MMS 2013 Day 5 Roundup

It is hard to believe, but we’ve reached the end of MMS 2013. Friday is a light day with only two timeslots and a handful of sessions offered. I expect things to be fairly quiet at the conference center as some people have already started to head out of town and others are sleeping in after the Attendee Party last night. I was up early so that I could finish packing and check out of the hotel. I dropped off my bags at the bell desk, and headed over to the conference center one last time. As I thought, breakfast was a ghost town. Since there was only one session offered at 8:30, there wasn’t much reason for anyone not going to it to be up and about just yet.

DC-B306 Building the Perfect Windows 8 Image (DC-B306)
Speakers: Johan Arwidmark (@jarwidmark), Mikael Nystrom (@Mikael_Nystrom)

This session overlapped quite a bit with Johan’s session DC-B316 that he gave on Thursday. The most interesting part for me was the discussion about thick vs. thin reference images. The key to determining which one to use depends on your threshold for deployment times and whether you have available resources for keeping images up-to-date.

A thick image contains everything that you want to be loaded on the destination system – the OS, updates, applications, everything.  The advantage of the thick image is that applying it to a machine is fast. The downside is you should update it often, monthly perhaps, so that you’re not deploying systems with out-of-date and possibly vulnerable software.

A thin image contains only the OS, system updates, and those few applications like .Net Framework or Visual C++ runtimes that many of the applications you will load later require. The advantage of the thin deployment is that is is small, simple, and does not need to be updated very often because a Windows Update task in the deployment task sequence will ensure the system is fully patched. You might add an application suite like Office to the image because Office is slow to install, most of your users probably need it, and it will get updated by Windows Update as well.

The discussion also touched on using MDT to create images for VDI and some of the tweaks and fixes necessary to optimize performance.  These are more relevant for Windows 7 than Windows 8, but it is something to be aware of as you build your images. Windows 8 is more intelligent about how to behave in a VDI environment but there are still opportunities for fine tuning. Mikael recommended another session, DV-B308, that focused specifically on optimizing Windows 8 for VDI.

The last topic I’ll mention is creating reference images for Windows To Go.Normally you want to avoid including any drivers in your reference image. Drivers will get injected at deployment. With Windows To Go, however, we need network, storage, and graphics drivers to be available, specifically generic drivers. Instead of using OEM drivers such as Dell or HP, us drivers from, as Mikael put it, the “OEM’s OEM,” Intel, ATI, Nvidia, etc.  The rest of the drivers will be installed via Windows Update automatically when inserted into a machine.  For more information about deploying Windows To Go, watch Mikael’s session DC-B317.

Watch session on Channel 9

Replacing BIOS With a UEFI Deployment (UD-B314)
Speakers: Alfred Ojukwo, Frank Pinto

The final session of MMS 2013 was the most disappointing. Reading the title, you might believe that the session would cover how you change your deployment process to move from using BIOS to UEFI since most all of today’s PCs support using UEFI. I know I thought that was the case. Instead it turned out to be a history of BIOS and UEFI as well as an exploration of the new feature of UEFI and the capabilities it enables like Secure Boot. The one slide that teased at a demo related to deployment was skipped. Very disappointing.

Watch session on Channel 9

Heading Home

As we left the session, mostly grumbling about the false advertising of the title, we were met with a quick lunch – small salads, sliders, and jalapeno poppers. It was a pleasant surprise and led to an informative stand-up lunch with my friends Joel and Bryan, from Canada and New Zealand respectively, as well as another person from the UK whose name I don’t recall.  We explained to them some of the more perplexing parts of the US usually centered on our almost completely dysfunctional government. They shared some of the oddities of their systems as well, but I still think we “won” that contest.  Having solved all the problems facing our respective nations over lunch, we made our good byes, and I headed off to retrieve my bags and catch a cab to the airport.

So… that ends my first MMS. At this point, you’re probably wonder what I thought about MMS, whether I’ll go again, how it compared to TechEd, etc. If you are, stay tuned for a post in the next few days that will focus on those questions. If you’re not wondering any of those things, let me say thanks for sticking around this long.  It has been a fun week, and hopefully you were able to get a taste for MMS from my posts. Check back June 2-6 for my dispatches from TechEd in New Orleans.