I had the chance to be one of the first customers in the world to be deploying Windows 8 in a production environment. In the spring of 2012, we were part of a Rapid Deployment Project with Microsoft around Windows Server 2012 which involved deploying Windows 8 Release Preview and Windows Server 2012 Release Preview in three schools.  The project was very successful and the full information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/casestudies/Case_Study_Detail.aspx?casestudyid=710000001457

MDT-wheelDeploying Windows 8 really isn't that much different than deploying Windows 7. Application compatibility isn't an issue either - if it works with Windows 7, it will work with Windows 8.  When it comes to deploying Windows 8, there are two good tools for deployment, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit or Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2012.

For our deployment at the school board we chose Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. If you are going to use Microsoft Deployment Toolkit you will need Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 Update 1. As part of building the deployment environment you will also need to install the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows® 8. Add your Windows image, drivers, packages and applications and then you are ready for deployment.  This method of deployment is called Lite Touch Installation (LTI).

The other way to deploy Windows 8 is to use System Center Configuration Manager 2012. Deploying System Center 2012 isn’t a trivial task; it requires thorough planning and architecture to support your environment, as well as a good understanding of the tool itself. The good news is it is much more powerful than Microsoft Deployment Toolkit in that you can push Windows 8 installs without any intervention from a user… in fact, the computer to which you are deploying Windows 8 does not even have to be turned on when you schedule the work; it simply has to be connected to the network.  This method of deployment is called Zero Touch Installation (ZTI).  System Center Configuration Manager manages Windows updates, software installs and software updates all automatically. We just launched our deployment and for example last month we updated an application and within 40 minutes of starting, 4000 of the 11,000 computers in our school board had been updated. You can imagine the amount of time this would take if you had to visit each computer and manually run the update.

If you haven’t started your Windows 8 deployments, I strongly encourage you to look at both of these technologies. The good thing is Microsoft Deployment Toolkit can be leveraged by System Center Configuration Manager to deploy Windows 8. If you don’t have System Center Configuration Manager 2012 in your environment now, get started by installing and configuring Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and then once you have ConfigMgr in your environment simply attach it to your build of Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.

The other great thing is our Canadian DPE team on the IT side has been traveling the country showing System Center Configuration Manager 2012 as part of the IT camp program. If you get the chance to get to one of these, do take the opportunity and go!