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Rolling Review: Windows 7 Deployment Tools Kick-Off

Windows 7 Deployment Tools
The goal of this Rolling Review is simple: Simulate how easy, or painful, it will be to upgrade client systems to Windows 7 in a distributed environment.
Acronis Deploys Windows 7 With Ease
Acronis' Snap Deploy 3.0 client imaging system focuses only on client imaging and deployment. If you're shopping for a full enterprise desktop management suite, look elsewhere.
Zinstall Runs Windows 7 and XP
Organizations have an option from an upstart called Zinstall, which lets users run both XP and Windows 7 on the same computer.
Kace KBOX 2000
The KBOX 1000 series focuses on client management, including client inventory, software distribution, app virtualization, remote control, rudimentary NAC and a Web-enabled help desk, among other things.
Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager R2
Of the products tested, Configuration Manager is most efficient at OS deployment and user state migration.
Avocent LANDesk Management Suite 9
LANDesk's range of OS support makes it the most diverse client management solution we tested.
Mainstream support for Windows XP Pro is over, and mainstream support for Vista Business runs out in 2012. The upshot? Windows 7 is coming to your organization. The right deployment tool can make an upgrade less painful.

The conventional wisdom is to never deploy a new operating system before the first service pack. But that thinking might be misguided with Windows 7. First, Windows 7 shares much of Vista's core code base, and that code has been improved and enhanced during Vista's troubled tenure. This means the new OS will look and feel more like what Vista should have been from the get-go. Second, Microsoft is combating the "wait until SP1" notion by maintaining its position in regard to Windows XP, which has passed from mainstream support to the purgatory of extended support. What does that mean? You'll only get critical security-related updates for XP.

Your first thought might be, "So what?" And depending on the complexity of your environment and the resources available, that may be an appropriate response. Deferring an upgrade for as long as possible will save cash in the short term and make your Windows XP ROI numbers look great. Companies with a significant number of Vista systems have a complicated decision process as well.

But consider the pitfalls of waiting. For Vista systems, the next service pack will largely dictate strategy. But how much driver support will you get on XP for new hardware devices, particularly as PC refresh cycles bring new machines into the organization? Then there's application support. Eventually, developers will stop ensuring the newest Web and on-premises apps work with XP.

Our take is that, for most IT shops, now is the time to plan XP's funeral. To that end, we're launching a Rolling Review of Windows 7 deployment and management software. We've built a lab with a wide variety of client machines distributed across four sites, all connected by MPLS T1 links. All back-end servers and systems will reside on the corporate network at the hub, with clients evenly distributed among spoke sites connected across a WAN.

Our review will focus on a standard OS deployment, meaning we won't look at rolling out Windows 7 in a virtual desktop environment.

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