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Microsoft Preps Server Deployment and Administrative Tool for Large Enterprises

While the Microsoft Management Summit this week was long on promises, with the far-off Microsoft System Center product taking center stage, Microsoft did announce one deliverable designed to make Windows server deployment and administration easier at very large enterprises.

Microsoft released a beta version of Automated Deployment Services for Windows Server 2003, which will be available in final form in the second quarter. ADS joins a number of technologies that customers can get just after Windows Server 2003 ships April 24.

ADS will provide rapid deployment of Windows 2000 Server and Windows Server 2003 operating systems to bare metal servers that support pre-boot execution environment (PXE). The set of services will also permit a script execution framework that should allow administrators to more easily apply a script to hundreds or thousands of servers at once.

"ADS delivers rapid deployment and centralized administration of large, scale-out systems. Customers are clearly saying they require solutions to improve IT infrastructure productivity and reduce costs associated with server deployments," Bill Veghte, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Windows server group, said in a statement.

The services will run on a server in conjunction with a DHCP server. A controller service makes up the core of ADS, supported by a network boot service and an image deployment service. For new hardware, the server components will first deploy a virtual floppy for hardware configuration, then a deployment agent -- a stripped-down version of Windows Server 2003 that handles disk partitioning and other installation issues. Once an image is in place on the hardware, ADS deploys an administrative agent to the server to obey any scripting or image-updating commands from ADS. Microsoft says ADS can be used to repurpose servers, treating deployed systems as bare metal for the next server image.

Ever since shipping Windows 2000, Microsoft has promised greater command-line, headless and scripting functionality that will provide a less abrupt transition for Unix administrators moving into Windows environments.

A Microsoft white paper accompanying the announcement acknowledged that Windows has trailed Unix systems in allowing administrators to script for multiple servers.

"Script-based administration of a large number of Windows servers has traditionally not been easy. Unlike in the UNIX environment, in which operators can use tools such as rsh, ssh, and rdist to perform remote administration on groups of servers, script-based administration in the Windows Server environment has required operators to deal with each server individually," the white paper stated.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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