The Provisioning Services Solution
Provisioning Services streaming technology allows computers to be provisioned and re-provisioned in real time from a single shared-disk image. This enables administrators to completely eliminate the need to manage and patch individual systems. Instead, all image management is done on the master image. The local hard disk drive of each system can be used for runtime data caching or, in some scenarios, removed from the system entirely, which reduces power usage, system failure rates, and security risks.
The Provisioning Services infrastructure is based on software-streaming technology. After installing and configuring Provisioning Services components, a vDisk is created from a device’s hard drive by taking a snapshot of the OS and application image, and then storing that image as a vDisk file on the network. The device that is used during this process is referred to as a master target device. The devices that use those vDisks are called target devices.
vDisks can exist on a Provisioning Server, file share, or, in larger deployments, on a storage system that the Provisioning Server can communicate with (iSCSI, SAN, NAS, and CIFS). vDisks can be assigned to a single target device as Private Image Mode, or to multiple target devices as Standard Image Mode.
When a target device is turned on, it is set to boot from the network and to communicate with a Provisioning Server. Unlike thin-client technology, processing takes place on the target device (Step 1 in the illustration that follows).
The target device downloads the boot file from a Provisioning Server (Step 2), and then the target device boots. Based on the device boot configuration settings, the appropriate vDisk is located, then mounted on the Provisioning Server (Step 3). The software on that vDisk is streamed to the target device as needed. To the target device, it appears like a regular hard drive to the system.
Instead of immediately pulling all the vDisk contents down to the target device (as in traditional or imaging deployment solutions), the data is brought across the network in real time, as needed. This approach allows a target device to get a completely new operating system and set of software in the time it takes to reboot, without requiring a visit to a workstation. This approach dramatically decreases the amount of network bandwidth required by traditional disk imaging tools, making it possible to support a larger number of target devices on your network without impacting overall network performance.