server would I need?, will it take an absorbent about of bandwidth to pull what I am planning off. Should I be looking into setting up a packaging server?, what kind of hardware would I need to have. One of my major concerns is if 45 machines connect to a packaging server simultanously to install a particular package, will the traffic that will be generated be unicast or multicast?. How much bandwidth would I need?

2.I am planning to build all my reference image using virtual machines is this a good idea, is there a down side?.

Thanks for anyone help or advice you can pass my way before I begin this daunting project.

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EdT's picture

It would have helped to know which operating system you are deploying, and whether you are an existing Ghost user or evaluating the product to see if it can meet your needs.

Also, is your application portfolio different for each build or are they a standard apps list to be used on each machine built?

Do you have a software deployment system such as SMS or Altiris NS in house ?

I personally would avoid using virtual machines for image generation, as I think this wastes time. You are going to have to test your image on each distinct piece of hardware before you release it into production, so unless you image is also going to be used in VMs, this step does not save anything.

Having worked on a single XP build that supported 20 different desktop and laptop PCs, I can tell you that the driver folders alone ran to over 1Gb of content, so if your 37+ images represent that many distinct hardware models, you may find your driver library to be quite large. My image also installed a bunch of standard applications, as well as another bunch of laptop specific drivers, so this added further to the image bulk, but most of this got cleaned up during the final stages of the build process.

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RobJCW's picture


Yes I am a current ghost solution suite 11.5 user. My plan is to build a thin image with all the base applications that I KNOW is on every machine in house. We have maybe 10-15 types of hardware in house. The 37+ images is basically because of different software needs. How I plan to rectify this is to script the installs of the unique software applications after the thin image has been laid down with ghost.

Currently we do not have a software deployment solution in house, it is my job to currently asses what is out there and recommend the best and most efficient solution to the bean counters, while meeting our needs. I have heard that Microsoft SCCM is the way to go for delvering softwareto clients after the universal base image has been laid down. I have not heard of Altiris NS but I assume it does the same thing as Microsoft SCCM?

I plan to make a universal image using sysprep and the same method you have used "aka the drivers folder" to make a thin universal image and script the unique installs and settings needed after the fact. The OS wewill be deploying is going to be mainly Windows 7 with a sprinkling of XP here and there.

Regarding the building the image on a virtual machine, some people say yay and some say nay, I guess I have to find out if it works for me in the long run.

Thanks for your reply and hopefully you can answer some mpre of my questions in this post.

EdT's picture

Microsoft SCCM can deliver software to clients after the base image has been laid down. Not only that, it can also lay down the base image using PXE boot to load WinPE from the SCCM server and then to pull down the image.

Altiris NS and DS (now owned by Symantec) are also deployment tools and you can use DS to handle both image deployment and application deployment in the same way as SCCM.

(You can also deploy applications using active directory if they are in MSI format.)

Both SCCM and NS/DS solutions require an investment in time and servers to set up the infrastructure but are well established technology that does the job.  Microsoft provide you with all the tools necessary to create deployable Win 7 in the form of their WAIK and MDT free downloads. Ghost also facilitates many aspects of O/S deployment and the articles forum has quite a bit of content pertaining to Win 7 deployment which you may wish to research.

From a TCO point of view,  deploying a thin image with no apps and deploying the apps using SCCM or another tool means that only one source of the apps needs to be kept updated. However, the build process can take a while longer while the apps come down from the distribution server.  From a field engineering point of view, being able to blast down an image from a USB hard disk with all the core apps already installed means that a user can be up and running in a minimal timeframe, but more effort is required to keep the images up to date with current app releases and windows updates.  Whichever way you go, getting the solution right is not going to be a 5 minute job, and someone has to decide which approach best suits the needs of your business.

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RobJCW's picture

Thanks for such a detailed reply I do appreciate it. So if I where to suggest Alteris DS solution package as a replacement for GSS 2.51 then we wouldn't need Microsoft SCCM?, do these two packages do the same thing?.  What is the difference between Alteris DS and NS?. Thanks for all your help, I need to get all this straight in my head before attempting to get the right solution along with the right tools.

EdT's picture

Altiris DS (Deployment Solution) is capable of both remote operating system installation and application deployment. Altiris NS (Notification Server) is for remote application deployment. My experience with these tools is somewhat limited so I am not the best person to advise you on their relative capabilities, nor to update you on what the relatively new "Version 7" release brings in additional capabilities. To get a better handle on the exact capabilities, I would recommend posting in the Altiris Deployment Solution forum as the specialists serving that forum will know the product in a lot more detail.

What I can tell you is that if you go the Altiris route, you do not need SCCM as the products perform essentially identical jobs.  My experience is that Altiris is also a more reliable deployment product, as I have spent many hours waiting for application installs to start under SMS and SCCM even though there has been zero network loading and no apparent problems with either the server or the client.

If your issue has been solved, please use the "Mark as Solution" link on the most relevant thread.