Case Study: Microsoft SCCM Deployment Solution with Swimage

Customer Profile

A global mining automation company owned by one of the largest heavy equipment builders in the world, specializing in open pit mining solutions.

Business Challenge

The client sells software to link all mining assets in the mine, from the digging vehicles to the transport trucks. It is designed to help mine operators run a 24/7 operation with little or no human supervision. The software can guides the human operators of the digging cranes and shovels keeping them in the veins of desired materials and keeps track of the volume gathered, while utilizing robotic trucks to transport materials from the digging operations to the processing plants and dumping sites.

The software runs on Microsoft Windows™ embedded operating system devices in the vehicles. Client desired a way to update their software systems through the wireless network linking the entire network of devices. The wanted this to happen without touching each device and without taking the mining vehicle out of service to perform this action.

The client had utilized manual upgrades in the past but this required the asset be brought into a common location with network access and also bring it out of production to complete it.

It was decided to explore the use of Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager software (SCCM) version 2007, which was currently being used to deploy operating system updates, to try and deploy the clients’ software updates.

At this point client sought help from Intrinsic Technologies to explore this option due to our experience and exposure to a variety of types of software deployments using SCCM in specialized environments.


Intrinsic Assessment and Resolution

Intrinsic was asked to take two weeks to evaluate the use of SCCM 2007 to deploy the clients’ software to Windows embedded devices in the open pit mining environment utilizing a wireless network.

A test environment with several of the client embedded client devices, connected wirelessly to their development servers hosting SCCM, SQL databases, and their software packages were used for the testing at their facility in Arizona.

Testing yielded unfavorable results based on two factors.

  • SCCM version 2007 does not natively support Windows embedded devices. Connecting to these devices proved that the connection was not stable and that the communications of deployment status were not accurate enough.

SCCM version 2007 did not react well when the loss of wireless signal caused extra latency on the data transfer of the new software to the device was canceled or just never recovered from the loss of signal.

Based on these results at the end of week one it was decided to try a release candidate of SCCM version 2012. This version claimed to have native support of embedded devices and also to handle network traffic dropouts in a better manner.

Week two results showed that SCCM 2012 could be a good medium for deployment but it required client to make some decisions on how much integration and control their clients would allow them in implementing the solution.

Factors to take into consideration were:

To implement software deployment to embedded devices SCCM 2012 requires a Certificate Authority somewhere on the network because with support of embedded devices SCCM uses HTTP authentication of the devices connecting to the network. This could be an issue if their client would or would not not allow them to set up a Certificate Authority role on the existing systems.

SCCM 2012 would require a migration from the existing 2007 version installation and this would probably require additional investments in capital equipment and software perquisites to meet the minimums required by the 2012 version.

At the end of the evaluation process the client decided to spend time on further investigation of SCCM 2012 as the next step in their process to move from their proprietary software manual solution to an off the shelf Microsoft solution.