Configuration Manager 2012: Distribution Points and PXE Services


In Configuration Manager 2012, unify infrastructure and simplify administration are two of the three key pillars of the release (the third is user empowerment). In keeping with those pillars, we have updated both the distribution point and PXE service point to make it easier to use and deploy. To explain this, let’s start by going over the Configuration Manager 2012 Distribution Point. 

In Configuration Manager 2007, there were three basic types of distribution points Standard, Server Share and Branch Distribution Points. Each role had benefits, but there was not always one type that met all the administrator requirements. Starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2, we have updated the distribution point role to become one standard distribution point. Let's go over some of the details of the 2012 distribution point.

Configuration Manager 2012 Distribution Point:

  • One Distribution Point role (merges Standard, Branch and Server Share distribution points)
  • Can run on client operating systems Windows Vista SP2 and later
  • Can run on server operating system Windows Server 2003 SP2 and later
  • Requires Internet Information Services (IIS) and defaults to BITS download for clients
  • SMB download option for clients available for most package types
  • PXE service point is now just an option of the distribution point
  • Ability to set scheduling and throttling for content distribution (no secondary site required)
  • Ability to prestage content and new functionality around managing prestage distribution points (more details in a later post)
  • Single instance storage of content on a distribution point

The Configuration Manager 2012 distribution point now has a new storage format called the Content Library. The Content Library replaces SMSPKG shares as the default folder structure to host content. The Content Library now stores all content on the distribution point in a single instance storage, this means each unique file is only stored once on the distribution point, regardless of how many times it is referenced by a package. It also stores the file once on the distribution point even if it is contained in multiple packages!

The Content Library contains three components: File Library, Data Library and Package Library. The Data library contains all the Metadata about the files stored on the distribution point. The Package library contains all the references to the files for each package stored on the distribution point. The Data library and Package library will only reside on the drive with the lowest priority. The File library is the location that stores all the actual files that are used in packages. The files in the File library are renamed and stored based on the hash of the files. So when you browse the File library, you will most likely not recognize the individual files. Since the File library will contain GB – TB of data, the File library can be spanned across multiple volumes. (we will go into more detail in a later post).

Now let’s transition over to the changes we have made with our PXE service point. Before we think we changed a lot of let’s go over a couple of things we did not change. First, PXE services in Configuration Manager 2012 still required Windows Deployment Services (WDS). WDS needs to be installed prior to enabling PXE. This is still only available on server operating systems. Secondly, the PXE provider in Configuration Manager 2012 is mostly unchanged (aside from what we mention below and some bug fixes ). So all the troubleshooting you have learned in Configuration Manager 2007 will still be helpful.Smile

In Configuration Manager 2007 our capacity planning states “Up to 10 PXE service points per site, with a maximum of 75 PXE service points per primary site database”. One of the reasons for this is due to reliance on the Site Component Manager. Learning from our customers requirements, we have redesigned portions of our PXE service point. Starting with Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 the PXE service point is a property of the Distribution Point role and no longer a separate site system. Since it is a property of the distribution point, it no longer monitored or installed by SiteComp. This is now done by Distribution Manager. With this change, it will allow Configuration Manager 2012 to improve the capacity beyond the numbers published for Configuration Manager 2007. At the time of the blog post final capacity numbers are not available, but we are expecting to greatly increase this number (I will update later as numbers become available).

Another change to the PXE service point is an update to the way we interact with the site database. In Configuration Manager 2007, the PXE service point directly contacts the database to access deployment information about the client PXE booting. In Configuration Manager 2012, the PXE service point will route through the management point just like a client. This is mostly an infrastructure optimization, but important to know the flow of traffic.

Above is a overview of the infrastructure changes surrounds operating system deployments. I will start deep diving into more features in functionality over the next days to weeks. Feel free to comment if you have a specific ask for more information on portions of this overview.

References: Technet

  • Introduction to Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • What’s New in Configuration Manager 2012 - link
  • Fundamentals of Configuration Manager 2012 - link

John Vintzel
Microsoft Corporation | Sr. Program Manager | System Center Configuration Manager | twitter: jvintzel

The blog is own by some members of the System Center Configuration Manager product team. These postings are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights.

Note: Updated with additional links.