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Our whole company is Macs on the desktop. We have primarily iMacs and MacBook pros. For the last few years we've been using RadMind to manage their system image but the software has a number of drawbacks:

  • It's difficult to tell what files to exclude and what to include in a loadset
  • Applying updates that touch a large number of system files is complex and error-prone

I know that most other solutions out there use a .pkg style system of managing updates. What I'd like to know is what people are using, and what kind of limitations you've run in to. In particular, how easy is it to add/remove software, software updates, firmware updates? How easy is it to change system configuration files?

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

We use a combination of Deploystudio, Apple Remote Desktop and Carbon Copy Cloner (when necessary).

Deploystudio manages imaging very well and has the capability to do multicast and differentials. You can integrate scripts and other installations into your package workflows as well.

Apple Remote Desktop is excellent for responding to support requests from users. It also allows you to push packages and even run scripts/command line applications remotely.

Carbon Copy Cloner is a simpler imaging tool that we use to do backups of entire systems etc. Nice thing is it will image the system while it's running.

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I think DeployStudio and ARD look like they'd be the next logical step up for a deployment like ours. I know a lot of people mentioned Puppet and we already use Bcfg2 for configuration file management, but I find a system like that is less than ideal for package deployment. –  Kamil Kisiel Jun 18 '09 at 23:40
1  
Yes, ARD is extremely handy for many management tasks. We even use it's reporting features to plan upgrade rollouts. Initiating the softwareupdate command from ARD to apply critical updates is also pretty useful. –  moshen Jun 19 '09 at 16:42

Our extremely legacy solution uses a single monolithic disk image that is pushed down to workstations via Netboot and NetRestore (which has been discontinued). Software updates are done in batches which obviously necessitates creating a new image and a whole lot of network bandwidth to update the clients. It's slow, clunky, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. We've definitely been looking into pkg based deployments using tools like DeployStudio. But we're still just in the research phase.

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Sounds somewhat similar to the problems with Radmind as well, except that in Radmind the updates are done as a diff instead of pushing the whole image. This makes it a fair bit faster and less bandwidth intensive. However, it has all the same drawbacks of having to maintain a "gold image", albeit in pieces and with overlays and all sorts of other added complexity. This is exactly the reason I'd like to see us move to pkg based deployment. –  Kamil Kisiel Jun 18 '09 at 17:56

We currently use NetRestore but are migrating to DeployStudio since NetRestore has been deprecated. DeployStudio is not as clean cut as NetRestore but it definitely has the potential to surpass it. It provides for more flexibility and even setting up triple boot images (although I have yet to use this feature and don't see it being used much in a corporate environment).

If you want to just build packages to push out through ARD, a good tool is LANrev. It's free but you need to enter an email address to receive a serial number.

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Google and some publishing houses use puppet.

I use it on Macs on my home network, and use Puppet professionally on other OSes.

It's not without it's flaws and quirks, but it's free and you can do almost anything you want with it.

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We still use NetRestore, because it works and I haven't had time to look at the alternatives (I have plenty of things that aren't working right before I have time to worry about things that are working!). When I get time, I suspect we'll go for deploystudio.

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