Four improvements to Windows Vista deployment

There are three things that are certain in the life of a network administrator: death, taxes and deployment. Particularly with Windows Vista just around the corner now, you're probably beginning to think about how you will roll out the operating system to all of the desktops in your organization.

Fortunately, the tools and services behind Windows deployments right out of the box have improved: indeed, it's possible to roll out desktops very easily with new deployment enhancements without resorting to more sophisticated and expensive management solutions. In this article, I'll take a look at four deployment improvements in Vista, and how they benefit you.

Modularization

One of the big engineering pushes Microsoft made during the development of Windows Vista was to make the operating system more modular -- meaning the components of the operating system are separate and somewhat interchangeable. While also improving the usability experience -- customers can select only the pieces they want to be installed without having to go for the entire OS -- the modularization also helps system administrators manage their deployments.

For example, drivers, service packs, updates and localization (languages) are all much easier to incorporate into Vista installations. It's possible to customize components both before and after installation to a degree that wasn't possible with previous versions of Windows. Patching, updating, and security vulnerability mitigation is easier because areas of the operating system are independent of others, meaning less breakage and less testing required to get an update out the door.

If you are an administrator for a larger, global network, you'll appreciate that Microsoft has made Windows Vista language-agnostic. Languages, including English, are treated as optional components from the required OS code, which allows you to add and remove them from installations and images very easy.

Windows Imaging Format

Part of the benefit of the modular improvements to Windows components is the introduction of the new Windows Imaging Format (WIM), a hardware-independent format that stores images of the operating system. The premise of WIM is make images many-to-one in nature, meaning multiple images can be contained within one WIM file.

Since Windows is so modular, 95 percent of the base operating system can be replicated among any number of images, so Microsoft itself can ship just one binary image for each processor architecture -- x86 and x64 -- to everyone in the channel. Additionally, the sizes of each of the image files are reduced using single-instance storage techniques and enhanced compression.

Perhaps the best usability improvement of the WIM format is the ability to edit the image offline using standard file management tools like Windows Explorer. You can add files and folder to an image. For example, instead of the painful driver addition process in Remote Installation Services (RIS), you can simply drop drivers directly into a WIM-based image and have them automatically present. Best of all, you don't need to create independent images for each edit you make -- the additions, modifications and deletions you make can co-exist without problem in one image, reducing management burden.

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Jonathan Hassell

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