by January 2, 2003 0 comments



This is an easy-to-use solution to provide remote-booting functionality and OS deployment on a large network. On a Win 2000 network, remote deployment is possible using the RIS (Remote Installation Services). The pre-requisites for configuring RIS include a DNS server, a Win 2000 server with Active Directory, and a DHCP server. With so many components, RIS can be a little complicated to configure. We found that Argon CMS is quite simple to use and can be run off even a client machine running Win 98. Apart from a DHCP server, everything else it needs, is built into the software. The same argument goes for remote booting. 

Create images of Windows for remote deployment through an easy to use wizard

Installation is packed in a standard Windows installation. It asks the type of installation, and ‘administrator + server’ is the preferred option. The client boot manager when started for the first time asks various parameters like the type of network, user name for logging on and password. The options are systematically structured and appropriately placed in the run up for total configuration. These options are critical to the functioning of this CMS and need caution.

Once it’s fully configured, its time to create new images. We can use the built-in wizard, or take a pre-built image on a floppy (using dd command in Linux). After configuration of the image we have to set up the clients, which involves assigning the client’s MAC address to the image. After this it’s just a matter of starting up the PXE/BOOTP, TFTP servers (included with the product), configuring the DHCP server and switching on the client machine (having PXE /BOOTP support). The TFTP and BOOTP servers give a very verbose display of what is actually going on. 

Deployment will be appreciated when managing large numbers of computers and where manpower is limited. We tested the remote deployment with Win XP and the installation went fine. However there was a hiccup. While making the boot image for deployment of Win XP, this product asks for a Win 98 start-up disk with some DOS utilities like FDISK, XCOPY, etc. Unfortunately, this information is not available in the product’s documentation, so one has to create the bootable floppy and put in the necessary utilities. The final step in creating the boot image is defining whether to create the image as a single stepping, pause at critical points, or whether you want to see the image’s content. Single stepping executes the image file’s batch files at the client site in step-by-step, which can be helpful in debugging the image installation. Yet another feature of this is the client boot disk creation facility, which is extremely important when clients do not support
PXE. 

Overall, it’s a useful software and a good choice over using other free alternatives like Linux, which have built-in PXE support but need extensive. This can also be run as a Windows service (not supported on Win 98). 

Snapshot

Price $299 for 1 server and 25 clients license
Meant
for
: Large networks
Key
specs
: Remote deployment, boot disk creation, simple setup
Pros  : Deploy Windows easily on large networks
Contact : Argon Technology Corporation, Canada.
E-mail : basatk@argontechnology.com 

Ankit Khare

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