Any organization that goes through the process of developing and deploying a new operating system knows a simple truth: coordinating with the end users around scheduling the OS deployment is one of the most challenging tasks in the entire project plan. There never seems to be a “good” time to actually fire off the deployment you spent so much time and effort to get “just right”. There are of course a boatload of reasons why this is true, but fundamentally it comes down to people. For every computer you need to upgrade, there is a human being on the other side of the system. Finding a convenient time to get the upgrade done is as varied as there are people involved. After all, there are always those who may be working late, or coming into the office on the weekend to get caught up, and so forth. So what’s the solution? Simple: delegate! Put all the moving parts in place and let the end user select the day and time that meets their schedule (within admin limitations of course)!
This seemingly simple concept is not as easy as it may appear. That’s one reason why this capability is a key feature of our solution Shopping, the enterprise app store. We refer to this capability as OS Deployment Self-Service. Naturally, every Administrator reading this is already starting to cringe as they begin fast-forward thinking about all the issues this concept may cause them, making their lives even more difficult! This article is intended to ease those concerns, and provide a simple step-by-step overview of how simple it is to set up the process, and apply solid controls around who can actually use the option and when. Finally we will walk through the end user experience within Shopping to illustrate the simplicity of that piece of the puzzle.
Admin Set Up
We start the process within the Shopping Admin console, in the Applications node, where a right-click presents the New OS Deployment option. This launches the New OS Deployment Wizard where we will create the basic Shopping object (note, you can click on any image to expand it).
The usual descriptive text goes in first. The information here, including the Description text, is ultimately displayed to the Shopper in the UI.
Next the Administrator selects the desired Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr) collection being used to control the OSD actions. This is the location where the shopper’s computer is placed by Shopping’s integration with ConfigMgr. We further select the Deployment that is targeted at this particular collection. This is the actual Task Sequence used to install the image.
Next the Administrator selects the AD User group (or groups) that will be allowed to see the Windows Migration option in their Shopping UI. This membership is modified over time as more and more groups are added, as the deployment is gradually rolled out. This provides a high degree of control and a phased deployment strategy.
We will select the people in our eastern regional office as our starting point. Add more as appropriate over time.
Note that further access control can be applied to computers as well as people. For example if we had an AD Computer group of x64 machines with 8gb RAM, we could also add that machine group here. In this way, only those Eastern Region users with a qualifying computer will see the Windows Migration option.
Et Voila! The basics are now complete.
Now that the basics are complete, there are several more actions that further control the process that this deployment will observe and also aid the shopper. We start via the Properties node of the newly created object.
The [General] and [ConfigMgr Collection] tabs are of no interest here. They still contain the options selected earlier in the Wizard. We will, however, do some additional fine tuning in the remaining tabs.
The first step of course is a double check that we are indeed targeting only the Eastern Regional Office users. We don’t want any surprises later on!
Next the Administrator provides a simple text list of those applications that are included in the standard image. This will be presented to the shopper later on to help them to understand what they get, and perhaps more importantly, what they do not get when the new image is applied.
Lastly we come to the scheduling magic. There is a lot of information and options provided here. It is prudent to take the time to make sure everything is set as desired.
Maximum Deployments Per Day
This limits how many deployments can be scheduled in a given day (not enabled here). Once the set limit is reached on a given day, that date is no longer available. The shopper would then of necessity need to pick a different date. This is a great way to limit how busy the Help Desk might be fielding calls that may result from any questions that may arise.
Enable Scheduling Restriction
This setting allows the administrator to select the starting and ending dates during which the self-service option to launch the Windows Migration wizard is displayed to the shoppers
Enable Time of Day Scheduling Restrictions
Here the Administrator may block out portions of the 24 hour day wherein no deployments may be scheduled. Perhaps there are other network activities in progress during these times, for example
Exclude the Following Days
The Scheduling Restrictions option above selects a contiguous period of time over a date range. Here individual days may be further excluded within that range, such as weekends, every Thursday, or perhaps a holiday that falls within that date range, so an explicit date or dates may also need to be excluded. Any and all of these options are available here.
The entire process is now fully complete and configured. We are now set to allow the Eastern Regional Office staff to undertake the installation of Windows 8, weekdays only, between 1 and 23 March, except 0400-0900 daily.
Lastly, as yet another safeguard, until we hit the “Master Switch” to enable the entire process to those Eastern Regional Office employees, nothing will happen. Note well the existence of the Big Red Button feature immediately below this option to Disable Application.
We are now totally prepared to commence the phased availability and self-service deployment of our Windows 8 deployment to our Eastern Regional Office.
End User Experience
As discussed in the preceding section, only those people who are authorized (or invited, if you will) to use this self-service option will see it displayed in their Shopping interface. Furthermore they will only see it presented during the date range that the administrator allows it. Assuming that all of these criteria are met, our shopper can now begin to schedule the day and time (within the allowed limitations described earlier) they desire that meets their schedule. Let’s walk through the process of completing this simple 5-step wizard.
It’s SHOW TIME!
In the following sequence, we see our shopper, named Administrator in this example, shopping on the machine named DEV26-CM01 (this is how we can further restrict the display if the machine group option were also selected earlier in the setup process), seeing the Windows Migration option displayed in the scrolling banner in the Shopping UI. This is displayed at this point in time because the user is now considered “authorized” to schedule the OS deployment based on the criteria configured in the Shopping Admin setup process. Now that we are “in the zone”, let’s [Launch] the wizard and get on with scheduling the deployment.
We now see the greeting screen to begin the process. Right off the bat the shopper is reassured that this is not going to be a long and drawn out process as the entire sequence of actions to follow are clearly displayed in an intuitive and simple fashion.
In our example, the Administrator is offering two distinct operating system choices to the shopper. Generally there would likely only be a single choice here. Scenarios where multiple options could be useful would be in an international organization where several different language options for the same OS could be offered. Here, the shopper is opting for the Win8 image we described in detail earlier.
Now things are getting interesting! This screen displays two distinct panels of information. On the left is the fixed text created by the Shopping Administrator in our set-up section. It simply lists what is included in the base image and is informational only. The right pane, on the other hand, is where things get interesting! We are making the assumption that Shopping has been in this environment for some time, and that our shopper has shopped for a number of applications in the past. Shopping knows what our shopper has installed in previously and simply presents that list of existing applications. We are essentially asking “You have these applications already installed on your computer. Would you like to re-install them once your new image is in place?” Now, the astute reader will also see something interesting in this list. Looking at Reader X under the Current Application list, you see Reader X1 in the Application Post Migration list. The same applies for Project Professional and OpenProj. This is hinting at the integration between Shopping and our AppClarity product which understands usage of all applications on all machines in the estate. The integration of these two products allows the Shopping Administrator to set mapping rules that allow dynamic decision making during the imaging process. The specifics of that process are out of scope for this article. In these examples we are showing the mapping between the existing product(s) and what will actually be delivered into the new image. Not shown in this graphic, the Rating column would show actual usage of the existing application using a 5-star ranking model. This gives the shopper a visual clue as to how often they actually used their existing applications. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to reinstall something they are not even using. After all, if they should need it later on, it’s easy enough to go shop for it again later on!
Now that the decisions around what to reinstall are made, it’s time to decide when this imaging task should actually execute. In this first part of the Schedule screen the shopper sees the available dates that are allowed (determined in the set-up stage above). Dates not allowed are gray. Here we will select a day and time to start the process.
Now that we have determined the “what” and the “when”, the wizard asks for confirmation that the user has taken steps to protect their personal data, and we are now done!
Once the designated date/time arrives, the image kicks off. Once completed, the selected apps are reinstalled on the new image, and life is good! There is one caution that needs to be stated here, however. If the shopper forgets to leave the computer powered on at the designated date/time, and you are not using a wake-on-LAN tool in concert with ConfigfMgr, the image will launch shortly after the machine is next powered on. Of course if you had our 1E WakeUp feature (part of our NightWatchman power management solution), then this is not a problem as 1E WakeUp will automatically power on the machine at the designated date/time!
WAIT! I changed my mind!!
Invariably circumstances may change for the shopper, resulting in a need to modify the schedule previously created. Note in the following image that the original Windows Migration display has changed. We now have some different options available. Here the shopper decides to change the previously selected date and time for the image deployment.
The shopper simply repeats the earlier steps and makes the desired changes, perhaps selecting a different day, or time from that selected originally;
When is that new image happening again?
Why not add a reminder to your calendar to give you a gentle nudge, the day before for example, to remind you to leave the computer turned on so the image will be able to execute on schedule?
WAIT!!! I changed my mind!!!!!
Simple! Simply revisit the still-present banner and kill the entire process. Remember, the Windows Migration banner will remain visible for the entire period authorized for this shopper, or until the machine is re-imaged.
In this article we reviewed the process of selecting a task sequence that deploys a fairly bare bones image in the Shopping Administration node, determining which machines can initiate the deployment, when they can (and equally important, when they cannot) do so, and making that option available to those authorized shopping users.
We then showed the simple 5-step process the shopper used to schedule their desired deployment date/time, set a reminder in their calendar, optionally change the schedule or ultimately cancel the entire operation.
By selectively delegating the actual installation of the new operating system deployment to select groups of users over a phased time-frame, the OS Deployment Project Team now have a means of managing one of the most challenging aspects of the entire project, while providing the end users with a high degree of satisfaction and sense of control over their own environment. Everybody wins, and the ongoing process of OS deployments become yet another business-as-usual exercise in the IT space.
If you would like to take our Shopping product for a test drive as a shopper or just learn more about the product, visit the Shopping product page or go directly here to plug in the requisite Who-Are-You stuff and off you go.