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SMS 2003 Feature Packs Arrive

Microsoft this week delivered two long-promised feature packs for Systems Management Server 2003 -- an Operating System Deployment Feature Pack and a Device Management Feature Pack.

Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates announced availability of the new feature packs at the Microsoft IT Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Microsoft product managers have been promising the feature packs since well before SMS 2003 shipped a year ago.

The SMS 2003 Operating System Deployment Feature Pack is designed to help desktop administrators create a Windows operating system desktop image and deploy it in an automated manner. The SMS 2003 Device Management Feature Pack lets administrators discover devices, collect hardware and software inventory and distribute software to the devices.

According to Gates, the OS Deployment pack is one of the most frequent requests he gets in conversations with some of SMS' 16,000 customers. "We think this is one of the processes that, for the IT department, have been fairly high overhead," Gates said in his keynote. In addition to the overhead, Gates said, customers haven't been able to achieve an optimal degree of compliance or speed of updating.

Bill Anderson, who ran a demonstration of the OS deployment pack for Microsoft during the Gates keynote, said the tool fills a hole in SMS. "SMS has always been a great preparatory tool, but it has lacked that one piece -- the ability to deliver an image to an existing machine, which is what we are delivering to the market today," Anderson said.

Anderson detailed and demonstrated two main scenarios for using the OS feature pack. One is a user self-provisioning scenario, where a user is empowered or has an inconvenient schedule or where a top down approach otherwise won't work. In that demo, Anderson acted as a Windows NT 4.0 Workstation user upgrading to Windows XP Service Pack 2. Responding to an e-mail from his administrator, Anderson followed a link to a SharePoint Portal site and started his own upgrade.

In the other, more powerful, scenario and demonstration, Anderson showed how the OS Deployment pack can upgrade hundreds or thousands of machines at once.

Microsoft pulled back the curtain on a bank of 100 PCs running Windows 2000 and Windows XP Service Pack 1. Anderson initiated an OS Deployment pack process that backed up the user state and data, "flattened" the devices, brought them back up on Windows XP SP2 and restored user data. "All of that in the course of eight to 10 minutes or so," Anderson said.

Anderson added the caveat that the demo machines had no applications and a tiny amount of user data. "That is how we get it into 10 minutes instead of 30 or 40 minutes."

Information on the feature packs is available at www.microsoft.com/smserver.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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