Software Deployment Question

beginner deployer

06/09/2010 5155 views
I'm just trying to get my head around the whole deployment process in Windows and trying to figure out what all the differences and benefits are of each other.

What I'm trying to figure out:
I am pretty comfortable with the process of deploying thru GPO in Server 2003. Getting the msi file of 7zip or foxit reader for example and loading it up into Computer configuration --> software settings --> deploy. I have even used Adobe and Office customization tools for reader and office products respectfully and those have deployed. Some do not work for me though for instance extracting out the quicktime.msi from the exe file and trying to deploy that msi file...nothing happens.

So I have also played around with using the "Advanced Installer" program by Caphyon. That seems to help me deploy somethings as well. I know just the basics of it at this point.

I also see people throwing around command lines for example like "msiexec.exe /i install_flash_player_active_x.msi /qb" and am curious as what point do they use these in the deployment process? Are they running these in batch files that they put in the SYSTEM STARTUP of the GPO? Where do you run these msiexec commands where you can use all these switches to determine what parts of the application to install?

I have also used PSTOOL --> psexec \\<ip address> -c foxitreader.exe to deploy applications but that can be hit or miss as well depending on the application.

Do people use some of all of these to complete deployments or just one or is SMS the answer? Don't know anything about SMS yet.

Any help with the above questions would be awesome.
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All Answers

Group policy deployment is unfortunately very limited in its scope. Outside of that limited scope is using native msiexec.exe command lines with your MSI's to customize their behavior. In order to get the same kind of refined control over your deployments that you'd get by using command lines, you would have to create transforms (usually with a tool like Wise Package Studio or Installshield) to apply to your MSI's.

Getting vendor packages to work with GPO can be a harrowing task sometimes, but that's the nature of using free tools.
Answered 06/09/2010 by: Jsaylor
Second Degree Blue Belt

being involved in a small business i've found i've not often needed more than the basic GPO type options but I am keen to know more of what you hardcore deployers get up to with your switches and scripts etc.

maybe some of you more knowledgable chaps could post some good links for learning from???
Answered 06/10/2010 by: squeakstar
Orange Senior Belt

I may be wrong but it doesn't seem like you can shape your installation very much through GPO unless the product provides a Customization Tool like Office or Adobe Products. How can you tell the application to not put shortcuts on the desktop, etc after an install and also not everything comes in msi format does it?

Also, I would still like to know where people are using the msiexec commands at like "msiexec.exe /i install_flash_player_active_x.msi /qb" as I mentioned above. Do you put this in a batch file and then push it out through GPO on a SYSTEM STARTUP in GPO?

Answered 06/10/2010 by: sman26
Yellow Belt

As already mentioned, customisations are applied using transforms which you can author with tools like Wise and InstallShield. There are other, more basic tools (InstEdit and Orca, for example) but you would need a great deal of experience and knowledge of the inner workings of Windows Installer to build packages using these.

There is nothing you can do from the command line which you can't set up in a transform, other than define what UI is presented (which the '/Qx' switch controls) but GPO deploys invisibly anyway.
Answered 06/10/2010 by: VBScab
Red Belt

Do you put this in a batch file and then push it out through GPO on a SYSTEM STARTUP in GPO?

basically yes, except there's a plethora of other tools out there for deploying applications to PCs. Things like SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager), Altiris, Radia, LANDesk, and a load of others I'm forgetting.
Each one is different but what they have in common is that you need to define the different packages in them you want to be able to distribute.
More often than not nowadays these packages come in or are made into the form of an MSI file. When installing these MSI files you can pass a number of options to the Windows Installer Service through the command line options of MSIEXEC (/qn or /qb to define what UI, /L to indicate what and where to log...). VBS can often be used to streamline the installation of these packages.

As a practical example, I can tell you at my current job we use LANDesk, and we have written a whole series of VBS functions to standardise a load of installation operations, like checking if a folder exists, or if a certain application is installed, and also for installing and uninstalling MSI files. We then combine these functions into VBS scripts that are triggered when installing the LANDesk package. For example a distribution package for AutoCAD 2009 is basically a VBS that first checks free diskspace, then checks for .Net 3.5, then uninstalls an older version of AutoCAD, and then finally starts the installation of AutoCAD 2009 and reports on the result of it.

A second use of VBS is INSIDE the MSI files. Since we often want to execute special tasks during the installation of MSIs, we will make what are called Custom Actions, often in the form of VBS scripts, and have the MSI file execute these during its installation. Examples are pretty much unlimited, basically anything you want to do/check during an installation that can be done through scripting..

Hope this clarifies it for you


Answered 06/10/2010 by: pjgeutjens
Red Belt

Thanks for your help. So Wise and Installshield for example help you create an MST file to change the way the MSI file is installed which you can then push out through GPO or you can skip using GPO all together and get products like SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager), Altiris, Radia, LANDesk which allow you to take the EXE from a vendor and turn it into an msi and push that all the way through to a clients desktop. You can can do additional things that these products can't do by using VBS.
It would be cool to see this process all the way from beginning to end. (e.g. say you wanted to push picasa3 to 10 clients. You would download picasa.exe from the web, convert it to an msi by....., modify the way it's installed on the client's pcs by...., actually then push it out to the 10 clients by...) (maybe see some example script used...)
Again...i just know the very basics and am really interested in learning.
really appreciate everything.
Answered 06/11/2010 by: sman26
Yellow Belt

Not quite.

- Wise and InstallShield will create MSIs and MSTs

- SCCM et al are deployment systems (amongst other things) which you'd use to push the MS/MST to the client and trgger installation. However, these systems can run native installers (indeed, they can trigger the execution of pretty much any program) so you may not need to convert to MSI.

You can can do additional things that these products can't do by using VBS
The capabilities of these systems is W A Y beyond what can be done with VBS!

As for seeing them in action, I *think* you'd probably have to have a vendor/agent demonstration.
Answered 06/12/2010 by: VBScab
Red Belt

I'd say the main distinction to make is between the payload (what you want to install on the machines, basically the applications), which often consists of an MSI file, possibly with an MST ontop of it and maybe triggered by a script (like a VBS) to do other stuff during the installtion, besides just installing the MSI -
and the distribution system (SCCM / ALtiris/ LANDEsk) which will inform the PCs in your network that the new package is available, and make sure every machine on which you want to have your payload installed will actually install it, and do a bunch of other tasks as well (Inventoying installed software, managing OS deployments, patching, etc etc...)
Answered 06/12/2010 by: pjgeutjens
Red Belt

Thanks for all of the information and help.
Answered 06/14/2010 by: sman26
Yellow Belt

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