SmartDeploy Enterprise provides a simple yet robust solution to OS deployment. Their five-step solution makes image management a breeze. In this first part, I will cover image building and image capture.

SmartDeploy is raffling off 50 end-point licenses with 1 year of basic support (value $1610 USD). The deadline for this contest is June 1, 2012. If you want a chance at winning this license, please fill out this form.

SmartDeploy Enterprise Architecture

SmartDeploy Enterprise Architecture

Let me start off by saying that I am a huge Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) fan! I love the granular control, the nifty wizards, and the extensive logging. But MDT is a pain to set up and a bear to learn. Between the barrage of terminology, layers of components, and simple confusion over when a deployment share needs to be updated, an overworked admin in an overstretched shop could not dedicate the time needed to master MDT. Simplicity is where SmartDeploy Enterprise succeeds.

The entire image creation and deployment process can be summed up in five steps.

  1. Building the image
  2. Capturing the image
  3. Packaging the drivers
  4. Creating the PE media
  5. Deploying the image

As we progress through each of these steps, we will cover the actual process, best practices, and some time saving tips.

Step 1: Building the Image ^

When installing the SmartDeploy Enterprise suite, be sure to use a physical machine. The setup will only continue if the machine is not virtual. A well-known best practice of image creation is the use of virtual machines for the master image. This practice allows for changes, such as software installation or Windows updates, to be captured in snapshots. If problems are found in the image, the image can be reverted instantly to the clean state.

SmartDeploy wisely enforces this best practice in their deployment suite. To simplify the image building process, SmartDeploy Build Wizard allows for the selection of multiple virtualization products. The Build Wizard will even go so far as to automatically create the needed VM files. When building my image, I used VMware Workstation 8, but I selected Workstation 7 as my virtualization platform.

SmartDeploy OS deployment - Build Wizard

To simplify deployment, the Build Wizard supports a variety of virtualization products.

Step 2: Capturing the Image ^

After the image has been created, configured, and finalized, the image can now be captured. Unlike some image management tools, SmartDeploy will automatically scan your virtual hard disks (which were created in Step 1) for operating systems. If your virtual hard disk contains multiple partitions, be sure to uncheck all but the primary partition if WDS will be used.

SmartDeploy OS deployment - Capture Wizard

Direct integration with Windows Deployment Services is provided in the Capture Wizard.

When manually managing an image, one would normally alter the Unattended.XML file to enter the product key or default local administrator password. The Capture Wizard provides the ability to directly inject this information.

SmartDeploy OS deployment - Unattended.xml

The Capture Wizard simplifies the management of the Unattended.xml file.

A feature that sets SmartDeploy apart from the pack of deployment suites is the ability to deploy a standard image or a differencing image. A standard image is a normal captured image in a .WIM format. A differencing image is a captured image that only deploys the differences between the new captured image and a previously captured image. For example, an organization could create a differencing image on a quarterly basis that wraps up all updates published. This granular approach cuts down on wasted space by only capturing the changes to an image. It also safeguards the original clean image by adding distinct layers.

SmartDeploy OS deployment - Capturing as a differencing image

If capturing as a differencing image, you have to select an existing previous image.

After the image has been named and the save location selected, the Capture Wizard will generate the image file.

One of the most challenging portions of image creation is driver management. To ease the pain of driver management, SmartDeploy has an innovative solution using prepackaged platform packs.

In the next post, we will cover driver management (Platform Packs), deployment media, and deployment.

If you want a chance to win 50 end-point licenses with 1 year of basic support (value $1610 USD), please fill out this form.

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