Standardisation reduces TCO

Openet recently completed the rollout of a desktop standard operating environment (SOE) for Paddington Gold. This involved re-deployment of the PC's operating system using Remote Installation Services (RIS) and re-deployment of common applications using Group Policy. With this SOE, new PC's can be provisioned in a little over an hour without the need for on site IT assistance. Similarly, existing PC's can be rebuilt in the same time in the event of staff turnover or software corruption. This ensures every PC starts with the same configuration and avoids the introduction of inconsistencies associated with manual software installation.

Deployment of the new Paddington SOE was greatly streamlined due to the largely standardised desktop PC hardware. Saving even a few hundred dollars by purchasing 'clone' or 'white box' hardware is quickly offset by the labour required to manually install or re-install a PC. Experienced managers will seek to standardise on business grade hardware where components are maintained for the life of the model (typically 3 years).

The outcomes of the Paddington SOE implementation were:

  • Provision of a consistent desktop working environment for all staff
  • Removal of settings, configuration & software associated with the previous owner of the mine
  • Accelerated deployment or rebuild of desktop PCs without the need for on site IT support
  • Improved software licence management and compliance
  • Reduced future support costs through centralised deployment of applications and settings

Providing a consistent desktop environment and removal of settings associated with the previous mine owner were of key importance to Paddington's management to assist in establishing the company's new identity. As could be expected on a mine site with a history as long as Paddington's, there was considerable variation in software from PC to PC resulting in inconsistent performance and access to IT services. Standardising the desktop operating environment engineered out these issues and together with hardware upgrades, staff have reported improved performance and satisfaction with their desktop environment.

From an IT management perspective, supportability of the site has been significantly improved with reduced time to deploy new desktop hardware, and easy rebuilding of PCs in the event of software corruption or re-deployment. Both of these activities can now be achieved without an on site IT presence with only a few minutes of telephone instruction to non technical staff.

For those interested in knowing more, the Paddington SOE is based on the following key components:

  • Standard desktop computer hardware
  • Standard desktop operating system deployed using RIS
  • Common desktop applications deployed using Group Policy

The following paragraphs provide more detail on each of the above components:

Desktop Hardware
Paddingon Gold were fortunate that most of the desktop computers on the site were business grade computers from a single manufacturer (HP). Although varying slightly in CPU and memory specification, these business grade models maintain consistent components over their lifespan greatly easing driver support. Memory was upgraded on lower specification PCs and most non standard PCs were decommissioned and removed from service with new PCs purchased to replace them where necessary.

All PC's were asset tagged and the asset numbers subsequently used for the computer's name allowing easy identification of computers both visually and electronically.

The operating system of each PC was re-installed by rebooting the PC and pressing F12 to initiate a PXE boot to start the RIS process.

Remote Installation Service (RIS)
The Remote Installation Service is a standard service available on Microsoft Windows 2003 Server which facilitates the deployment of operating system software to a computer across a network. Openet prepared a RIS build for Paddington to support their predominant desktop hardware.

Using RIS has several benefits over image methods such as Ghost including:

  • RIS installs the operating system using it's native installation process ensuring correct handling of minor hardware variations and ensuring correct automatic addition to the corporate domain
  • A single RIS build can support several hardware models through driver inclusions rather than maintaining entire images for each model
  • RIS avoids issues associated with images becoming stale or outdated due to changing applications or updated settings

Once the operating system was re-installed, Group Policy facilitated automatic deployment of the organisations standard desktop applications and settings.

Group Policy
Microsoft's Active Directory provides a range of tools for the effective management of a corporate network including Group Policy. Group Policy can be used for a range of tasks such as managing security, managing configurations and deployment of software.

Using Group Policy, common software such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat reader, and ERP applications were deployed to all desktop computers automatically and non standard but still often used applications were published for installation as required.

Summary
The entire process of installing the PC's operating system and standard applications is completed in a little over an hour and can be initiated by non technical staff simply be rebooting the computer, selecting the computer model from a menu, and entering the PC's asset number.

Throughout the SOE deployment process, on site attendance by Openet staff was required only for the physical upgrade and / or asset tagging and relocation of PC hardware and for the handling of specialist applications on a handful of computers.

Openet provide SOE implementation as a standard Infrastructure service using our documented procedures for implementation of the technologies discussed above to ensure delivery of consistent quality outcomes for clients. For further information on deploying a standard operating environment in your organisation have a look at the Standard Operating Environment page in our Service Catalogue or contact Openet for an obligation free initial consultation.