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Microsoft demos upcoming provisioning software

Jul 17, 20032 mins

* Software for remotely configuring new Windows servers set to ship soon

Microsoft demonstrated its upcoming server operating system and application provisioning software this month at its European Tech Ed event in Barcelona.

Called Automated Deployment Services (ADS), the product is expected to ship in August or September and be capable of setting up “bare metal” blade servers remotely. While ADS runs on the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server 2003, it can deploy applications and Windows 2000 to other connected servers.

Part of the company’s Dynamic Systems Initiative, ADS lets customers automatically deploy a large number of Windows Server system images across their enterprise networks. ADS works with user-defined scripts to deploy operating systems and applications.

Microsoft says that server provisioning in Windows is unlike that of Unix, where administrators use utilities such as remote shell (rsh), secure shell (ssh) and remote distribution (rdist) to remotely administer groups of servers. In Windows, administrators have had to do that manually and by each individual server.

ADS works with any Intel server that is enabled with Preboot Execution Environment (PXE, pronounced “pixie”), allowing deployment of applications without touching the actual server. ADS also allows administrators to build task sequences that automate hardware configuration and operating system and application installation. It works with existing scripting tools.

ADS also uses a variety of imaging tools that allow the FAT or NTFS file system volume to be snapshot and deployed. Among these tools are imgdeploy, imgmount and adsimage. Imgdeploy lets images be compressed and encrypted, as well as defragmented. Imgmount lets an administrator edit captured images. Adsimage, which is accessed from the command line or the MMC user interface, lists the images that are available for deployment.

Each server to be imaged contains two agents – one for loading the RAM disk and the other for post-operating system deployment and task execution.

A controller placed on the ADS server issues to a server jobs consisting of a series of sequenced steps. These jobs may indicate how to deploy a new server – boot the server, partition the hard disk, download an operating system, assign a unique host name, reboot the server and go on to the next server.

ADS is currently in beta test.