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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 is a powerfully simple deployment suite. In fact, it is so simple that the entire process can be summed up in five steps, with steps 1 and 2 being covered in the previous post. In short, the steps are:
- Building the image
- Capturing the image
- Packaging the drivers
- Creating the PE media
- Deploying the image
We have already built and captured our image. Now we face a humongous hurdle with driver management. In nearly every organization, model sprawl reigns. Even in organizations where machines are regularly replaced, some department will buy a make and model that wasn’t previously supported. This is the area where SmartDeploy Enterprise really shines.
In the past, most images stored drivers on the local drive in a manually arranged system. Enter the Platform Pack—a completely prepackaged set of drivers for deployment available through their website. To show how much time a Platform Pack will save, I tested our environment. We have 27 different models, including some old POS machines. SmartDeploy had Platform Packs for all of them! Even better, some models (like a Dell Latitude D610) only have Windows XP available for download from Dell’s Support page. SmartDeploy had the Windows 7 drivers already packaged along with the Windows XP drivers.
Platform Packs come in nearly every make and model.
Now that I have finished saturating my bandwidth with Platform Packs, let’s look into altering and merging the downloaded Platform Packs. This is done within the Platform Manager where, once opened, Platform Packs may be added as needed. A Platform Pack could be created for a universal image or as granular as needed. In my environment, the Platform Pack was organized based on make, model, operating system, and hardware type. To make driver updating easier, I left the default driver names that were created in the import process.
Platform Packs are scoped based on automatically configured WMI filters.
A very cool bonus feature is a WMI Filter Wizard, which is included in the Platform Manager. It allows for the quick scoping of drivers to specific make and models. It could also be quite useful when creating WMI filters for a GPO.
In this example, a WMI filter could be created to apply certain drivers when a machine’s memory exceeds a determined amount.
Now that the Platform Pack has been created, altered, and saved, we need to associate it with boot media. Our boot media of choice is a Windows PE image that is WDS compatible. This will allow us to network boot our machines to an imaging server. To do this, we will launch the Media Wizard and proceed through the steps. Because we will be using multicasting, the wizard will enable that option.
If physical media is desired, the Media Wizard can create a completely standalone boot image.
In the Media Wizard, two features stand out. The first is the ability to integrate a VNC service for remote imaging monitoring. This seems similar to DaRT Remote Connection integration in Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012. The second feature is the ability to deploy images over disconnected networks. Although I did not have a chance to test this feature, it seems very cool!
For remote or dispersed organizations, the Cloud Services add-on would be a life saver.
Now that we have created the SmartDeploy media, all that is left is to deploy the image to machines. For those familiar with the Out of Box Wizard, SmartDeploy is easy. After booting of deployment media, the machine image can be selected. Other settings, such as resolution or domain information, can also be entered.
If your organization already has a robust imaging solution, SmartDeploy Enterprise may not be a solution for you. For organizations with a smaller IT staff (or those one-man shops) looking for a very simple extendible imaging suite, SmartDeploy Enterprise becomes very appealing.
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.