Build a Windows Deployment Solution

Do you want to build a solution for deploying Windows? The performance and capabilities of the solution you build will be directly related to these four factors;

Solution
4 components of a deployment solution; Budget, Expertise, Hardware, Software

Each of these factors directly affect the final solution.

Budget: You literally get what you pay for. If you don’t have a lot of money, you might consider using refurbished hardware. There are many qualified refurbishers who can help you determine what is a capable system to use as a deployment server. If you have ample budget and are considering new hardware, keep in mind what hardware most affects deployment performance – Disk read speed is the most important factor for performance. At the high-end, the Intel Optane technology is going to give you the highest throughput, but Optane storage devices require the latest motherboards and chipsets and currently, some reports are that the technology is still not perfected and may result in some failures. Surely, these issues will resolve in the near-term and Intel still recommends buying them.

Expertise: This factor is not always directly related to your budget, but typically, you have to pay well for experts. Some companies promote from within and will help employees grow their technical skills. But from a simplistic standpoint, you are probably going to need to hire someone who has experience, and usually you wont get this resource for low price, nor should you. To build and manage Windows deployments, the typical skill set is a network administrator, systems administrator, or other similar roles.

Hardware: The hardware you implement should be chosen carefully. You should try to use hardware which will accomplish your volume and performance requirements, with enough spare performance capacity for growth. There may be times when you need to flex your production environment to accommodate a large order. If your hardware cannot handle the additional load, consider upgrading or adding additional servers. Another alternative to upgrading existing servers is to build a USB solution to handle added workloads. Many people will consider deploying by USB as not scalable, but if you quickly need to increase your production capacity, there is likely no cheaper solution. Building a USB solution is also very quick and easy to build. Another major factor is the network switch you choose. This should be a layer 1 or 2 switch with IGMP snooping support (required for multicasting support). Ethernet cables should be a minimum of Cat5e, but Cat6 is even better. Wireless is not really possible for deployments and is not supported in WinPE or WDS.

Software: The software you choose depends on your expertise and may also be affected by your budget. I recommend Windows Server 2016, but the minimum recommended server operating system is Windows Server 2008 R2. You can use an older version, but the ability to distinguish between a BIOS client system and UEFI became available only in Windows Server 2008 R2 and later versions. Once you have the server operating system, the inbox solution I recommend is WDS (Windows Deployment Services). WDS is free and is part of Windows Server. WDS enables you to install Windows over the network and provides some great features, such as DDP (Dynamic Driver Provisioning), the ability to add answer files to fully automate the entire installation process.

Because each company will have different requirements, you should consider carefully what is used to build your solution, whether its experts, software, or hardware. I recommend that you build a test lab before building a production system. This lab will give you the opportunity to perform all manner of testing, including performance and capacity testing. I recommend your lab is serving images to at least 12 simultaneous clients before you begin determining your minimum requirements because this is typically the amount of network traffic where low-end solutions start to choke. Each system you add will draw more bandwidth and the server will need to dedicate additional disk read time for each additional client (you can alleviate some server disk load by implementing multicasting).

If you want to consult with me about your specific solution, I can be reached using the Contact form.