Architecture and Design
The problems facing technologists in the arena of imaging are not new. The same issues that IT departments faced trying to roll out small pockets of Windows 3.1 are the same issues that they face trying to roll out Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. Swimage Encore is designed to render these issues obsolete. Developing a method by which IT can maintain the flexibility of a customized solution for “Personal Computers” while allowing cost reduction through componentization and automation has vexed the industry for decades.
An initial approach to this problem was imaging. The idea of taking a snapshot of a machine and then being able to rapidly replicate that snapshot caught on like wildfire. There were issues abound with security and customization as IT groups across the world started trying to force the “square pegs” that represented their customers into the “round holes” that represented their once size fits all solution. The problems that became apparent rapidly were:
- For customers, one size does not fit all
- Customers actually drive IT, not the other way around
- Without a solution, companies will reject upgrading core Operating System components not because of technical issues, but rather the complexity of simply getting the new Operating System to the endpoint
- As the shift in IT began and business truly started to drive technology adoption rather than the presentation of technology to the market being a sufficient driver, a solution for rapid deployment of new Operating Systems became more critical than ever.
As a premier consulting firm, Intrinsic Technologies was engaged to provide deployment assistance for companies throughout the world. The goals of those organizations were to advance deployment rapidly and on budget. To this end, Intrinsic developed a set of processes around a dynamically layered imaging process that has come to be known as Swimage. This methodology, codified, became the first release of the framework solution.
The core concept of Swimage Encore is that of dynamic layering. The principle is to have a framework that can be leveraged to specify “What” should be included in an image definition rather than focusing on the “How” to build that image. The system can then, once provided with the configuration metadata, create any core image that is specified and manage that image through multiple versions or iterations.
Once the core, thin image is created, it is associated to the Operating System it was derived from and cataloged. That single image can be used to deploy that specific Operating System on any resource in the environment as the core image has no specific hardware drivers or other characteristics that would render it non-transferable to another machine. All of the configuration data that would make a particular instance of an image unique is stored in a data-focused layer called a template. Templates can then be combined to create very unique customizations. Templates are roughly analogous to group policy objects.
Once a set of templates are defined, they can be grouped or stacked into a Role. Roles allow tremendous flexibility in configuration as they can be created and modified with no risk to the configuration of the system as they simply refer to configuration items. This modular approach is core to the efficiency provided by Swimage Encore. By allowing administrators to rapidly assemble templates and roles, the configuration of target devices can be accomplished rapidly.
Most organizations have different needs and reasons for deploying an OS including:
- Steady State Reimaging
- Large Scale Deployments
- Bare Metal Deployments
- Computer Swap Deployments
- Break-Fix reimaging
- Server-less/disconnected imaging
Swimage handles all of these reasons for deployment via its intuitive and flexible system.