Complex Software Distribution Issue

5 pts.
Got a technical challenge that I need help on Customer: An organization that trains radiologists Situation: They certify radiologists to use computer based radiology tools at their site in Northern VA. Radiologists come in from across the US to get certified. Each radiologist wants to get advanced training on the tool that he has at his hospital. Right now there are 7 tools on the market. All are workstation based and require a dedicated CPU and a high powered graphics card. 5 of the tools are WINTEL based and 2 are LINUX based. The Problem: Right now depending on the class they manually load the software for a specific class. Each class is 60-100 students and each PC is configured for the software that the radiologist uses at his home site. The mix of what each radiologist uses is not constant and in some classes all 7 systems can be used. This causes an issue since they have a small IT staff. Right now it takes 3-5 hours to wipe the old image, lload and configure the software for each workstation and it is prone to human error. Not sure how many applications can be VM'd since they all like dedicated workstations. Desire: Automate the configuration for each class by using SAN or disk imaging technology or perhaps run the instance on VMWare or use and ESD tool. Question: What tools support this solution? .

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I don’t think that virtualization is going to be the answer for you. With the high CPU requirements and the good memory requirements VMware or Virtual PC probably won’t work out best for you.

Many IT schools will setup a Ghost or RIS server then at the beginning of each class week they re-image all the machines with the correct image for that class.

In your case you’d build and store 7 computer images up on the file server. At the beginning of each class usually during the introduction you give each student a floppy disk which they then boot the desktop off and and select the correct software package (based on the file name of the image) to load. It’ll then take about 30-60 minutes to image the machines during which introductions etc and basic concepts can be handled. If the IT staff wants to, then can handle the re-imaging of the machines before hand, but this does require knowing where each person will be sitting.

The key to setting up a good imaging solution like this is very fast disks on the server (as all 60-100 people will be reading a 3-8Gig file from the file server at one time) as well as a very fast network connection from the network switch in the classroom to the network switch in the server room, as well as from the server room network switch to the file server it self. You’ll need several Gig ports or even look into 10 Gig networking between the switches and to the file server.

In addition to a large fast RAID array you’ll want to make sure to select a RAID controller which has as much cache as possible on it.

Another solution is possibly using HP Rapid deployment server or IBM Director software, with this you could basically have your seven images stored ona any form of storage as compressed images, when you need to run a class set a schedule on the firday to run over the wekend with whatever arrangement of different servers is required for the Monday, drag this job to either a single machine or group of machines and off it will go, ghosting is good until you change machines or have a range of different hardware, this method will run through an unattended installtion from go so you will also not have issues with SIDs etc. both methods are vaible (Ghost or RPD/Director), its a mattre of choice at the end of the day.

hope this helps in some way

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  • djac
    Would a multi-boot environment work for this? If the workstations' drives were large enough to take 7 partitions with a multi-boot front-end, or if disk space could be added/enhanced? Then all you would need to do is build the master image and install over the network out of hours. The master would then be updated/modified and re-installed as necessary. No loading/updating needed The students would be told which boot option to select at the start-up session. This approach, and Mr Denny's excellent idea above, would probably require that all the workstations be the same to avoid driver issues.
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  • djac
    I meant to say 'No loading/updating needed during or just before class'.
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