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System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Operating System Deployment - Task Sequences (part 3) - Task Sequence Targeting

2/26/2013 11:46:39 AM

3. Custom Commands

The Run Command Line task is your ticket to infinite customization of a task sequence. It provides the ability to run any command already available in Windows or that you include in a package. Figure 19.15, displayed previously, is an example of how to update the Registry. You can also import a Registry file using regedit.exe, run a custom script, or install an otherwise annoying device driver from a vendor-supplied .exe.

Using a Run Command Line task, you can add a user interface that enables users to provide input into your task sequence. An excellent example of this is the OSDAppChooser, available at http://osdappchooser.codeplex.com.

Another example of using a custom executable from a Run Command Line task is presented by Hewlett Packard (HP) in “Deployment of HP ProLiant Servers Using System Center Configuration Manager 2007 White Paper,” available at http://h20392.www2.hp.com/portal/swdepot/displayProductInfo.do?productNumber=HPSCCMOSDWP. The document details the use of the SmartStart Scripting Toolkit to provision ProLiant server hardware automatically during a deployment. This includes things such as firmware upgrades, BIOS settings, and physical drive preparation.

The Microsoft Deployment Guys (http://blogs.technet.com/deploymentguys/default.aspx) present a handful of very useful scripts to run using a Run Command Line task. Many examples are geared toward the MDT, but are applicable to OSD with some minor tweaking in a few cases.

The possibilities are limited only by your resourcefulness and ability. With a little elbow grease and an example or two, you should be able to find or create a script or executable that automates anything and everything required by your deployment.

4. Task Sequence Targeting

Task sequences are advertised to collections in a manner similar to software distribution packages. To create a task sequence advertisement, right-click the desired task sequence and select Advertise; this launches the New Advertisement Wizard (shown in Figure 12), which is nearly identical to the Software Distribution New Advertisement Wizard. Reinforcing their similarity is the fact that task sequences advertisements are actually stored under the Software Distribution -> Advertisements node in the ConfigMgr console.

Figure 12. The New Advertisement Wizard for task sequences

The wizard steps you through the process of creating the advertisement by prompting you for the following information:

  • Target collection

  • Include subcollections

  • Advertisement start time

  • Advertisement expiration time

  • Mandatory advertisements times

  • Priority (for site-to-site task sequence distribution)

  • Distribution point retrieval method; you can download content locally when needed, download all content before starting, access content directly

  • Use remote distribution point when no local one is available

  • Use an unprotected point when no protected one is available

  • Display reminders

  • Show task sequence progress

  • Security

Tip: Multicasting and Distribution Points

If you use multicasting to deliver an image, be sure the distribution point retrieval method is set to download all content before starting the task sequence. Multicasting is not an on-demand delivery system and cannot be used with the option to access content directly from a distribution point, which essentially is on-demand.

A good approach is creating a set of collections with permanent advertisements. When you need to use a specific task sequence, you can just add the resource to the collection. For example, in a simple scenario where you plan to use a build and capture task sequence, such as a task sequence to deploy an image and a task sequence to capture user settings only, you can build a parent collection with three child collections named for the task sequence advertised to it, as displayed in Figure 13.

Figure 13. Sample collections for OSD

This technique works well for systems that have a ConfigMgr client agent on them already; you simply use a direct membership rule to add them to the collection. 

Using nonmandatory advertisements requires user intervention because a prompt appears forcing the choice of which task sequence, if any, to run. This might be desirable and is something to consider when designing your collections. To maintain the zero-touch approach, it is best to create one collection per task sequence and use mandatory assignments for each task sequence. If some user or technician intervention is acceptable, using nonmandatory assignments can simplify your collection hierarchy. A menu displays all task sequences available to a system, and the current operator of the system can choose which one to run.

You must create an advertisement for a task sequence regardless of which method you choose to deploy the task sequence: PXE, media, or ConfigMgr. If you use PXE and mandatory advertisements, subsequent PXE-based boots of the same system ignore the advertisement. If this is not desired and there is a need to rerun the advertisement, right-click the computer resource and select the Clear Last PXE Advertisement option. You can also do this for an entire collection.

5. Change Control and Portability

Nothing is specifically built-in to assist in managing changes for task sequences, although there are several things you can do to avoid losing work:

  • Always duplicate a task sequence for backup purposes after it is created, and any time you are about to edit. This is an easy and quick step you can perform by right-clicking any task sequence and clicking Duplicate. You can also set up a dedicated folder to move your duplicates into to avoid clutter.

  • Export the task sequence from the ConfigMgr console by right-clicking it and choosing Export. This exports the task sequence to an XML file that you can enter into a source control system or just store in a file system. You can re-import exported task sequences by clicking on the Task Sequences node and choosing Import. Note that passwords and Windows product keys are stripped from the exported XML files.

Exporting task sequences to XML files is also an approach for copying a task sequence to an unconnected ConfigMgr site. You simply need to copy the exported XML file to a location accessible by the destination site and import it. Copying a task sequence to an unconnected site does add a few complexities though because task sequences depend on packages. The exported XML file contains references to packages and their IDs on the source site; these will, of course, not exist on the destination site and must be created. You also need to update the task sequence to reference the proper Package IDs and add in any necessary passwords and product keys.

For connected ConfigMgr sites, task sequences, like most other objects created in ConfigMgr, flow down a hierarchy of child sites. This allows you to create a master task sequence at a parent site for use at child sites. You must also ensure that the packages referenced in the task sequence are available to child sites.

6. Customizing Task Sequences

The two default task sequence types, Build and Capture and Deployment, are useful when beginning your use of OSD and task sequences. However, do not lock yourself into the tasks the New Task Sequence Wizard places into these default task sequences. These two task sequences are just starting points for all but the most basic deployments. Remember that they are fully editable, allowing you to customize them as much or as little as you want. Ultimately, using these two task sequence types is not even required. You could start from a blank task sequence by choosing Custom in the New Task Sequence editor and start with a completely clean slate.

Interestingly enough, although task sequences are built for OSD, you can use them for software deployment or any other system configuration activity requiring multiple steps and possibly state maintenance during those steps. This gives rise to the scenario of allowing the activity to continue even after a reboot.

Many in-house or legacy applications require installing multiple packages or performing other configuration tasks in a specific sequence while also surviving a single or multiple intervening reboots. Repackaging these installations often proves challenging if not impossible because of their nature. Task sequences are a perfect way to accomplish the many steps involved in these types of installations.

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