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Solution for Remote Software Deployment on Windows?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the is-pushing-images-the-only-way dept.

Windows 84

DownTownMT asks: "I work as a Windows administrator in a small company with roughly 180 WinXP/2000 and 30 Win98 machines. Our current method for installing Windows patches is WSUS which works great for the non-98 PC's. However, when installing software, such as Adobe, QuickTime and various other tools, our only method is to manually install it on each machine. What are you sysadmins using to deploy software across all of your machines?"

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Altiris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18915745)

We use Altiris.

Re:Altiris (2, Interesting)

Meostro (788797) | more than 7 years ago | (#18919713)

Seconded. At a large company I worked for, we used Altiris [altiris.com] to do deployments, patches and upgrades. It really beat the previous method, which was to literally take the install CD around to wherever we were working. Altiris lets you do reporting on who has what (including software versions and patch levels), and their package interface is pretty kick-ass. I don't know if the flexibility is available on other packages, but with Altiris you can specify several steps in a deployment, like
  • Copy files to client
  • Based on OS+SP, copy some additional files
  • Run a script that will do some mojo to combine the additional files
  • Run an installer
  • Based on the installer results, run another package
  • Run another script that does reg patches to work around the problems that the package has
  • Chain packages together, so you can dump all your hotfixes with one click.
  • Better yet, since the job history shows up on the management screen, you can tell which systems have gotten which patches
There are also automatic package deployment processes, so a centralized office can instruct the remote Altiris servers to install patches on all of its clients at X time - that's great for the branches because they don't even have to worry about system-wide patches, they just happen.

In addition to the package deployment system, there are reporting and diagnostic tools too. There is even a "remote desktop" tool, so when an installation goes bad or returns some kind of error, you can remote into the box (and/or lock the user out while you do) and fix whatever is broken while the user is on the phone. A bunch of other tools came with the package too, RapidDeploy(snapshot and deploy app install diffs instead of waiting for the whole install process), profile management (remotely back up/migrate a user or system) and web-based ad-hoc reporting.

Since we were a large company we had a huge Altiris deployment(~80 remote servers for 1000s of clients), and we probably paid $$$$ for it. There are different packages in different sizes available (AFAIK), so you should be able to find a decent match for your company.

(wow, that really sounds like a sales pitch... i don't work for them, i just really liked the product)

Depends (1)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915759)

If you're a hardcore, all-MS shop that uses Microsoft support alot, go with SMS -- otherwise they will blame every issue that you have on the 3rd party distribution tool.

What you're looking for is a pretty mature product by now, and most of the major players have pretty decent products -- you really need to eval them in your environment to get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses. You could probably roll your own solution pretty easily too.

Lots of choices, but SMS is the standard (2, Informative)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915835)

A couple of cautions.

Any remote distribution product has a fairly high learning curve, and SMS is no exception. This is as much about the infrastructure as it is about the product being distributed. You will often find it necessary to hack apart MSIs, do some intriguing scripting, etc, because vendors are terrible at providing standardized ways of distributing their software in an automated scriptable manner. Adobe (as you mention them specifically), from what I've heard, is especially bad at this. That said, there are many, many people doing the same thing who are willing to share their experiences in mailing lists and on web sites.

Check the requirements and supported platforms for your product before you plunk down your company's cash. For SMS, that includes the service pack level as supportability can change. I'm looking specifically at your use of Windows 98, which I think is not supported in SMS 2003. But check and make sure.

By the way, skipping back to my first point...what duffbeer703 says about MS blaming issues on the 3rd party distribution tool is, in my experience, not as bad as it sounds. (Caveat: we have premier support so they tend to be a lot nicer to us.) But, in general, I've found MS to be pretty helpful on support, and that extends to "best efforts" even if they do point the finger at your other product. That said...remember your other third party product, even if you use SMS, is the products you're trying to distribute.

Good luck. SMS works really well for us, but we have a fairly solid grounding in it. As I mentioned, it's a steep learning curve no matter what product you choose, and you may find there are various system requirements that you might find onerous (do you run AD, for example?). Remember SMS is more than mere software distribution; it's also a huge inventory gatherer which adds to the complexity of running it.

Re:Depends (2, Informative)

icedivr (168266) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917287)

What you're really looking for is Systems Center Essentials. It is a combination of WSUS, SMS and MOM rolled up into one. It's targeted towards companies that have "a computer guy" or two, but not the resources to implement full-blown versions of SMS & MOM. It's currently offered as a release candidate, so its official release is coming soon. http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/sce/ [microsoft.com]

I use AutoIt3 or NSIS (1)

PetoskeyGuy (648788) | more than 7 years ago | (#18920477)

I usually just roll my own install managers using AutoIt3. It's a nice little scripting utility, free and simple to use. When you get a working script you can compile it to an EXE. So take something like quicktime, put it and the controlling script into it's own directory. You launch the installer, wait for the windows to appear then send the keypresses to the installer. Remember to set focus before sending keys or clicks in case the user tries to alt-tab away. It's pretty quick and easy if you've got a bit of coding skill. I've also used NSIS to wrap installers and enter custom values for our default setups.

Just stick it on a USB drive walk around and stick / click / done.

The funniest part of all this is that I can do a complete server uninstall and re-install with about 3 mouse clicks and 10 minutes of watching screens fly by but the server guys still take upwards of an hour per machine to do the same thing. We have very different point-of-view. Job security for me is my ability to get stuff done correctly as quickly as possible. Job security for them seems to be always having something to do and a list of things not yet done.

Re:I use AutoIt3 or NSIS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18922421)

LOL. If your "solution" involves walking to each machine, you should be fired.

Re:I use AutoIt3 or NSIS (1)

PetoskeyGuy (648788) | more than 7 years ago | (#19031305)

When you can SEE all the machines at once it's cost effective. It's all a matter of scale and for this many machines it's not necessary to have something running on all the machines to push out changes. Mainly though it's their money and they understand walking around and installing software. They don't understand pushing put changes via the network because they run a factory and the physical need to update things is just kind of built-in to their way of thinking. Hard to explain but the client is happy and it gets the job done cheaply.

Dammit! (5, Funny)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915767)

You sound like the same idiot who stole my job for $20k/y less then what I was getting paid.

Re:Dammit! (-1, Offtopic)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917999)

Why the fuck can't we give more than 5 modpoints???

Re:Dammit! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18923215)

Maybe that idiot knew the difference between "then" and "than"...

Altiris Deployment Server or MS SMS (4, Informative)

willith (218835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915769)

Spent several years using the Altiris [altiris.com] Deployment Server product to install software packages in a ~4,000 user site. It worked quite well; you install the Altiris Client on each computer you want managed (there's an automated remote install, or it can be done manually, or via logon script, or whatever works for you), and then you can perform a ton of actions on the client computers from the Deployment Server console--installing packages, removing packages, power on (via Wake-on-LAN) and power off events, hardware & software inventory & reporting, all kinds of stuff. The packages you install will generally be MSIs, created yourself with something like Wise Package Studio [wise.com] or from regular off-the-shelf software with a transform of your own making applied post-install.

Microsoft's SMS [microsoft.com] is also a fine option and competes with Altiris; while Altiris comes with a lot more pre-configured features out of the box, SMS is just as extensible and has the same leg-up over Altiris that most MS products have over competitors--seamless integration into the host OS and domain.

Re:Altiris Deployment Server or MS SMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916509)

Also look into SoftGrid, recently acquired by Microsoft's SMS division. It streams applications to workstations and protects them in a virtual client environment, so apps that would normally conflict with each other can run on the same machine. Plus it streams apps faster than they can be installed, so the user experience is better as well.

Re:Altiris Deployment Server or MS SMS (1)

Herby Sagues (925683) | more than 7 years ago | (#18950435)

While SoftGrid does not run in Windows 98, I must say it is an awesome solution for application packaging and deployment. Not only it takes care of installation (by not installing applications at all) and deployment (by streaming in real time the needed content, though scheduled streaming is also an option) but keeps each application in its own virtualized environment preventing compatibility problems and reducing the need for app compatibility testing. A must try for large environments but might also be of value for smaller shops.

Re:Altiris Deployment Server or MS SMS (1)

222 (551054) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918527)

I evaluated Altiris and SMS, but in the end I went with EMCO's Remote Administration and Network Inventory. The nice thing about those is that it doesn't involve a client, and provides almost all of the stuff that Altiris would have. Regarding deployment, I went with the open source "Unattended", and it works like a champ.

The EMCO stuff also cost less than a 10th of what Altiris wanted.

Re:Altiris Deployment Server or MS SMS (1)

Degrees (220395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918939)

Another option is Novell ZENworks [wikipedia.org] . They've been doing this since 1998, so it's not like they are new at it. Novell is working reasonably hard to make ZENworks "directory independent" - in other words, run on either eDirectory or Active Directory. Unfortunately, I don't believe the Windows 98 machines will work with the upcoming ZENworks 7 - but I think they do work with ZENworks 6.5. At BrainShare, one of the cool demos was that they pointed ZENworks discovery manager at a subnet, and it found the machines without an agent, and auto-installed the agent without touching the machine. (The ZENworks administrator did have to supply a username and password to get the program installed - but there was no remote-control required, no user intervention, nothing. The demo was run against a Windows Vista machine).

The other benefit to using ZENworks is that they are adding Linux to their base of managed systems. If your environment will expand in that direction, the one tool manages both.

Scriptit (1)

SigNuZX728 (635311) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915771)

I have a similar number of machines and am an OU admin. I've had issues with GP software deployment so I just use MS Scriptit. You stil have to go around to each machine, but you don't have to sit there and click through everything.

Microsoft SMS Server (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18915773)

Microsoft SMS server is the preferred tool for Windows remote software deployment. You can also use Group Policy, but that is significantly more limited.

ZENworks (1)

AmigaBen (629594) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915777)

Novell ZENworks, and more specifically, the Desktop Management piece of it.

The answer (0)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915779)

Copy files, and run Regedit. Maybe run regsvr32 a couple times too.
If you need to do it remotely, use SSH.

Win98? (3, Insightful)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915811)

I think the solution you should be looking for is to get rid of the Win98 machines. I'm guessing you have some proprietary/legacy app or systems control running on them but you'll eventually need to get rid of them anyway. Maybe you should work that aspect first?

Re:Win98? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916093)

Not if the need to run that proprietary/legacy app or systems control expires before the Win98 machines do.

Re:Win98? (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916327)

"Not if the need to run that proprietary/legacy app or systems control expires before the Win98 machines do."

Hello! It's 2007. Win98 expired long ago...Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista...and that's just workstations. Do we need to include server flavors too? The machine may not have expired if you are running a different OS, but Windows 98 has expired, been buried, and can't be exhumed. Anyone running Windows 98 for a business critical system has a HUGE need to modernize. That should be the priority.

Re:Win98? (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917995)

Anyone running Windows 98 for a business critical system has a HUGE need to modernize. That should be the priority.


Why? Just becuase Microsoft doesn't support it anymore doesn't make it any less usable. That's just like having a computer for years and asking someone if they need to upgrade it because it's old. My answer is always, "have you changed what you are originally using it for? If so, is the software newer and does it require more horsepower than the machine can provide?" If you say no, then there is no reason to upgrade.

I've got several computers running that are still using Windows 98. They're doing their tasks perfectly. There's absolutly no reason to upgrade them or modernize them, they're doing excactly what they've been doing since the first day they went into use. I don't add software to them, I don't change what they are used for, and therefore, they don't need to be upgraded.

Also, if you decide that you do need to change your platform to utilize the new functionality of a deployment package like SMS, then I'd suggest using a new OS running your old Windows 98 based software in VirtualPC (it's free!) It's a great solution that keeps the base OS up to date with all the latest wizbang stuff, but still maintains the ability to run your old legacy applications.

Bill

Re:Win98? (1)

Darkinspiration (901976) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918671)

All good points but you fail to consider harware maintenance. It's almost impossible to buy a new machine now that has windows 98 drivers.The longer you keep windows 98 the harder it will be to maintain your computers. There is always virtualisation however.

Re:Win98? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18920565)

There's one caveat...how do you repair the software when the user breaks it?

I run a free PC Clinic that fixes between 20 and 30 computers, once a month. The Win98 machines are a pain to work with because it's harder to fix things broken by the likes of AOL and malware. (Not to mention the original system discs are probably fifty miles away at the bottom of a landfill.)

If you have solutions for that, I could really use them.

Re:Win98? (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18921621)

A colleague at work has been doing some work related to getting a MS-DOS application running in a virtual machine on a Windows host. Unlike a lot of companies, we have a big QA department that takes their job very seriously - QA typically takes longer than development by a significant amount.

What they've found is that VirtualPC, at least for this purpose, sucks. It locks up after running for a few days. This is essentially an embedded application, so locking up isn't acceptable.

Virtual Server, and VMWare Server, on the other hand, are stable. But Virtual PC just isn't there.

Re:Win98? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922893)

"Why? Just becuase Microsoft doesn't support it anymore doesn't make it any less usable"

We're talking about Windows 98. Who said anything about being usable? Given the lack of stability of Win9x, any company serious about getting their work done should have switched to a NT family OS years ago (assuming they wanted to stay with Windows). This sounds either like a case of short-sighted budgeting or an attempt to "show MS who's boss" by continuing to have their PC's crash every few days.

Re:Win98? (1)

Ed Random (27877) | more than 7 years ago | (#18925421)

Actually, one of the electronics labs I worked for needed to stay with Win95/Win98 for an extended period of time, because their MPEG stream generators needed the "realtime" capabilities provided by the cooperative multitasking. In other words, correct output from the MPEG generator depended on being able to "hijack" the CPU.

The newer schedulers in 2k/XP prevented the card from functioning properly. As a workaround for the lack of security updates on these old OS's, the machines were put on a protected LAN (SSN)

Re:Win98? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18930225)

"Actually, one of the electronics labs I worked for needed to stay with Win95/Win98 for an extended period of time, because their MPEG stream generators needed the "realtime" capabilities provided by the cooperative multitasking. In other words, correct output from the MPEG generator depended on being able to "hijack" the CPU."

It's good that you put realtime in quotes. Anyway, Win9x actually uses preemptive multitasking not cooperative (that was used in Win3.1 and earlier), but I can't argue with what is working for you.

Re:Win98? (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18926285)

Given the lack of stability of Win9x, any company serious about getting their work done should have switched to a NT family OS years ago (assuming they wanted to stay with Windows).


Don't you think that if we found a stability problem with our application running on Win98 that we would have addressed it, oh, say a decade ago when we first deployed it? We're running these machines on a 24x7 basis with absolutly no stability problems. Those people who run into stability problems simply don't know how to write software correctly or debug applications completly. Now, hardware is a different matter. For us, when a machine fails, it's a simple matter of buying the cheapest Dell or HP available and using that. By the way, those of you talking about drivers... that's a non issue as well. Have you tried running Win98 on a modern machine? It runs just fine. All the standard I/O stuff is supported in Win98 like Serial, Parallel and even USB. We don't use anything else so drivers for them are irrelavant.

By the way, we are in the process of moving to a more modern system, but that isn't because the machines are "outdated" in any way, we're changing the bases for the reason of the software, so we are going to redevelop it. It's possible that a spin off of our work will remain on the old systems to support some customers on a contract basis.

Bill

Re:Win98? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18930097)

"Don't you think that if we found a stability problem with our application running on Win98 that we would have addressed it, oh, say a decade ago when we first deployed it?"

The problem isn't necessarily with your application, but with any other application that could be running. A bad application can crash Win9x OS and your application can't protect against it no matter how well it is written. Now if your application is the only one running than you may be fine, but that's not typically the scenario that most people are using.

Re:Win98? (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18935489)

His comment was generic just like yours is. WE have had absolutly no reason to upgrade our system for the past decade. It's been working flawlessly since it was introduced and have not had the stability issues he is referring to as the reason to upgrade.

My original point is that as long as the system requriements don't change and the system is working, then there is absolutly no reason to upgrade. His comment was that "ANY COMPANY" should switch, period. I'm going to reiterate again that this is not necessary. We have had our computers running Win98 and our custom application for years with no problems, therefore no reason to change. We are just now thinking about upgrading the infrastructure which will require that we do upgrade those machines, but that is only because we forsee our requirements changing.

Bill

Re:Win98? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18936343)

OK, absolutes are almost always wrong. If you've never had a system crash and you don't plan a change in your configuration or an update your software (which might expose you to other OS's problems not yet encountered) and the hardware platform will be available forever (or you have a virtual solution that works flawlessly) than by all means continue as you always have.

But for the 99% of companies that can't meet those requirements, an upgrade is the wise choice.

UDPcast (1, Insightful)

YGingras (605709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915813)

Cloning machines has several advantages. With a set of a few images you can ensure that each month you start with clean boxen. People will learn really fast that important stuff should be on the network drive. Usually, the people who really need to customize their system themselves can be trusted with the updates so you just skip the cloning for those. OK, I admit that doesn't do so well in a Windows network. A major annoyance is that it won't update the machine id after the cloning. On GNU/Linux you can fix that kind of stuff in rc.local but I don't know how to do it with Windows. Ghost might be a smart investment.

Re:UDPcast (1)

megabyte405 (608258) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916231)

On a Windows system, just make a first clone of your working master (to become your clone master), then run the "sysprep" tool (after configuration, use google) on this clone master. It will shut down the machine. At that point, clone the disk however you want - it will reset the security id (SID) and computer name on each new machine, and do some hardware detection too (not all of it, though, so test first)

Adobe... yuk (-1)

dj245 (732906) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915825)

First of all, Adobe acrobat (I assume thats what you mean since 95% of all corporate machines I have ever seen have Acrobat installed) is bloated and unnecessary for most users. Foxit [foxitsoftware.com] is a lightweight pdf reader. Its free too.

You could look at some type of disk cloning setup such as norton ghost or something similar. This has many other advantages as well, but it isn't suited to some situations (numerous hardware configurations for one). But if I were you, heres what I would do:

I would resign my position immediately because I was asking for help with my job on slashdot.

Re:Adobe... yuk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916385)

First of all, Adobe acrobat (I assume thats what you mean since 95% of all corporate machines I have ever seen have Acrobat installed) is bloated and unnecessary for most users. Foxit is a lightweight pdf reader. Its free too.
Yeah. Who needs useless fluff like being able to print to a network printer?

Re:Adobe... yuk (1)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18941665)

-1, FUD

Foxit works great! Much thanks to the dude what posted the link. I’ve been looking for something more like Preview.app than ACROBAT.EXE, and this does the trick. And yes, even with a network printer. Imagine that.

BackOrifice? (4, Funny)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915827)

I believe BackOrifice was originally designed for this kind of thing, on Win95/98 machines, no less.

Just do drive by-installs with Internet Explorer (2, Funny)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915833)

Just put a signed self-installing Active-X control on the company web site on some page that sounds interesting, and let it do drive-by installs.

SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (2, Insightful)

odin749 (884680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18915985)

There are many suggestions here to use SMS or Altris when he has stated that he only has 180 users and still 30 running Windows '98. This is not a company that is will to part with cash for enterprise solutions if they still have Windows '98 lying around. It is also not a company that is overly concerned with security.
I worked in a similar environment in the past and I found that with a properly setup Active Directory and some painfully written batch scripts I was able to get software to install perfectly on every machine in the office. All it takes is a few hours of writing the scripts and testing for each software that you want to install and then you never have to think about that software again. I had a master script that ran when a user logged on that mapped all their printers and file shares, set a random local admin password and then check to see that all software was the latest version.
At my current job which is closer to 50,000 computers we use a much more elligant solution in PCCOE however it is really over kill for what you need.
http://odin749.bloger.com/ [bloger.com]

Re:SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (2, Interesting)

dreamer-of-rules (794070) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916195)

We have a couple Windows 98 machines for reading mainframe tapes we still get from our clients. The tape software runs in DOS, and simply can not be run in any newer Windows. There is updated tape software, but it's all GUI, less useful, and takes about 10 times longer to do the same thing.

I've spent enough hours trying to get around this.. so now we have these single-purpose systems with severely locked down accounts.

Point is, there may be a good reason they've still got Windows 98 systems in use..

(PCCOE was pretty cool.. I've written a couple site packages for it in a past life.)

Re:SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918231)

at a minimum, you could be running dos within vmware. User needs to read tapes? Fire up vmware.

Re:SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 7 years ago | (#18946117)

We have a couple Windows 98 machines for reading mainframe tapes we still get from our clients. The tape software runs in DOS, and simply can not be run in any newer Windows. There is updated tape software, but it's all GUI, less useful, and takes about 10 times longer to do the same thing.

A previous post suggested using a VM. Have you tried running FreeDOS on a VM or an older machine tucked in a corner?

Does your client have any plans or desires to move away from tape? Without knowing much about their mainframe, can they write data to a removable hard drive? There are many options for removable hard drives, including caddies and USB.

Re:SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (1)

dreamer-of-rules (794070) | more than 7 years ago | (#19059343)

I haven't tried VMWare-- never occurred to me since it was a driver/hardware issue. We use the old tape software in Windows XP for reading files, but couldn't get it to access the SCSI tape readers, no matter what I tried. Do you think it would be able to access the hardware in VMWare when the host OS can't (in that way)?

We're close enough now to getting rid of the tapes onto CD/DVD/FTP anyway, I'm not going to mess with it. But thanks for the idea.

Re:SMS and Altris 400lb sledge hammer (1)

GWBasic (900357) | more than 7 years ago | (#19061689)

I haven't tried VMWare-- never occurred to me since it was a driver/hardware issue. We use the old tape software in Windows XP for reading files, but couldn't get it to access the SCSI tape readers, no matter what I tried. Do you think it would be able to access the hardware in VMWare when the host OS can't (in that way)?

It's theoretically possible, but I'm not the expert. Paralels on Mac allows the user to specifically direct USB devices to the VM, it wouldn't surprise me if there's some VM that can allow for direct connection of a SCSI device to a VM. I think you'll need to shop around.

MSI & GPOs (2, Informative)

enharmonix (988983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916025)

You can configure and deploy Windows Installer packages in MSI format using Active Directory Group Policy Objects. We use them to enforce up-to-date SAV installations on all desktops in our domain, and plan to start rolling out more installs that way. Supposedly you can even use tools to bundle EXE serup programs in MSI files to deploy them through AD. Beats the heck out of administrative installs or VNC. Hope that helps. Cheers.

ding ding ding (2, Interesting)

toadlife (301863) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916719)

That's what we've been doing for six years now since moving to a win2k domain. As of now we have around 40 software packages in our "softdeploy" share. Since we have multiple sites, we host the software shares on a DFS root, so we can use on policy for machines in all sites and they get their package from the local site automatically.

I convert non-msi installers into msi format with the freeware program wininstallle 2003 (which is no longer free, but I kept my copy). wininstall tends to create slightly broken packages, so I fix them by running the validation tool in Microsoft's orca utility.

If my boss would spring for a proper msi package creator like adminstudio, I wouldn't have to know so much about msi installers, but that's the way it goes.

Re:MSI & GPOs (1)

enharmonix (988983) | more than 7 years ago | (#18920773)

Update: According to this post [slashdot.org] , I guess technically using GPOs uses administrative installs, too. I'm not the one handling the installs, so I stand corrected, but for a small (read, less-than-enterprise) environment, I still have to recommend the GPO route. Thanks to kcurtis for pointing that out further down.

Thank you, Mod Parent Up! (1)

Allador (537449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18922815)

Thank you! While everyone is going on about Altiris (gag) and SMS, there's a completely free solution, and its already present in your domain!

Just use Group Policy and Veritas WinINSTALL LE (free and included with your windows server CD).

Everything you need to know is here:

http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/windo ws2000serv/howto/winstall.mspx [microsoft.com]

Free and easy, no muss no fuss.

Re:Thank you, Mod Parent Up! (1)

liquidice5 (570814) | more than 7 years ago | (#18923577)

Have you ever used Altiris?

It just works, imaging, software deployment, remote control, its all there.

Their RIP packager leaves a bit to be desired, but it does work.

I think their imaging ability works much better than any other of the image and automatic configuration programs I have seen
It can rename machines, rejoin to AD, and run post setup jobs. Plus, the amount of information Altiris collects about a computer is amazing, need to know:
serial numbers
mac address
installed programs
installed hardware
bios versions

altiris' SQL database has everything you need.

We could have used SMS for almost nothing because of our Microsoft licenses but we still pay for Altiris because it is just worth it.

Re:Thank you, Mod Parent Up! (1)

Allador (537449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18923753)

I have used Altiris, though it was a few years back. It worked great, but was not cheap/free (except for very expensive values of cheap/free).

Using GPOs for distribution (in non-huge and non-hugely-complex environments) is free and works quite well. Note its not actually free. In both cases you have to snapshot the changes from an install, so net zero diff there. Using GPO requires a little bit more work to script your reboots and validation. Thats a non-zero cost, but also has benefits, such as better training on how MSIs are built, and how to script activities in your domain.

I wont argue that for certain very-large and/or very-complex installations, GPO based distributions isnt appropriate.

I didnt place any values on imaging, remote control, and inventory because the original poster didnt ask for them. However, I will say this:

I'd suggest not using a third-party solution for imaging, exception in special circumstances (labs, kiosks, etc). This is because it makes your skills non-portable. If you learn how to do imaging using WDS, RIS, Sysprep, etc then you can do imaging anywhere you go, without having to buy new software.

And for remote control, there's been no reason to use 3rd party remote control software since windows2000. Remote desktop and remote assistance work just fine, for non-interactive and interactive support, respectively.

Anyway, while I agree that Altiris is a comprehensive and effective package, I would argue that in most cases its cost is not worth it, as 75% of its functionality is already included in windows, and just requires a little bit of scripting and learning the guts. And that is a re-usable skill (scripting for administration and knowing windows & AD internals).

Lastly, when its time for your org to move to Vista (if ever) the imaging situation has changed dramatically. The new WinPE based installer and server component (the successor to RIS) are really, really well done. It's going to be hard for third-party tools to make something compelling enough to spend big bucks on, IMO.

Re:MSI & GPOs (1)

icedivr (168266) | more than 7 years ago | (#18923295)

There are two shortcomings to using GPOs for software deployment. The biggest thing is, you don't know if the installation succeeded or not -- no reporting. Secondly, you have little control over when the user reboots. It could be a day or a week.

The other thing I ran into was that people didn't appreciate it when their computer took 10 minutes to install software x and finish booting. Usually they're standing there, looking at the screen, waiting to get their day started.

Re:MSI & GPOs (1)

Allador (537449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18923697)

The biggest thing is, you don't know if the installation succeeded or not -- no reporting.
This is true to an extent. It's no big deal to write a little script to walk all the machines, and look for the right kind of error log on the Installer type within a time-frame. In my experience, thats the kind of thing most groups end up doing. It builds your scripting skills, and its a one-time-ever cost, and once its written, you can use it forever.

Secondly, you have little control over when the user reboots. It could be a day or a week.
You can trivially force a reboot to all workstations in the domain, in an OU, etc in a few seconds.

So you set the policy, give it a few minutes to replicate to all the sites and DCs (or force it), and then do a massive reboot.

Now mind you, its easy to saturate your various site & central networks and/or file server when doing this an entire domain at a time. So we wrote a little script around it to reboot them in batches of 10 separated by a couple minutes.

The other thing I ran into was that people didn't appreciate it when their computer took 10 minutes to install software x and finish booting. Usually they're standing there, looking at the screen, waiting to get their day started.
That's why you do the installs after hours.

Re:MSI & GPOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18959807)

look at Landesk. we use it and it has been great,plus, it supports Mac and doesn't depend entirely on AD. they also have many add on features like security patches etc already rolled that you can subscribe to.
we were going to use sms 2003and i did test it out. it and landesk are very similar in certain ways but i do like landesk better.
never used altiris but i have started to really dislike products acquired by symantec....
the real work and learning is involved with creating the actual installers (msi). this will not be handled by sms or landesk or probably even altiris. most of that is seperate altogether.

Why use deployment software at all? (2, Interesting)

LaZZaR (216092) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916051)

Given the size of your enviroment and the language you used, i'm willing to bet that your employer would not be willing to shell out $$$ for something like SMS. Plus since you are asking this question, you would also lack the expertise. SMS has a fairly steep learning curve. There are open source solutions available, but I have not used any of them, so YMMV.
Why not just use login scripts? Its crude by today's standards, but it gets the job done, and it will cost you nothing.

Get rid of 98, put XP on those machines, use SMS (1)

sydbarrett74 (74307) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916057)

Subject says it all...

Re:Get rid of 98, put XP on those machines, use SM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18919777)

Subject says it all...
Mostly it says, "I don't understand the OP's situation and can offer no useful advice."

Re:Get rid of 98, put XP on those machines, use SM (1)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 7 years ago | (#18947037)

Mostly it says, "I don't understand the OP's situation and can offer no useful advice."

Yeah, but at least we’re not left wondering whether he had any useful advice to offer.

Group Policy Objects (1)

kcurtis (311610) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916087)

You can create administrative installs for virtually all installations and use GPO's to install the software to the XP machines - works for Win2k and newer.

No cost, and not too tough to learn.

This link is to a Win2k install but is pretty much the same. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314934 [microsoft.com]

Sysprep? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916301)

cloning XP partitions? Use sysprep!
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/302577 [microsoft.com]

OCS Inventory? (2, Informative)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916377)

OCS Inventory [sourceforge.net] is an OSS tool we had deployed once upon a time. I see the most recent version support application deployment.

Otherwise, if your Vista/XP/2000 machines are on a domain, you can deploy software though domain policies, though I didn't find a really clean way of doing that in the short time I did IT.

Landesk (2, Informative)

eric2hill (33085) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916481)

We were in the same boat a few years ago and went with Landesk [landesk.com] . It has fully configurable patching of both Microsoft vulnerabilities, as well as dozens of other packages such as Firefox and Adobe. They take care of the core of our software patches and updates, and the rest are easily done with some custom packages. It runs about $60 per machine per year. You can't pay a minimum wage intern to manually patch machines for that little money. It also does full inventories including serial numbers for Windows, Linux, and Apple machines.

I've used SMS from Microsoft, and it works great for Microsoft stuff, OK for other deployments, but didn't deal with Apple or Linux at all.

I have a colleague that has worked with Altiris, and he liked it, but it was a bit more expensive per machine.

All in all, Landesk works very well for us and has saved us countless man-hours and effort to keep our network running.

SpecOps Deploy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916575)

GPO on steroids. Cheap, powerful. Depoloy MSI, EXE, BAT etc. Bought it and recommend it.

tar (0, Offtopic)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916645)

Simply untar the installation into your NFS-mounted /usr directory, boom, everyone has it. What is this "Windows" of which you speak, is it some crufty OS that requires you to sit down at every desktop and install software?

Re:tar (1)

toejam316 (1000986) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917423)

nonono, its where the Dev's throw chairs. Ironically, its also almost ALWAYS broken somehow.

Zenworks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916823)

Novell Zenworks is definately your tool... Very robust

BigFix (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18916931)

It's fairly easy to setup and will support Win98

WPKG (2, Informative)

RCSInfo (847666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18916985)

How about http://wpkg.org/ [wpkg.org] ? It covers Win98 through XP, works with all manner of installers (MSI, EXE, etc..), can run off a Windows or Linux server, and is completely open source. I set it up for one client who had a linux server with XP clients and we have had pretty good luck with it.

IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager (1)

wenchmagnet (745079) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917027)

Disclaimer: I work for IBM.

Tivoli can do this plus a bunch of other things. Cross platform support too.

http://www-306.ibm.com/software/tivoli/products/pr ov-mgr/ [ibm.com]

Re: IBM's Tivoli Provisioning Manager (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18926723)

Isn't Tivoli dead? I thought the only thing keeping it alive was a $1B investment by one of the 3-letter federal agencies?

Kaseya Agent (1)

r3m0t (626466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917659)

My workplace uses Kaseya Agent, but I don't know how good it is.

http://www.kaseya.com/ [kaseya.com]

Automate installations with AutoHotKey and AutoIt. (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 7 years ago | (#18917933)

For Microsoft, every software developer is competition, because Microsoft sells both operating systems and user software, in clear violation of any sensible standard of anti-trust. Now that Microsoft is developing online applications, the company is in competition with every IT department, too.

Part of the problem with installing software on Windows is that Microsoft has a monopoly and doesn't want systems to be easily patched. Fixing many issues like that will wait for some new version of Windows Microsoft will sell in the future; that's one of the ways virtual monopolies protect their income, by assuring a necessary product always has failures that can be improved later. (Chevy did that decades ago; that's one reason why Toyota and Datsun are now more popular brands.)

Microsoft has consistently failed to develop good standards and failed to help software developers work by the standards, again part of a monopoly's ignorant adversarial method of maximizing income. Ignorant, because adversarial behavior is self-destructive.

Automate installations with AutoHotKey and AutoIt: We've had some luck getting around quirky install problems by making an installer using AutoIt [autoitscript.com] and AutoHotKey [autohotkey.com] . (The AutoIt link is to the IDE, which is excellent. Install AutoIt and then install the linked package, which after the full installation can be used to update both AutoIt and the IDE at the same time.)

Both AutoHotKey and AutoIt simply simulate pressing the keys and moving the mouse the same way installation of new software is done manually, but according to a script, which is faster and less prone to error than manual installation. In rare cases, AutoHotKey works when AutoIt doesn't, and the opposite is true, too.

Both AutoIt and AutoHotKey are free and mature. AutoHotKey is open source. AutoHotKey is under extremely active and responsive development; there have been 9 new versions since the beginning of 2007 [autohotkey.com] mostly to fix very minor issues recommended by users. Chris Mallett, the developer of AutoHotKey, is a very rare sort of person. He is both an excellent programmer and an excellent writer. It is far easier to get involved with AutoHotKey than with other new programming languages because the documentation is excellent.

We also use AutoHotKey and AutoIt to send a copy of a screen and email it to the IT department when a user presses Windows Key-F11. The software compresses the image first. We like having a record of what a user saw on the screen together with an accurate permanent record of the machine name and time and date.

WPKG is a free, open option (1)

daveewart (66895) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918093)

WPKG - http://www.wpkg.org/ [wpkg.org] - this is a good way to deploy software under Windows (although it's best under Windows 2000 and Windows XP, I believe, at present). Basically, the software connects to a share (Windows server or Samba) at boot up and runs installer scripts.

The "list of packages to install" can be configured differently for individual PCs, if required, or for groups of PCs.

Essentials (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18918207)

Microsoft is building a new set of tools for managing small business, based on the same concept as WSUS. It's called System Center Essentials and it's probably what you need. http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/sce/default. mspx [microsoft.com]

marimba (1)

the_wesman (106427) | more than 7 years ago | (#18918729)

we use a thing called "marimba" at work - I'm not an IT guy, so I can't really tell you much about it ... actually, I can tell you a little, from what I hear it basically does a file system diff - I think you take a baseline of a hard drive, then run the apps installation program, tweak anything you need to, then take another snapshot of the drive - anything that's different, marimba pushes out to client machines in the right spot ... or something
-w

System Center Essentials (1)

jeffy210 (214759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18919347)

Another MS product is coming out soon that is aimed squarely at the System Center Essentials. I went to a MS demonstration on it, basically it's quite similar to SMS with a few added perks for small to mid size businesses. One of the perks is being able to slip stream in any install via the AU client (basically it's a customizable WSUS).

Additionally MS isn't going to be as draconian with it's licensing like SMS, rather than needed a CAL per workstation it's is a single license for up to 500 computers. I'm just waiting for it to come out, SMS is a bit too big for what I'm looking for.

Re:System Center Essentials (1)

RodK (1094871) | more than 7 years ago | (#18933395)

Just to chime in....I suspect this will be your best bet for function and value. It should atleast warrant a look to inspect it's features and price point. Look for it being release in the next month or so.

I've been involved for sometime in the Microsoft Systems Management space, I have to admit; System Center Essentials (SCE) is slick.

a myITforum'er
-Rod K

Use Dexon (2, Informative)

madmilo (549404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18919605)

I work for a company called Dexon Software (www.dexon.us) We've got a infrastructure management tool for network administrators. It's sold by modules, so you could buy Dexon Software Delivery along with Dexon Agent licences for each one of your PCs, it works on Win95 and up. I'm just a developer, but I know our prices are really competitive.

Don't forget login scripts... (1)

WoTG (610710) | more than 7 years ago | (#18921343)

Years ago, before I had to worry about deployment issues personally, I'd have to watch all kinds of weird stuff happen in the login script.

Like others have sort of alluded, it's the Windows 98 that makes life hard. Getting rid of those and then using more standard deployment tools would be the best answer. It might even be the cheapest in the long run, but that depends on how many Win 9x boxes are kicking around. If it's a handful out of 180, IMHO, toss 'em.

Back to the point, the Adobe Flash and PDF Reader plugins, and the other common programs are easy to push via things like login scripts. For Flash, a simple one line MSI install command run under local admin priv's works fine. Installing custom tools? Just copy files around, or build little installers. Stick them in the login script.

Windows 9x has no concept of admin, so permissions won't be an issue. For the NT+ boxes, you can create a local admin account that's only used for software installs and use "RunAs".

PatchLink or Symantec LiveState Suite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18921497)

I began to evaluate PatchLink Update [patchlink.com] for my employer. I liked what I saw, but I was a bit concerned with the trust model, and also its dependence on Microsoft SQL Server for its backend (we managed to negotiate an acceptable cost for the PLU license, but the SQL Server license for our site was horribly expensive - even at educational rates - unless we ran multiple PLU servers each backended by MSDE. A while ago, I was told about Symantec LiveState Client Management Suite [symantec.com] . I've only seen a demo so far, but I liked what I saw, and I plan to evaluate it further together with other interested colleagues. The things I like most were that a) the usual way to create packages (and these could be patches or updates, of course) is to record the UI interactions during a normal install to a script file, meaning that there's no need to depackage whatever (semi-)proprietary installer is being used, ensuring greater reliability and b) its powerful dependencies system, seemlingly having the potential to provide equivalent functionality to Linux's yum or apt.

wpkg? (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18921751)

don't know if '98 is supported or not...but worth a look...

WPGK aughta work for free (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18921777)

don't know if '98 is supported or not...but worth a look...

here's a quote from their site: http://www.wpkg.org/ [wpkg.org]

This is a list that summarizes what WPKG can do for you:

        * deploy software in any format - MSI, EXE, etc.
        * deploy software to different groups of computers or single workstations
        * easily install, upgrade or remove software
        * a "pull" psexec equivalent
        * run custom scripts to set printers, synchronize time, manipulate permissions, add registry entries, change Windows settings etc.
        * management/administration of end-user workstations
        * WPKG works in a domain, in a workgroup, or even over internet or VPN (no domain controller needed)
        * WPKG works with Linux (Samba), Windows servers, or any other systems supporting Windows Network Neighbourhood
        * WPKG works with Windows 9x, Me*, 2000, XP Pro/Home and 2003 clients
        * extremely small footprint on the client
        * extremely small footprint on the server
        * keep inventory of software installed on your Windows workstations
        * intuitive web interface
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