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Questions to Ask About Infrastructure for Your Deployment

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Questions to Ask About Infrastructure for Your Deployment

In this article, we discuss some ways that performance engineers can create a more performant deployment experience for themselves and fellow devs.

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Server Infrastructure Versus Peer-To-Peer Technologies

Delivering Windows 10 deployment data of 30GB+ over a company WAN reminds me of my brief life as a PC gamer back in the 1990s (ancient tech, 386, and MS-DOS). I became obsessed with a game called Wing Commander. I flew a fighter through space — slowing down to navigate asteroid fields and tangling with enemy fighters — to help get the mothership safely to its destination before it was too late.

That’s not unlike the challenge people face with Windows 10 OSD: how to get 30GB image and support files to their destination at the fastest possible speed without crashing into other network traffic.

If you are a Microsoft Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) administrator, have you moved your company to Windows 10 yet? The entire company?

If yes, congratulations, you are way ahead of about 64 percent of your colleagues. Stop here, and treat yourself to a much-deserved holiday in Paris, Bangkok, London, Singapore, or Minneapolis (or come to the Midwest Management Summit in May and gloat).

If not, continue …

Choosing the right Windows 10 operating system deployment (OSD) technology for a distributed organization can be daunting. There are countless factors to consider, and every company is unique. While Windows 10 may be critical to your company’s future, you may have tens of thousands — or millions — of computers to migrate. This puts a lot of stress on IT professionals like you, but it is manageable if you have a plan.

Let’s first consider a server infrastructure versus a peer-to-peer technology environment. Then let’s take it slow and steady, beginning with two overriding goals — infrastructure reduction and speeding deployment — and the questions you should be asking to reduce time, cost, and, most importantly, stress.

How Much Infrastructure Can Windows 10 Eliminate?

For decades, global endpoint management solutions have used a server-intensive architecture, which is expensive and time-consuming. In these scenarios, a server at each remote facility receives software and updates over the company WAN and stores (caches) it at that location. The caching server, called a distribution point (DP) in SCCM, shares the software with other systems on the local LAN. This works well when the servers are running correctly. However, it requires an army of servers and all the maintenance and costs that go along with that. Also, deploying a global server infrastructure to thousands of locations can take years.

Peer-to-peer technology can reduce or eliminate server infrastructure. It can eliminate all remote distribution points by using PCs and laptops to share and distribute content. When a PC needs content, peer technology intelligently downloads it from other peers on the local network. If not present locally, it downloads it from somewhere else on the WAN. Your worldwide content cache becomes your worldwide content distribution engine — all without servers.

When considering infrastructure reduction with Windows 10, be sure to ask these questions:

  • Does the solution replace all remote SCCM servers or just most of them?

  • Can it safely replace the need for a server at a facility, with no negative impact on the speed and reliability of business operations?

  • Will the solution intelligently download new content from the logically nearest peer on the WAN (i.e., another office’s peer-to-peer network), or is it forced to go across the WAN to an SCCM DP server every time it needs to download new content?

  • Can it replace the roles of PXE and SMP servers in a peer-to-peer environment, supporting serverless global Windows 10 OSD?

High Availability – Because Your Business Is Always in a Hurry

Servers can fail and so can peers. When a distribution point server fails, content delivery no longer happens at full speed on the local LAN. Instead, even if content has been downloaded before, it must be downloaded again over the WAN. This makes some forms of high availability, such as redundant disk arrays, desirable in servers. If you plan to replace servers with peer technology, you should pay equal attention to high availability.

When a peer system goes offline, the content it holds goes away. If the content is not available somewhere else on the local LAN, then deployment will require a second or third time-consuming download over the WAN. Downloads can flood the WAN or simply fail. Fast content delivery — and zero WAN impact — are the engine in content distribution engines. They do much, much more, but that’s the core functionality everything else is built around.

When looking into a Windows 10 OSD solution for your company, be sure to look into the business continuity capabilities. Questions every company should ask include:

  • Does the solution provide high availability storage (e.g., automatically make and retain n copies of content at a facility) for guaranteed redundancy and business continuity?

  • Does the content cache take disk space away from end users, or can it use all available disk space without impacting end users?

  • Is the content cache limited in size, such as 50GB or 70 percent of disk space, or can it simply use all free disk space because none is taken away from end users?

  • Does the content cache require tools to manage — administrator effort — or is it self-managing?

  • If the cache is self-cleaning when it deletes content, does it intelligently choose the content with “the most copies on the LAN” to retain the content most needed (least copies on the LAN)?

After a month of total Wing Commander immersion, I decided I had better things to do with my free time — like watch cable TV because there was no internet yet! No doubt you have better things to do with your time than fret over Windows 10 OSD content delivery. You don’t want to babysit Windows 10 content delivery schedules, get chewed out by the network team because you flooded the WAN, or wait forever for content pre-staging to complete at remote offices. Consider a peer-to-peer technology environment to move your organization to Windows 10, and then ask the right questions and get on with that long-overdue vacation.

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infrastructure ,peer to peer ,performance ,wan

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