Somewhere between the physical and the virtual
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We thought it might be cool to post a little background on the MMS Client keynote demo where we woke up 20 laptops in the audience over Wireless and migrated them from Windows XP to Windows 7. We have had a ton of feedback that it was a unique demo, and many questions on how it was put together. So, here goes, the backstage pass to how we did it.
The idea started back in November when we were asked ‘if you could do a keynote demo in Las Vegas for MMS, what would you do?’. Brainstorming, we pitched a large red velvet curtained wall with a rack of 5000 clients staged behind it. We pull back the curtain, wake them up and deploy Win7 to them. It was a great idea, but the ‘Vegas’ scale was a little too big to put together.
How about a more realistic scale, and make it a little more unique by placing them in the audience, was my next pitch. Are you serious? Use audience members in a keynote demo? That sounds a little risky. Wait, that’s an awesome idea, lets do it!
So we kicked off the effort, and quickly realized we needed to show off some new and exciting things, as Windows deployment demos have been, well, done before. Thinking about our latest technology development, we realized that it would be really cool to use the new Intel vPro integration in ConfigMgr Service Pack 2 to power control the laptops over wireless to start the demo, and then roll a Win7 deployment with user data live.
Wait, you want to put laptops in the audience, and wake them up over wireless? Hmm, what's your other idea?
Well, we teamed up with our friends at Intel, like Matt Royer, and got some serious OS Deployment experts involved in our OSD PM John Vintzel. Between the 3 of us, we planned the demo together. Intel hooked us up with all the hardware, including an HP 580 Server, and 25 Dell Latitude 6400 laptops, prepped with vPro v4 chipset technology and Intel SSD hard drives.
We started the demo build and flow in the mid Feb timeframe. We had 2 VMs setup, 1 was a W2K8 DC, and the other was a ConfigMgr SP2 early build. One of the problems we had was that SP2 for ConfigMgr is pre public beta, and so the daily builds were going through a lot of change. For Windows 7 client support, we needed to use early SP2 builds, which did cause some small hiccups along the way with site DB and client interaction. It worked, but we had to pay attention. :)
The big part of a demo like this is not the actual demo process. That has to work, no question, but the prep, and ‘rollback’ is actually more work. We had to get the clients on XPSP3, with user data, managed at both the vPro and ConfigMgr levels, and then roll them to Win7 totally automated. Once that was done, we had to roll back and do it again. And again, and again etc. So, a lot of work went into the XP build. We also had to get the builds done and locked before we scaled it across all 20 laptops, as a mistake on 1 laptop is relatively easy to fix, but across 20 it takes time. Joey and the Technet Edge guys came by when we were in Redmond and did a quick tour of the build out. See it here.
We had to get the build locked, automated and absolutely reliable. Once that was done, with a demo like this, where there is an exec to speak with, a live network to wake up, and an audience to interact with, timing was pretty critical. In addition, we had to bring the MMS visitors a real demo, so this has to be a live deployment. That’s where Win7 and the deployment tools like USMT v4 come in. Over vPro wireless, we had the demo timed down to the seconds. We had Dell BIOS power control fired over wireless within 6 seconds, OS boot splash by 15 seconds, XP desktop at 42 seconds, OS deployment kickoff by 1:20, USMT scan hardlinking complete by 3:50, OS Deploy ‘Apply OS stage’ at 5:37, PE reboot by 9:27 and a total Win7 complete by 19:30. This was all important to know, because we intended to kick off the demo, and then come back on stage to show the result, both in the audience, and with the one I deployed on stage. Live.
Win7 deploys quicker than any OS previous. It boots faster, gets you to the desktop quicker, and goes through its daily operations much more efficiently than any previous OS. The Win7 deployment was pretty slick, but it got REALLY slick when we managed to get the user data part of the demo using USMT 4 hardlinking moving from XP to Win7. Hardlinking is so cool, when enabled as a parameter on the command line, it scans the data where it resides, and leaves it there. It doesn't move the data anywhere. So, speed goes through the roof. Our testing showed 1Gb of data timing at 90 seconds. We actually had the conversation in the build stage of making it more realistic, as it was simply deploying too quickly. We took the user data from 500Mb to 4Gb. This added a couple of minutes to the entire demo, but really made the message resonate. In a traditional situation, this would take hours. 4Gb up the wire, to a temp location and back down? Not demoable, live, esp in a keynote. With hardlinking, it was. Here is the example I used in the keynote. If you took 5000 PCs with 4Gb each, that's 20,000Gb of data you need to move up the network to a location, store it, and move it back down. USMT hardlinking takes scan and copy times from hours to minutes, removes network storage completely, and optimizes network bandwidth by keeping data local. That’s innovation.
So, we rolled the demo together, prepped it with Brad, and shipped the gear. We held a few laptops back for dry runs and exec prep meetings, and to practice. I also held back the wireless AP, as that thing was going to be hidden in the stage for the demo, and we had it setup just right. I wasn't letting that thing out of my sight. SEATAC security was pretty entertained by all the gear I had to pass through the x-ray, but it had to get there.
On site we had to setup everything again backstage. Breakout all the laptops, get them talking to the servers, and start dry running again. That was Sunday. Our keynote was Wednesday. We didnt see anything except back stage for 4 days. Dry run dry run dry run. Joey and the Technet Edge guys came by when we were backstage in Vegas and did a quick tour of the build out. See it here.
Some vegas security experiences. Some funny, some not so funny. One of our laptop carriers (I had a few redmond guys carry some laptops over for us) woke up in his hotel room to his door ‘closing’. He looked up, saw all his gear missing, wallet gone etc. This included one of our demo laptops! He called security, and they caught the guy! Thank god for all those cameras. The other storey was backstage. We were right up against the loading docks, and as we were unpacking the laptops, this HUGE guy comes up, introduces himself as head of security and asks who owns the laptops. He tells us to not let them out of our sight, the place was pretty unpredictable if you know what I mean. So, all of a sudden we had to lock up 25 laptops. The answer? We found a cage, and borrowed some handcuffs from the night security and chained them up to a pole. I know, we had to improvise………
Demo day went really well. We had the ‘Woodgrove Accounting Department’ meet us at 730AM to collect the laptops and get briefed. Most had been to bed :). The accounting department was made up of MVPs, MS Field, Some Partners, and some Redmond Product Team. They were ready to go, and promised to keep the power cables plugged in :) The keynote started, I almost lost my voice, Brad rocked it, and the demo was flawless. Here is a video of the end to end demo with Brad.
Here is Brad’s wrap on the Client business, and his MMS Keynote.
PS – Thanks to John and Matt for all their help, without them this would not have happened.
Jeff WettlauferSr. Technical Product Manager, System Center
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