For IT, perhaps the biggest advantage to deploying Windows Vista is its capability to create a unified installation image that selectively loads the needed drivers and applications onto users' computers -- saving IT from having to manage lots of install images as with Windows XP or to rely on the PC-model-specific OEM installations whose "bloatware" then needs to be removed from each system. Microsoft provides the Windows Automated Installation Kit as a free download to give IT that unified-image capability, so IT can use a single Vista installation image for all PCs, with drivers and applications loaded as needed for each user.
But as Sumeeth Evans discovered, the Windows Automated Installation Kit has another advantage: It lets IT inventory all PCs to get a list of the applications actually installed on XP and other pre-Vista versions of Windows.
As IT director at Collegiate Housing Services, an 80-person college facilities management firm, Evans recalls spending about five days to upgrade approximately 40 users to XP six years ago. He had to make sure he used the right installation image for the specific computer model, running them manually using Symantec's Norton Ghost software. And even though he had an inventory of what applications users were supposed to have, it turned out to be inaccurate, so users came back complaining of missing programs. "I missed a lot of software that had been previously installed," he recalls.
Fast-forward to early 2007: Evans upgraded 80 systems to Vista in half a day. The Windows Automated Installation Kit had inventoried users' applications, so Evans had a complete inventory before reimaging the PCs; plus, it verified hardware compatibility. That last feature allowed Evans to figure out which existing PCs could be retained, saving US$20,000 in planned, new PC costs. In most cases, those salvageable PCs needed just a memory boost to 2GB to run Vista.
At capacitor manufacturer Kemet, Global Infrastructure Manager Jeff Padgett found additional advantages to Microsoft's Vista-deployment tools. For example, Kemet's XP-based PCs used Lenovo's (originally IBM's) ThinkVantage software, a suite of deployment and security tools. But these tools caused many trouble-ticket reports, especially around connecting to presentation hardware and wireless LANs. Vista's own presentation and wireless LAN management tools eliminated the need for ThinkVantage, removing a major source of support trouble tickets, Padgett notes.
More than preventing problems through its own management tools, Vista also helped Padgett better manage his support operations. Vista's built-in performance monitor, which logs all failures into a central location, complete with history, gave Kemet's support staff the context needed to diagnose problems that it had not had with its existing help-desk trouble-ticket system, Padgett says.
The Vista deployment guide: