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Software Distribution

What tools have people found work well for software distribution?  I need something that can *automatically* distribute updates to EXEs and DLLs on an Intranet of several hundred workstations, running Win2K and WinXP.  Currently IT staff have to run installers at each client which is time consuming and error prone.  Thank in advance for your thoughts...

Ole Eichhorn
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

http://www.microsoft.com/smserver/evaluation/capabilities/appdeploy.asp

Anonymous
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'm going to take a stab in the dark here, but Microsoft SMS since you're an MS shop already?

Elephant
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Beat me to it Anonymous. . .

Elephant
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

For 300 workstations SMS costs about $20K.  That's a lot.

Ole Eichhorn
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

How much does it cost to send the tech out to the workstation?

You may want to look into Marimba... not sure about the pricing there.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Are you just worried about patch management?  Microsoft SUS is a free add-in for Windows Server 2003 that might be able to help you out.  If you're trying to do update your own applications, that won't work.  On the other hand, $20,000 may not be that much.  How long does it take you to update every one of those machines? 

Meaning...

$20,000 / 300 workstations = $67 / workstation.
If your IT guy makes $34 / hour, that means he can spend 2 hours updating any given workstation ever.  If I estimate 30 minutes a workstation, then that's 4 updates he can make within the timeframe before you replace SMS server.  Let's say that after 2 years, you dump SMS server.  That means, your IT guy can visit each workstation twice a year.  Now, there is overhead involved with running SMS server, so lets say, that overhead amounts to $20,000 over the 2 year period.  So, provided your IT guy visits any workstation 4 times a year, or once a quarter, you break even.  I dunno, just some basic math w/ some arbitrary estimation, but in a mid-sized company with 300 workstations, I'd say $20,000 is not unreasonable.

Elephant
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Look at the "Autoinstaller" that comes with Symantec Ghost enterprise. Its very cool and you ( or your tech staff) might already have it.

moses whitecotton
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Are you looking to keep every (or many) programs up to date (i.e. auto-install Windows hotfixes, Office Updates, etc), or are you just trying to keep some custom in-house software up-to-date?

If its the later, it should be pretty easy to build right in to your software.  I play Poker online and everytime I play, the client phones-home to see if there are updates.  Very frequently (at least once a week) there is a new version.  The installer is downloaded, the client app uninstalled and reinstalled, and then I'm back at the Poker start screen.  The installer is nothing special, InstallShield, Wise or the like, the magic is just a small piece of phone home code.

Ken Klose
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

We use Group Policy to handle this for 50 workstations and all of our software, both factory and hand-rolled. I don't know how well this scales to 300 workstations.

When we have a new computer, we make it part of the appropriate groups and first start-up takes care of everything.

When we have a new application, we create an appropriate group or assign it to an existing one. If creating a new group, we add the appropriate computers to that group. In both cases, the next restart takes care of everything.

When we update an existing application, we use the Group Policy editor to create a new package that is 'flagged' as an update to the previous version. The next time affected computers are restarted, the update is performed.

Some of this requires becoming familiar with creating non-interactive *.msi based packages, but for the most part it's fairly simple. Also note that we do everything based on computers and groups, but it can also be done based on users and groups.

Ron Porter
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

If you were using Java I would recommend Java Webstart.  It's free!  It is security aware.  In my two weeks of experience it hasn't failed...

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

If it is software you have any control over, make sure the patch process runs automated. Then you can run it from the login script for pre-win2k-machines, and start from the DC if you are using win2k/XP-domains.

Jonas B.
Friday, March 19, 2004

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