Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Image Building the easy way...

So recently at a client I was asked to review their images and try and come up with a more adaptive solution, one that could flow with the changes with the company. The primary cause for this review was that the IT manager wanted to replace the existing Microsoft Office 2010 standard with Microsoft Office 2013, the local IT had informed that this would be an arduous task, I was asked to come up with a simpler solution.


This brings us to a very basic question thick or thin images, that is the question that we all come to eventually when designing our deployment infrastructure. 

So a little background, a thick image would be exactly how I want my computer to look and operate when all is set and done. In the old days this would have included drivers and updates. Please see my previous blog on dynamically updated your images with updates http://jeremyblass.blogspot.co.il/2014/04/managing-updates-in-microsoft.html?view=magazine or managing drivers the easy way, http://jeremyblass.blogspot.co.il/2014/04/managing-drivers-easy-way.html?view=magazine. As opposed to thin images which include nothing other than my base image. 

My recommendation is always to keep your images as light as possible. I know this requires a lot more work initially but the payoff down the line is incredible. I was working at client about a year ago when the manager came up to me and described the following scenario. Over the next couple of weeks two new companies are being bought out by us we need to find a way to deploy them our standard environment with a few extra applications, so what do I do. 

Task Sequences

Task Sequences are a much underrated aspect of the MDT and SCCM. In my opinion they are one of the key fundamental aspects of both these deployment solutions. These unheralded heroes are the topic of today's blog.
Above you will see a snapshot of my standard Microsoft Windows 8.1 x64 Task Sequence.

By virtue of the utilization of a Task Sequence there is virtually nothing I need to do in order to maintain my image, as you can see I am using the install.wim that came when I imported the ISO into my deployment share.

Now that I have reduced my day to day effort let's talk about the rest of my Task Sequence, I inject drivers of course based on my Selection Profiles, the same ones I use for Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Server 2008R2, 2012, and 2012 R2 thus all my 64 bit OSes use the same Selection Profile thus reducing my overhead once again. 

Finally the applications, as we mentioned previously not only is it a pain in the neck to maintain these bloated images with all of my applications but additionally, when it comes to deploying to new environments or rolling with the dynamic nature of the Enterprise environment today it can become cumbersome very quickly. Maintaining this multitude of images and building the new one for my bosses request is already far too much headache. Now the keeping it easy, I can simply continue using my existing Task Sequence but add the applications with silent installs to the MDT Application Database. 

  • Click on the Applications Node 
  • For the purpose of Application management I recommend using folders, so right click on the applications node and choose New Folder
  • Enter a name for the new folder and click Next 
  • Click Next 

  • Click Finish 
  • Right Click on our newly created folder and choose New Application 
  • Bear in mind that the location that you provide in the next stage will be permanent if you delete the files from that location the application will fail to install
  • o   The first option and my preferred one as it removes much of the guess work, Application with Source Files, this option copies the source files to a folder that it creates in the %DeploymentShare%\Applications Directory.
    o   Application without source files or elsewhere on the network, choose this option to prevent duplication of installation files. (This from my experience can cause some latency.)
    o   Application Bundle is the final option and not the focus of this blog entry, I will discuss this entry in a few weeks at that time I will add a link here. 
  • For a clean and well organizes application database I recommend using each of the text boxes the more information the better.
  • Enter the Source Location and click Next 
  • Although MDT will generate a name for you, you are not beholden to that name 
  • Enter a command line to install your application or the name a script located in the same folder that will install the application silently 
  • Click Next 
  • Click Finish 

Now that we have completed the application creation process let's create that Task Sequence.

Task Sequence Creation 

  • Right click on Task Sequences and choose New Folder 
  • Enter a name for the folder and click Next 
  • Click Next 
  • Click Finish 
  • Right Click on the new folder that you created and choose New Task Sequence 
  • New Task Sequence Wizard 
  • Click Next 
  • Choose an Operating System or as I recommend a "Thin Image" 
  • Specify a Product Key 
o   Do Not Specify a Product Key: Use this option if you wish to add your Product Key to your unattended file, if you are using Volume Activation Management Tool from Microsoft or if you are using a KMS server for activation.
o   Specify a Multiple Activation Key (MAK key) for activating this Operating System: If your organization uses MAK keys
o   Specify the product Key for this Operating System: This is only for retail keys
  • OS Settings 

o   Full Name: Your Organizations IT Department
o   Organization:  The name of your organization
o   Internet Explorer Home Page: Your organization Internet Explorer Home Page
  • Enter the Local Admin Password of your Choosing 
  • Click Next 
  • Click Finish 

Edit the Task Sequence 

  • Right Click on your Task Sequence and choose Properties 
  • Add the Check Hide this Task Sequence in the Deployment Wizard and click Apply to prevent someone from accidentally trying to deploy it 
  • Choose the Task Sequence Tab 
  • Click on Add and choose New Group 
  • Enter a name for the new group and click Apply 
  • Click on Applications 
  • Click on Add -> General -> Install Application 
  • Choose Install a Single Application 
  • Browse for the name of the application that you created previously and click OK
  • For the name of the application please Insert the name of your application 
  • Choose the Options Tab 
  • Check the Continue on error check box 
  •  Click Apply 
  • Choose the General Tab 
  • Remove the Check from Hide this Task Sequence in the Deployment Wizard and click Apply 

That's it your done, now you should see your Task Sequence in the Task Sequence Chooser Wizard. Feel free to customize your Task Sequence to your hearts content remember the Task Sequence can be changed at any time as opposed to your image which is pretty static. Task Sequences the easy way.