I don't know if any of you have taken a close look at Windows Vista yet, but it's pretty cool. Microsoft has done a lot of work to make the operating system easier to use, navigate and find things. Not to mention the work they have done on the 'slick' side of the graphical interface. I'm impressed. But there are some things about Vista that could make it difficult for you to deploy. Enter: ZENworks.
We are fast approaching the release of the next generation of ZENworks. This revolutionary release of ZENworks will see the introduction of a lot of new features, including a new three-tier Web-services architecture. This architecture allows us to integrate the many existing components of ZENworks (desktop management, server management, handheld management, Linux management, asset management, etc.,) into one product, making it easier for you to deploy and turn on new features to support your heterogeneous environment. That includes the latest release of Windows Vista.
People are quickly realizing that deploying Vista is different from deploying Windows XP—which we can all now do with our eyes closed and both hands tied behind our backs. Microsoft states 10 deployment differences from Windows XP. Download and read these documents from microsoft.com before you even begin to assess Vista in your labs. See The Top 10 Vista Differences.
> Digging Deeper into Vista
Let's look at some of these differences from the perspective of using ZENworks to deploy Vista in an automated way.
First, understand that Vista is much larger than Windows XP. In fact, I've put together imaging strategies for organizations using Windows XP, and the images (compressed using ZENworks) could be brought down to under 500MB. No more; Vista is huge. Microsoft states that Windows Vista, installed, and uncompressed is at least 5GB in size—without any other applications installed! This is a nonissue with the size of hard drives today, but think about the network and pushing a large amount of data around using ZENworks. Keep things simple, and modularize the imaging process to keep it nimble. You should look closely at ENGL (www.engl.co.uk) to assist you with deploying Windows Vista. It's worth the look.
Security enhancements shouldn't affect you when it comes to imaging, but they certainly will when it comes to deploying applications to workstations using ZENworks. Now beware, the Power Users group is no longer there. It's gone in Vista, but can be put back using a security template, if needed. That said, the issues with installing applications in the past came up when the workstation user had only "user" privileges. Then they were unable to copy files to specific locations on the hard drive, or write information to the registry, unless their rights were elevated during the installation of the app. ZENworks greatly helped here because you could install applications as a secure or unsecure system user. This is no longer an issue in Vista! Now when an application's installation routine attempts to write to areas where the user has no rights (such as the Windows directory or the registry), the rights will be redirected to other areas in the user's specific profile. This lets the application install and function correctly. It will make deploying applications successfully a whole lot easier.
> Parts and Pieces
Another major difference is that Windows Vista is componentized. This means that security updates, language packs, service packs and the like, are simply components. So are a pile of other things that come with it. You'll leverage this when you build your Windows Vista image that you'll deploy with ZENworks. In fact, you can use the included Windows System Image Manager to customize your Windows Vista build. (See Figure 1.) This tool helps you create your "unattend.xml" file that you'll use during deployment. You can use a bunch of new tools to build your image, mainly your image that has gone through the SYSPREP process. Vista has a new version of SYSPREP. Use only this version when running the SYSPREP process. Remember that Unattend.txt and Sysprep.inf have both been replaced by Unattend.xml.
Previous Windows versions had issues creating a single image that you could apply to multiple machines, regardless of hardware type. Before, you had to use a third party tool, such as the ENGL Imaging Toolkit, to resolve this. Now, Windows Vista detects which HAL is required for the specific hardware, and automatically installs it. But I still recommend using the ENGL Imaging Toolkit in concert with ZENworks Imaging to get around this and to keep things simple. This lets you maintain modularity, which is incredibly powerful, continue to support your organization in a simplistic way and finally have a true Universal Image for your entire organization. (See Figure 2.)
On that note, ENGL will release a new version of the Imaging Toolkit in mid-2007. Building on the success of the current software, the new release will help you customize and automate the deployment of Windows Vista in addition to Windows XP and Windows 2003 server—all using the next major release of ZENworks.
Currently, ZENworks doesn't support Windows PE, so you'll need to lay down the image in our format; hence, don't use the Windows Imaging format and expect it to work. That said, the next version of ZENworks does support the Vista file system ,which is all we need for ZENworks to work with Vista. You can now do what you need to do, and your imaging process (if you're using ZENworks to deploy XP, or have in the past) should not change much (apart from some of the things I've listed above, but these are mainly on the Vista-build side of things).
Once you have Windows Vista deployed to your specific piece of hardware, you can fully manage it using ZENworks. The ZENworks management agent supports Vista and handles the registration process, so you will see the specific workstation objects in ZENworks Control Center, the new Web-based management interface in ZENworks. (See Figure 3.) Once the workstation has been registered in the system, you can manage it from software deployment and policy management perspectives. You can create bundles for Vista the same way you did for Windows XP, so there's not much of a learning curve.
Remember, a number of things have changed from Windows XP to Vista, including expected image size, and tools you'll use to prepare your Vista build that you'll image using ZENworks. Once you've deployed Vista, you're looking at little difference from an ongoing administrative perspective.
Get ready for the next generation of ZENworks; the changes are revolutionary for the product line. If you're at BrainShare 2007 in Salt Lake City when this article is published, attend some of the sessions that cover the next release of ZENworks.
In summary, look closely at all the resources Microsoft has made available about the design and deployment of Vista. They're well worth the read.