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Leveraging Improvements and New Capabilities of SCCM 2007 for App and OS Deployment (Part 1)

This is another session I did in TechEd SEA 2007 in Malaysia.

Leveraging Improvements and New Capabilities of SCCM 2007 for Application and OS Deployment – SYS441

I jointly did this session with a colleague which worked out as a role play between myself and a customer (my colleague) sharing on how a real life scenario could possibly be and the line of questioning you might get. I went on highlighting areas which was new in SCCM 2007 and what already existed in SMS2003 but improved in ConfigMgr 2007.

One of the new things in ConfigMgr is the admin console. One glance at it, one might think, "This ain’t so new!". But looking further, there are lots of new stuffs build into the admin console. Here’s a table to give you an overview of comparison between these two consoles.

 

Feature SMS 2003 ConfigMgr 2007
Drag & Drop No Yes
Multi-select No Yes
Actions Pane No Yes
Preview Pane No Yes
Wizards A Few Pervasive
Homepages No Yes
Icons NT 3.51 High Precision
Organizational Folders Yes, but no replication Yes, with Full Replication
Search Folders No Yes

The new console runs on MMC 3.0 which gives you an additional action pane on the far right. Items on the left pane have been re-arranged and re-grouped. Apart from the need feature which now allows drag and drop, multi select and so forth, I want to direct your attention to the last two items at the bottom; organizational folders and search folders. Though it was neat that you could create organizational folders in SMS2003 to sort out and categorize your items (i.e. packages), but as you move down the hierarchy you would realize that those organizational folders that you’ve created don’t exist anymore…well, your packages still does but not the folders (imagine you’ve got 400+ packages!). ConfigMgr takes care of that and now organizational folders are replicated down the hierarchy.

Think of search folders as an organizational folder, except they are dynamic. Search folders contains objects that matches the criteria set to that folder just like how a collection is done.

 

Home Pages

Gives you a high level view of advertisement histories. You can find this in the Software Distribution tree on the left pane and some other like OS Deployment throughout the console. It gives you the top ten advertisements that you have, allowing you to multi-select and filter, displaying it in a nice bar chart. Deselect all the advertisements and it’ll show you a pie chart. Really this gives you a quick view of where your problems are so that you can focus your time to where the problem areas are (in this case the second from the bottom). Wish I can show you guys a cool demo!

image

 

Maintenance Windows – A collection-based method to enforce scheduled changes to managed systems

When I say managed systems, I mean managed computers running a ConfigMgr agent. Let’s look at what maintenance windows affect:

  • Operating System Task Sequences
  • Software Update Deployments
  • Software Distribution Advertisements

This are things that will make element changes to a system. You should take note that maintenance windows are not meant to be a scheduling mechanism, they are a "Safety Net" so that advertisements don’t run during your critical business hours (there’s advert scheduling for that). This is good when some computers missed an advertisement schedule and decided to run it ASAP.

What maintenance windows don’t affect?

  • Scheduled inventory
  • Baseline evaluation
  • Policy polling

And basically these are read-only tasks that run on a defined interval. Now wait! What if I’ve got an urgent package I needed to get out? Won’t that hinder me from getting it out immediately? Well, this is where exceptions/overrides come in. So, if you’ve got an urgent patch you need to get out, simply set it to ignore any maintenance windows a collection might be configured with.

Branch Distribution Points – A low cost, bandwidth aware distribution point for branch office locations.

Here’s what I mean by low cost! Contrary to a standard DP, a Branch DP can run on a Vista box or a XP box. You save on software and hardware cost as it runs on a regular client computer machine. Of course there’s the standard stuffs like being able to schedule, throttle and it is BITS enabled. Definitely designed for branch office locations of 10-15 computers or more. Do take note so that these machines have sufficient hard disk space to hold the packages. What I like about Branch DPs are the "Distribute on Demand" and "Manual Content Provisioning". Now you don’t need to manually populate your DPs with the packages. When a BDP receives an advertisement for the site it is in, it is going to go ahead and begin download of that package automatically. I also like the fact that you can manually provision a BDP before it is sent out to location, eliminating the need to transfer packages over the wire.

One thing you should know is that if you are familiar with a Microsoft partner solution out there called 1E, which have a product called SMSNomad Branch, BDPs do not have an automatic way of electing BDPs. Up to 2000 BDPs can be configured per site.

 

Feature Standard DP Branch DP
Scheduling Via secondary site Native via BITS
Throttling Via secondary site Native via BITS
Runs on Workstation OS No Yes
Binary Deltas Yes Yes
Internet Clients Yes No
DP -> Client via BITS Yes No
DP -> Client via SMB Yes Yes
Run from Network Yes Yes
Download & Execute Yes Yes
Runs on Server OS Yes Yes
Distribute on Demand No Yes
Pre-load Content No Yes

Just a few things to highlight on the difference is that a Branch DP will not be handed out as a list of DPs that will serve clients connecting from the Internet. And BITS do not run between agent and BDPs…which is logical considering that BDPs are in the same LAN connection as its peers it serves.

Copy Packages Wizard

Ever tried provisioning a new DP in your environment? With the 400 over packages you have? I know, you would need to go into each package and add that to the new distribution point. Copy Packages Wizard simplifies populating a new DP, allowing options to duplicate the contents of an existing DP to the new DP without having to manually select each package. Also it allows for selective copy based on DP.

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