Windows Deployment Services and the Real World

What happens when four IT professionals, from different companies, are picked to upgrade a boat-load of systems, as part of the corporate rollout of a new operating system, and management wants it fast and cheap, when people stop being polite, and start being real?

Find out on Microsoft’s The Real World, Deployment City*.

This season, Microsoft has released Server 2008 and Windows Vista. Whether a company is looking to handle both upgrades at the same time (masochists) or simply to leverage the new abilities of Server 2008 and its Windows Deployment Services (WDS), there are many reasonable approaches to handling a large scale deployment.

How will the housemates handle it?

Last episode, we learned that Lester prefers to do the least work possible up front before starting in on a major task, no matter how much work it means later.

David, meanwhile, prefers to do as much work as possible up front before doing anything on a big job. That way, he can appropriately plan for how much time and effort the main project will take.

Jeff, though, is the middle of the road type. He figures that not doing enough up front work will make any project actually take more work overall because doing things on the fly is less efficient. At the same time, Jeff knows that all the preparation in the world can’t help you prepare for every possible event, so there is no reason to spend too much time before jumping in.

Meanwhile, we learned that, GASP, Tom is actually a manager, and not an IT professional at all. Things got tense after that.

This week, the housemates were assigned a task: develop and implement a large-scale rollout of an operating system upgrade. Let’s check in and see how they are doing.

Lester, not surprisingly, is packing up his laptop back. He’s got his laptop, discs, and more. He has a second bag full of other equipment as well. "Guys, come on, if we’re going to get this done we need to start installing systems."

David rolls his eyes and looks over at Jeff. "I’m not going to sit in front of a hundred computers all day putting CDs and DVDs in and out. That’s stupid; we should be able to automate all of it from here and never even have to see the workstations."

Jeff nods in partial agreement. Last night, when he stood up Tom at the bar and stayed in his room reading TechNet instead, he read about Microsoft’s goal for a Zero Touch Installation. It sounded great, but complicated.

He also read about Lite Touch, and that seemed much more doable. The problem with a true zero touch deployment is that it takes a lot of effort and upfront planning. But, even more, it requires a whole infrastructure to be architected and setup just to handle the deployment.

But, being diplomatic, Jeff is hanging around with David to help slow down the impatient Lester who is already dying to get out the door. Running around to each computer and figuring it out as you go might work for 20 computers, but it is a recipe for wasted time and trouble with a few hundred.

Meanwhile, Tom, who we just found out is really an IT manager not an actual IT administrator, is still really mad at Jeff for standing him up last night. He has fired up his copy of Microsoft Project.

He isn’t going anywhere with a GANTT chart showing him exactly how long each part of this task will take, and how much of each piece of each task should be assigned to each housemate down to the nearest quarter of an hour.

Later that day, David and Lester have a big blowup. David accuses Lester of being irresponsible and dangerous. "That’s right, David. I am dangerous," replies Lester. In the background Top Gun plays on the T.V. as Tom furiously reorganizes his project plan.

Since David and Lester can’t agree on what to do, his dependencies keep getting messed up. He’s started talking about bringing in consultants.

David says, "Look, Lester. If we just run out there and start installing computers it will take us twice as long as if we get everything setup here first and then just push out the installation."

"You don’t know that David. We could spend WEEKS in here and still encounter some little driver we hadn’t thought of. It’s better if we just get going because then at least we are making progress, and if we hit any snags, we’ll be right there to handle it."

Just when it looks like David may punch Lester in the face, Jeff steps in, much to the dismay of reality T.V. executives everywhere. No need to worry though, that’s what editing is for.

"Guys, I get what you both are saying. We can’t plan for everything, but if we just run out there we could waste valuable time duplicating efforts. Besides there is no guarantee that we’ll each get every system setup the same, which just sets us up for more problems later."

Lester and David, look suspicious, but are willing to listen.

"Maybe, if we could do something called a Lite Touch Installation that would work best for us."

"What’s that," Lester and David say simultaneously.

"Jinx," they say, again in unison.

"Double Jinx," once more.

"Triple Jinx," says Lester just before David can get it out. "Hah, you owe me three Cokes."

David shakes his head in frustration.

"Look, David, I’ll buy him one of the Cokes if you are willing to give it a shot," says Jeff. David nods.

"What do I get," says Lester.

"I won’t tell Tom that you fried his network connection last night when you decided at the last minute to try and download a hacked version of Halo from that Russian cracks site."

"Deal."

"Ok, then, here is what we need to do. Lester, we need systems that are already installed and working properly like we want them to be after the upgrade, so that we can capture images from them to install the other systems. So, you get out there and install some reference machines for us. Don’t forget to hit them with Sysprep."

Lester doesn’t say a word, he just nods.

"David, once Lester gets us the reference systems, we need to get them ready and then push them out into the field. In order to do that, we’re going to need one or more of our Windows Server 2008 systems to have the WDS role installed. Then, we’ll need to use a Boot Image to get the reference system up and then a Capture Image to get the actual install image loaded up to the WDS server."

This time both Lester and David nod. So far, so good.

"Once it is all fired up, Lester you can boot each system we’re going to install into PXE mode. David, as that happens, they’ll be pulling down the Capture images. Since we are going to need additional software and drivers on some of those machines, you need to get Unattend files ready for each kind of system so we don’t have to go back and add anything on."

Lester opens his mouth to say something, but David keeps going, "Lester, you’ll be out there in the field in case anything goes wrong. Once you have a fix, let David know and he’ll update the images and Unattend files so that we won’t have that problem in the future. If everything goes well, we’ll have these systems installed by Friday and then we can go to that party the bikini models who just happen to live across the hall are throwing during ratings week."

"Wait a minute. What are you going to do," David asks.

"I’m going to go book a conference room for the next three days. Then I’m going to tell Tom that we need to have a pre-planning meeting before he does his project file so we all feel like we are equally empowered in our ownership before he submits it for total quality management team approval. Once he gets there, I’ll call him from my cell phone and tell him the project will have much more visibility if we do a pre-pre-planning meeting with the Sigma Six team at headquarters and that Budget has already approved the trip. By the time he gets back here we’ll be done and he won’t be able to get in our way with status reports and team meetings."

"Awesome," Lester and David say as they high five.

"Wait. What are you going to tell him when we don’t show up for the pre-pre-planning meeting?"

"I’ll tell him we’re taking comp time."

* Dear MTV, please don’t sue me. It’s a joke. See U.S. Supreme Court – Satire.

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