When it comes to deploying Windows based servers and clients there are many products on the market that are proven performers with relatively short learning curves. Ideally, the choice of products should be based on three factors: total cost of deployment, options and features and ease of use.
Total cost of deployment should include the initial cost of the deployment software, any supporting hardware, configuration time, image creation and maintenance time, as well as end-user training.
The options and features of each product should match or exceed current and future needs. Installation of drivers and software in images, configuration of Windows settings, offline maintenance of images and multi-cast network-based deployment are examples of some of the important options.
Ease of use includes initial configuration time and complexity, but more importantly the actual deployment tasks – image creation, maintenance and deployment. Typically, the initial configuration complexity is determined by the type of deployment options – driver and software installations, unattended setup, number and types of images and light-touch or zero-touch deployment.
While there are many 3rd party solutions on the market; Altiris, LanDesk and Ghost, just to name a few, Windows Deployment Services (WDS) is a feature-rich, inexpensive solution. WDS, in a Windows domain environment, is free, since it is part of the Windows Server operating system.
WDS began its life as Remote Installation Services (RIS) in Windows Server 2000 and was discontinued after Server 2003. WDS was available along with RIS in Windows Server 2003 and is a server role in Windows Server 2008, 2008R2 and 2012.
The biggest benefit, in Directions Training’s opinion, to using WDS, is that regardless of the image strategy used; gold, thick, thin or hybrid images, you will only ever need one image file (wim) for each operating system/architecture deployed. In other words, one image file for Windows 7 x86, one for Windows 7 x64, etc. The image file uses Windows Image Format, which is a file-based, single instance storage format, dramatically reducing the storage space required for deployment images. A perfect example of this is the installation media for Windows. Recall that during the installation process you must select which edition of Windows to install (Home, Professional, Enterprise, etc). All of these images are contained within the Install.wim file, about 2GB in size, located in the Sources folder of the installation disk.
We’ll get into the specifics of the WIM files, tools used to create and manage them and deploying images using WDS in future blogs. For now, consider the ease of managing no more than 2 image files per Windows operating system!