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Windows 7 Rolling Review: Kace KBOX 2000

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.

In a market full of software products, Kace immediately distinguishes itself in the OS deployment and client management space with its appliance. Of course, an appliance is just a cinderblock unless it delivers useful features and functions, so we put it to the test as part of our Windows 7 deployment rolling review. KACE sent in both the 1000 and 2000 series appliances for review, and to get the entire scope of features and functionality that Kace offers, you need both. 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.

The KBOX 2000 series appliance is where most of the OS deployment magic happens. Features such as OS installation, disk imaging, user state migration (from XP/Vista to Windows 7), and system recovery are all contained within the box. If your overriding concern is client management, you can get all you need out of the KBOX 1000. Similarly, if OS deployment is all you care about, then the KBOX 2000 will fit the bill. Kace recommends you purchase both appliances so you can manage your clients after OS deployment--of course they would--but it's not mandatory.

Because this rolling review is about Win7 deployment, we went right to work on the KBOX 2000. One of the first things we appreciated about the KBOX 2000 was its ability swallow up all of the OS images we work with. Our KBOX 2000 came with 2-250GB SATA drives configured in a RAID-1 set, so with around 232GB of usable space available, we had plenty of room to upload custom images as well as every flavor of Windows 7 and Windows 2008 Server. While outside the scope of our testing, the KBOX also supports the deployment of various flavors of Linux as well as Mac OS.

With the KBOX, you can capture and deploy OS images client side or KBOX side. To test client-side image capture, we first configured our DHCP server to PXE boot the KBOX Pre-Installation Environment (KPE). If you're a Mac shop, KBOX also supports the Netboot protocol. The pre-install environment was simple to use and quickly pulled an image of our base Win7 build. On the KBOX side, when a particular PC has been inventoried by the KBOX, it can also be configured to boot the KPE during the next reboot.

Our Take

Kace KBOX 2000

With separate appliances for OS deployment and client management, IT can pick which appliance suits their needs, or combine both for the full range of features and functionality.
Kace's appliance turbo-boosted our Win7 deployment efforts in the Network Computing Labs.
The KBOX's ease of use and feature set make it as an early frontrunner in our rolling review of Windows 7 deployment products.

One of the more powerful features of the KBOX 2000 is its pre- and post-installation scripting environment. If you're deploying a large number of servers, administrators can do things such as define, create and configure a RAID set, or tweak the BIOS, all before the actual OS deployment begins. On the desktop side, you can partition disks, the BIOS, or check for minimum hardware requirements, among other things, before the OS image is allowed to proceed. Post image, you can apply any user-defined or KBOX-supplied task you wish. Out of the box, the KBOX includes post-installation tasks like automatically joining a domain post install, or deploying a captured XP/Vistas user state to a Win7 image, among other things.

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