Great article from Asif – who is also a genuinely nice guy……

In today's world, technical growth is inevitable. While it brings added functionality and improved productivity, it should be managed with careful consideration for the accompanying business or cultural change that will ensue. We have recently deployed Windows Vista and I'd like to tell you how we did it. Microsoft IT acts as our first and best customer by running beta versions of software before launch. I'm sure you can imagine both the challenges and benefits of this. We take it in our stride and the business culture is supportive so that we can release enterprise-ready products which have been tried and tested in real life scenarios. In case you are wondering, we do maintain our SLAs to the Sales & Marketing business units at Microsoft during these periods.

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Before embarking on an internal deployment, please encourage your staff to familiarise themselves with http://www.microsoft.com/desktopdeployment. The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit is a great resource for developing a business case, planning deployment, sourcing scripts and tools, and sharing best practices via the Business Desktop Solution Accelerator (BDD).

BDD was created to give customers and partners best practices for the deployment of a new operating system. It includes: application compatibility, hardware / software inventory, standard OS image creation, user state / data migration (USMT), security, deployment, training (staff and helpdesk), operations readiness, light / zero touch deployments and business case complete with project template.
Globally we maintain a database of all internal line-of-business (LOB) applications. I would encourage all IT departments to produce a similar database complete with developers / business owners as this was critical to the success of our deployment. To complement our LOB list we also used the Windows Application Compatibility Toolkit in conjunction with Systems Management Server 2003 to help capture and identify additional applications residing on client desktops, and so providing Microsoft IT with a comprehensive view of the hardware and software in our environment. From speaking with customers and from personal experience, it's clear an optimised mature infrastructure is important when embarking on the deployment of any new technology. And the desktop operating system is no exception.

It is also important to decide which core applications will be included in the standard corporate image. This will, of course, vary per customer. But for us, the full suite of Microsoft Office 2007, IT Connection Manager (VPN), Windows Mobile Device Centre and Fast Help (online IT support gadget) are a few examples that we included in our core image. To help build versions of our corporate image, we leveraged the Windows Imaging (WIM) technology as this provided us with a file-based image where drivers can be easily slip-streamed to help maintain the image over time. To build and maintain our image we used the Windows Automatic Installation Kit (WAIK) and Distributed File System Replication (DFSR2). The WIM was deployed into the field by three methods giving employees a choice of deployment process:

- Windows Server 2003, Windows Deployment Services (WDS), whereby employees could PXE (network) boot to start the installation
- XPsp2 user initiated upgrade from a web-based product repository
- DVD for some remote locations with bandwidth limitations.

To capture staff's desktop settings and data we leveraged the functionality of both the Easy File Transfer Wizard and the User State Migration Tool. Either will do the trick for any customer deployment and USMT is easily configurable via XML. While on the subject, staff benefited from training on Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system, both online and in the form of Microsoft IT-delivered, Everyday Productivity Education (EPE) instructor-led courses. Though EPE courses are not always required, it is common practice for IT to deliver courses with the aim to give productivity hours back to the business. The Windows Vista EPE guides are available for download and are a great tool to encourage adoption. Comprehensive training was also provided to the Global Helpdesk teams to ensure operational support was available from day one.

Since the initial deployment using Windows Deployment Services we have tested many methods and found that a combination of employee self-installation with light IT assistance works well in our environment. Many employees at Microsoft are happy to rebuild their machines on a regular basis, while some prefer to have IT support on hand to assist. To accommodate the latter, installation fairs were held in some locations, servicing multiple employees with a small number of IT staff. To hear more about our installation-fair approach, please see the interview on the Partner TV Channel.

If you would like more information about deployment at Microsoft or 'How Microsoft does IT' please visit http://www.microsoft.com/ITShowcase or ask your Microsoft representative to book an 'IT Showcase' for your company.
Good Luck on your deployments,

Asif

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Asif Jinnah

Field Area IT Manager - UK