SCCM is a key part of an organisations IT infrastructure and management. It requires extensive planning, training and on-going maintenance to get the best from it. With our SCCM deployments, we work alongside the people who will be responsible for SCCM to ensure they understand the concepts and components involved, from a very early stage. This enables them to become familiar with what is a very complex product, before it becomes fully embedded in the environment – at which point its sheer scale and breadth of features can be daunting. We also recommend a pilot or test environment, so that new features (and new people) can be safely trialled.
For this case study, we’ll focus on a particular customer who needed to perform a hardware refresh of around 200 laptops, and have an on going solution for deploying server operating systems to both physical and virtual (VMware) machines.
They had been using a combination of Systems Management Server 2003 (for software deployment) and Symantec Ghost (for laptop deployment). Servers were built “manually” each time. They have around 1000 desktop/laptops, and just under 100 servers (but they only knew this for sure once SCCM had been fully deployed!). These are supported by 8 people, split into two teams. Using these tools, the client found that they had little control over their environment. Users had full control over their laptops, so once laptops left IT, they began diverging from the standard build.
This resulted in support difficulties, as each user pretty much had a unique set of applications and settings. Controlling licensing, in particular freeware/shareware/open source software was impossible.
We used a pilot server, isolated to a small portion of the customer’s environment, to demonstrate how SCCM could be used to rapidly deploy a new standard build to a box fresh laptop, using a PXE network boot. We configured the pilot for deployment of Windows XP and 7, using task sequences and software distribution, with driver packages for a variety of Dell laptops and desktops. Throughout the pilot, it was the customer’s own staff who created the required images, task sequences etc., using our guidance, ensuring they had hands-on familiarity with ConfigMgr from the start.
They soon had created demo task sequences that deploy the OS with standard software, patch Windows, and join the domain – all in around 20 minutes from switching on the machine for the first time. SCCM is then used to manage the deployed machine, distribute further software to it, and report back to the server.
This standard build could be used across a variety of hardware models (previously the customer had to update the “standard build” ghost image for each new laptop model), using model specific driver packages to avoid changing the SCCM image. For these we used the Dell SCCM integration tools, allowing the customer to download one package from Dell that included all drivers for a particular mode. Once given to the end user, configuration compliance is monitored by SCCM, and any new software is installed from a preapproved list automatically by SCCM, meaning the user doesn’t need admin rights – ensuring they can’t install software or change settings. Licensing can be reported on centrally, and software metering is used to monitor exactly which programs are needed.
Post Pilot rollout to Production
Impressed with the pilot, the customer decided to go ahead with a full production rollout. This was easy for us to do, as the pilot was built to the same standards as we would a production environment. All that was needed was to enable SCCM to reach the full network. We had to ensure that SCCM could upgrade the existing SMS 2003 clients in the environment, and control the rollout of the SCCM client in the larger environment from a single server. In production, having seen how successful the desktop team were deploying operating systems, the server team were keen to use SCCM for server deployment.
We created operating system images for each version of Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows 2003, including drivers and tools for VMware. Again using the Dell integration tools for SCCM, the client is now able to provision a brand new server, including RAID options for storage, in around 20 minutes. Virtual servers take around 10 minutes. By deploying and using SCCM, our customer has regained control over their IT infrastructure.
Using Fuse Collaboration they have been able to accomplish this in a matter of months, whilst growing and retaining their in-house skills, and greatly shortening the testing processes that accompany an OS rollout.