Nov
26

RES Wisdom and OS deployment

The first time people set eyes on RES Wisdom, they’re pleasantly surprised by what it can do and how simple it is to use. After using it for a while, they pull more and more everyday stuff into tasks, modules, projects and run books so they can schedule it.

This all goes well until we finally get a support question: “Can we do OS/Bare metal deployment with Wisdom?” The honest answer is: “No, you can’t.” The next question is almost always: “Why not? You’ve made everything else easy to do, so why not this?”

Well, the answer is simple and complicated at the same time. We handle Microsoft Windows environments, and Microsoft gives you a deployment tool for free, called WDS (used to be RIS). Granted, this isn’t perfect, but I haven’t seen a deployment tool that is. And here is the complicated part of the answer to why Wisdom doesn’t do OS deployment: you have to come up with something far better and more useful than the solutions that already exist.

For those of you who haven’t worked with RIS: RIS enables you to install an OS as if you’re installing it from a CD-Rom. The difference is you “mount the CD-Rom” over a PXE enabled network card. You can skip all input screens by providing the necessary answers (e.g. the License key) via an “answer file”. If you really want to, you can create a RIS environment that installs a completely new OS on a machine simply by pressing F12 at boot time.

Deploying an OS with the older Microsoft RIS service was simple enough, until you had to add a network interface card to the existing image. As you can imagine, the NIC is the most crucial part of the RIS installation. Nine out of ten times, the NIC driver was poorly written and you had to hack the .INF file to get it to work. I remember spending hours to get the Intel 100VE to bow to my wishes. With WDS everything seemed simple until I encountered a newer NIC than the one supported by WDS. I had to do the whole song and dance again to get the new driver in the WIM-image (WinPE), which is still not very user friendly. I came to the conclusion I still liked RIS better, but maybe that’s just me.

With RIS you can also create images of every configuration you can think of. Problem is, that with every update (e.g. an Office Service Pack) you need do deploy the image, install the SP and recreate the image again – just as if you’re working with a disk imaging tool. So I prefer deploying an OS like a real installation and then running a Wisdom project that installs and configures everything I need on the machine. This way a new OS, application or update is added in no time.

So, we can’t deploy an OS with RES Wisdom, but we can integrate with RIS/WDS and make your life a whole lot easier. In the Help you can find instructions on how to invoke a project at agent installation.

Now, if you create a project to install the Softgrid (yeh, yeh, I know.. old name ;-)), precache applications, etc ,etc, you could RIS a new notebook and invoke that Wisdom project to generate a notebook for a new employee. Alternatively, you could create a Wisdom project to install Citrix XenApp (Yep, new name that somehow does work ;-)) and invoke this project at the end of the Windows 2003 OS. This way you could reinstall an entire Citrix farm with “no hands”.

In a next blog I will go deeper into the configuration of RIS to integrate RES Wisdom.

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