Software Distribution: who still needs it?
One theme we come across often is a need for an automated software distribution method that makes it easy to keep applications deployed and updated, particularly where the target PCs are defined by reference to a combination of characteristics. For an example, an application may be regarded as a companion product for any instances of Office 2010, in a particular department. The granularity with which you can define your targeted PCs is linked directly to the richness of the asset data which you can reference when building the target list. And, of course, that list needs to be dynamically re-evaluated whenever the distribution update job is run.
This need has not gone away with the advent of virtualization – whether for servers, or for the desktop. Applications and application updates still need to be deployed, whether the environment is physical or virtual. Historically, we expected AD Group Policy technology to nullify the need for a generalized software distribution capability, but simply connecting a virtual system to AD is not always enough.
When we surveyed customers to see what functionality we should consider retiring as Windows 7 became ubiquitous, the idea of dropping software distribution was met with a howl of protest. It’s not often we can say we welcome a howl of protest, but it’s good to see the value still inherent in the capability, even if we are still working with an eight year old set of dialogs. It appears that being able to distribute anything from a new driver to a productivity suite to any chosen PCs, at any chosen time, is still relevant in a hybrid physical and virtual environment.
Automated software installation – and de-install
I guess it’s like having one of those flexible, adjustable wrenches in the toolbag, that’ll fix anything that needs doing up – or undoing. Which reminds me – that software distribution module is just as adept at removing software (usually unused or unlicensed) as it is at distributing it. It executes a privileged uninstall task just as effectively and silently as an install task. And with growing concerns over maintaining application licensing control and software license compliance for proliferating virtual machines, that’s a handy tool to have in the bag.