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Windows 7 Rolling Review: Avocent LANDesk Management Suite 9

WINDOWS 7 ROLLING REVIEW
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.
Wrap-Up
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.

Last up in our rolling review of Windows 7 deployment solutions is Avocent's LANDesk Management Suite 9. Installation of LANDesk was relatively painless. The core management server, along with the database and Web management engine, can all be installed on a single box. LANDesk supports SQL Server 2005, 2008, and Oracle versions 10 and 11g for the back-end database. If you have fewer than 1,000 clients under management, you can get away with using SQL Express. As you scale beyond 3,000 clients, LANDesk strongly recommends you split the core management and database servers for maximum performance.

LANDesk offers a range of OS deployment options, including the use of a client agent or PXE boot. In addition, you can build hardware-agnostic system images. As was the case with Kace and Microsoft, LANDesk enables you to attach specific device drivers to an image during the imaging process as needed. LANDesk provides plenty of functionality for collecting and organizing a large-scale driver library.

LANDesk has a leg up on the competition in its support for several system imaging formats. Microsoft Configuration Manager uses the Windows Imaging Format (WIM), and Kace KBOX uses its "K-Image" format. While both are good because they are file-based and easily editable, that doesn't help you if you've invested time and effort in maintaining another image format, such as Symantec Ghost. LANDesk can deploy images using Ghost, PowerQuest DeployCenter, LANDesk's own imaging tool, or ImageX. We had no problem deploying a Ghost image we had on hand.

While OS deployment is one priority for this review, the other is user state migration--and it's no small challenge. While each product in our roundup does it a bit differently, LANDesk's approach is definitely at or near the top. LANDesk's User Migration Assistant (UMA) can be run as part of a capture and restore script, which can be attached to an image deployment, or it can be run independently.

LANDesk's UMA lets IT select individual components of a user profile for backup/restore operations. Organizations that only care about a certain component of the user profile, such as the My Documents folder, can extract just that data for restore.

Our Take

Avocent LANDesk Management Suite 9

LANDesk's range of OS support makes it the most diverse client management solution we tested.
LANDesk's OS imaging and user state migration support rank at the top for flexibility of deployment options.
Small IT shops may want to steer clear, but for large heterogeneous environments, LANDesk might be your best bet.

In fact, you can dig down to individual shell, application, and network settings configured within the user profile, and migrate just those customizations. For example, you can extract sound options that a user configured for specific Windows events, or a user's customized wallpaper. This gives IT a tremendous amount of power in how Win7 looks and feels when it's delivered to the end user.

The other products in the roundup don't offer the same granularity of migration support, but that's not to say that LANDesk's approach is best. For example, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager can actually burn an OS image directly on top of an XP/Vista user profile. As a result, you don't need to capture the user profile at all, which saves lots of migration time and storage.

LANDesk supports the most OS clients of any player in our roundup: MacOS, various Linux flavors, HPUX, and Solaris. And from an inventory management, software distribution, remote management, and software auditing perspective, LANDesk has every bit of functionality that Microsoft Configuration Manager has--and then some. We basically like LANDesk. For organizations with thousands of endpoints in a heterogeneous environments, it might be your best option. LANDesk Management Suite 9 costs $92 per node.