Windows 7 Deployment Tools Interview with Jeremy Chapman, Part 1

We see the Springboard Series blog as a place to communicate important information and updates for desktop and laptop-focused IT professionals—what you need to know to effectively perform your job.

Now on to a discussion on Windows 7, and what you’ll want to know as you begin looking at your application portfolio and deployment tools.

We recently sat down with Jeremy Chapman, Senior Product Manager responsible for deployment and application compatibility tools for the IT Pro, to get a sense of how these tools change with Windows 7.

--Stephen Rose, Senior Community Manager, Windows Client Division

Stephen: Jeremy, can you tell us a little about your job here at Microsoft?

Jeremy: I look after the tools that customers use to deploy operating systems, spanning everything from assessing their current hardware and applications – with tools like the Application Compatibility Toolkit – to building system images, migration user data and automating operating system and application installations.

Stephen: Now that Windows 7 beta is out and lots of people are starting to download and test the software the big Stephen people are asking is, “How different will Windows 7 deployment be from Windows Vista?”

Jeremy: The good news is that all the big architectural changes we made in Windows Vista continue to live on—such as componentizing the OS for offline serviceability, releasing what used to be the OEM-specific tools in the OEM Pre-installation Kit (OPK) to customers in the form of the Windows Automated Installation (AIK), and with things like Windows PE and ImageX, and all the tools we built to augment deployments. For people who know Windows Vista deployment, the changes moving to Windows 7 will be incremental and easy to get ramped-up on, with improvements made across the deployment spectrum.

Stephen: What about Hardware? Will customers need new hardware to run Windows 7?

Jeremy: We are taking our engineering tenet seriously that hardware running Windows Vista well will run also Windows 7 as well.

Stephen: Great. I use Windows 7 on my old Windows Vista hardware and love it. It sounds like most of what people have done to prepare for or deploy Windows Vista will carry forward. So what about additional features and functionally … Are there enhancements to the deployment process that IT pros will want to know about?

Jeremy: Everything from imaging, to image delivery, to migration improves with Windows 7, as do the toolkits like the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit, Application Compatibility Toolkit, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and Volume Activation tools.

Stephen: Tell us more about Imaging. Most customers manage a lot of OS images. How will Windows 7 change this?

Jeremy: Let’s take a step back here. People on Windows XP or people using sector-based imaging may be managing a lot of images, but we built Windows Vista in a way that allows companies to use file-based, non-destructive WIM images. Windows 7 builds on this, and the new Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command line tool lets IT Pros enumerate the features, packages, updates and drivers on an image offline, and also service these areas. With Windows 7, we now have the ability to add and remove drivers in a mounted or applied image – that was something you had to do using deploy-time driver injection in Windows Vista. We can also service Windows 7 VHD images built for native VHD boot just like WIMs. The tools for imaging and unattended installation are still there, like ImageX and Windows System Image Manager. All of that carries forward from Windows Vista.

Stephen: So we’ve made it easier to create and manage images. Let’s talk more about the delivery of these images. We’ve seen images sizes continue to grow with every release of Windows – from typically 1-2GB in the Windows XP timeframe to typically 3-4GB for Vista. This makes delivering images complex and uses a lot of network bandwidth. Does this change in Windows 7?

Jeremy: Good point. Yes, images have grown in size both due to OS footprint and in many cases, software footprint. In Windows Server 2008, we introduced Multicast to break the paradigm of one image transferred per target PC. Of course, if you are deploying 100 PCs with 5GB images, that means 500GB goes over the wire. With Multicast we can transmit that 5GB image once or twice, and hit ‘deploy’ to the same 100 PCs, using only 5-10GB of network bandwidth. The one remaining problem was that the slowest connected client in the pool would throttle the transfer rate for all PCs. We address this in Windows 7 by adding a Multiple Stream Transfer option in Multicast. Think of it like a highway, the left lane or faster clients get to their destination quicker, while the slower ones in the middle and right lanes move at their own pace. That means huge speed advantages in many cases for the faster clients.

Stephen: What about deployment for people without persistent network connections or without Windows Deployment Services? Will Windows 7 have something to help them?

Jeremy: We continue to provide more flexibility in the cases where network deployments either are not ideal, due to speed or latency, or in some cases non-existent or non-accessible. We have media-based deployment using Lite Touch Installation from the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit – this is still very automated and just takes a minute or so per machine to kick off a standard image deployment. Likewise, we introduce OEM pre-staging of Lite Touch deployment back in July, allowing customers to hand off a full LTI-based build to their preferred OEMs. When powering on the system for the first time, users can configure the PC to meet their needs (with the right applications, drivers, etc.) using LTI, within about a minute. Those are the more elegant ways for disconnected/low-bandwidth users, and you can still use custom thick images as well, but you’ll forgo some flexibility.