Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
Are you up to speed on the new imaging alphabet? ImageX, BDD, WIM, WSIM, WinPE and various other glorious acronyms are discussed in the screencast below. In the meantime, let me set the stage for the some of the desktop imaging problems today, and the solutions Microsoft is delivering with the next generation operating system, Windows Vista. Those technologies are being bundled into the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007 toolset.
Ok, show of hands for those of you that have created a corporate desktop and rolled it out. For all of you with your hand in the air, keep it up if it changed almost as soon as you deployed it. In fact, I'd be willing to bet, the requirements for that desktop changed before you completed the rollout. You can put your hand down.
Every time the requirements change, a good desktop developer and integrator probably starts another version from the old desktop, or builds from scratch. Many of you use the popular imaging tools on the market and they are life savers in terms of their ability to take a snapshot and blow those images down to a hard drive or do desktop replacement. Thank god for multi casting, PXE and Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE).
The problem is, every time you get a new driver, security patch, or requirement, you end up creating another version of that desktop and the number of images you maintain piles up. Maintenance equals expense and studies have shown that the expense is considerable. Enter from stage left, WIM.
Windows Imaging (WIM)
The Windows Imaging (WIM) format is new for Windows Vista. It is the basis from which many of the tools are derived and is unique in many respects. The WIM format is documented and used through the WIMGAPI SDK. Documentation for the WIMGAPI is included with the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). In other words, if you don't like our tools you can certainly make your own, and if history is any indication, there will be a healthy market for those tools when Windows Vista ships.
A WIM file is the store for the packages and components that are installed and make up Windows Vista. The packages and components can also be non-Microsoft products. This component specification is defined in the Component Platform Interface (CPI) reference. This reference and guide is also included with BDD 2007 and WAIK. Look closely at the CPI specifications, research, and test package management. It's an important new set of services. I don't demo the package management tools in this screencast, but I plan to cover it at a later date when I cover package creation, security patch updates and driver injection.
ImageX is one of those tools that uses the API to do a variety of chores with one or more .wim files. In the screencast, you'll see me use imagex to dump the content of a wim, mount a wim to a directory, export a particular image from a multi image wim into a new wim and other fun stuff. As with all tools, the best way to learn this stuff is to experiment. In my screencast, we use the install.wim from build 5520 which contains seven of the Windows Vista products SKUs.
Imagex is also a core tool used to capture or take a snapshot of a hard drive after customization and sysprep. A few of the imagex functions can only be used from WinPE and /capture is one of those.
Windows System Image Manager (WSIM)
The Windows System Image Manager is the tool of choice for creating custom Windows Vista deployments and having an answer file implement your changes. In the screencast, you'll see me open a .wim file, in this case the install.wim, create a new catalog of the packages and components, then start customizing those components. WSIM will also validate those choices to make sure you have the correct expected parms and data for it to work with. Once again, WSIM is using the underlying package management and storage capabilities in the new image technologies.
Business DeskTop Deployment (BDD) 2007
The BDD toolset brings all of the technology together into a single integrated environment. For corporate desktop deployment, it is the supported methods and tools. The emphasis for BDD 2007 is Windows Vista and Office 2007. Surprise! Please go signup for the BDD 2007 download at connect.microsoft.com. You'll see the tools from June right now but we are getting ready to bring the toolset up-to-date with the RC1 codebase.
Hopefully after you've read this and watched the screencast, you'll download and explore the BDD 2007 toolset. You'll see we're serious about improving the underlying technologies and tools needed to create and maintain corporate images. With the patch management technologies coming with Windows Vista, keeping those images secure and up-to-date will be far easier than in the past. The end result should be less time and expense associated with creating and maintaining those images.
You can watch my Windows Vista Imaging screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher. The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters. If you want to keep the demos for offline viewing, right mouse click the attachment below and copy it local. Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.
Oh, and if you want to go see an expanded version of the demos complete with slides, see the webcast I delivered on this subject a couple of weeks ago. Go to http://msevents.microsoft.com/cui/WebCastEventDetails.aspx?culture=en-US&EventID=1032301598.
"See you" again soon.
Additional Deployment References