System Center Configuration Manager 2007 : Creating Packages (part 1)

11/17/2013 8:39:54 PM

1. The Case for ConfigMgr Software Packaging

In general, packages are used to install software on systems. You can also use packages to execute just a command on a system, without installing any software. If you go back far enough into the history of Windows systems, there was a time when the IT (Information Technology) staff simply used batch scripts and executable files to install software.

What About Removing Software?

The focus on software installation presents an interesting challenge—did software technicians and system administrators consider how to remove that installed software from a system? Initially, software packages tended to be inconsistent in their uninstallation methods; and in some cases, you could not uninstall them.

Software packaging has evolved such that the majority of installations are now performed using an MSI (Microsoft Installer Package) file. Using MSIs provide a more consistent installation (and uninstallation) experience and is the current industry standard.

You may be thinking, “Why do I have to package software within ConfigMgr? I already have a software package (it may even be an MSI file). Why must I repackage it to distribute it in Configuration Manager 2007?” Realize that ConfigMgr is not so much packaging software as it is preparing software for distribution. The packages, programs, and advertisements in ConfigMgr are designed to utilize existing packaging, or work with unpackaged software applications by directly executing an EXE or other file type—much like you might see on a raw CD or DVD. The reason one packages software in ConfigMgr is that software companies design commercial software packages for manual installation by the individual purchasing the software, and the installation process expects users to respond to configuration questions. In contrast, ConfigMgr packages are typically used with unattended installations. With Configuration Manager, you are not really repackaging the application—you are using the existing software package to automate its usage by ConfigMgr.

As an example, if you install WinZip (available at www.winzip.com), its setup program asks questions regarding preferences to install the software on a particular system. When you automate the software installation process, a fully automated WinZip software package will not prompt users with questions about how they want something installed. Instead, you must determine in advance how to install the application on all your systems.

ConfigMgr is flexible in its options for deploying software packaging. ConfigMgr 2007 provides the ability to install on a per-system or per-user basis and can also prompt the user for information or provide fully silent software installations. Although Configuration Manager can provide installations designed for user interaction, its real power in this area is its ability to deploy software silently, without any user interaction required.

Advantages of ConfigMgr software packaging include the following:

  • Automated deployment

  • Consistency

  • Targeted deployments

  • The capability to automate software removal

  • Reusability

The next sections discuss these benefits.

Automated Deployment

Software deployments in Configuration Manager are typically designed for installation without user intervention, although ConfigMgr can deploy software requiring user intervention if that is necessary. Using an automated approach enables a quicker and more efficient software installation, and permits an unattended installation without the user logged in to the system. Automating software installation is one of the major benefits of using ConfigMgr to deploy software.


Automating a software deployment includes selecting installation options in advance. Using the WinZip installation as an illustration, there is a series of questions asked during setup—from accepting a license agreement to the location to install the program. WinZip also asks whether to use the classic or wizard interface.

Packaging software with Configuration Manager lets you define how to install the software such that it will be consistent throughout your environment. As an example, ConfigMgr-installed software will use a particular directory and a specific configuration. This makes it quicker to find the program, and easier for the users (and helpdesk personnel) because there is a consistent experience with the application regardless of the particular desktop.

Consistency in software deployments also increases the uniformity of data in the reports available with Configuration Manager 2007. ConfigMgr includes software inventory functionality and reports on your installed software. Performing software deployments with ConfigMgr simplifies the process to provide a consistent version of that software throughout your organization. Without standard deployments, if you use software such as Adobe Reader and let users download and install it on their own, you may have several different versions to support.

Targeted Deployment

Using ConfigMgr 2007 lets you choose which systems or users will receive what software. Configuration Manager automates software deployment to these specified groups of systems or users. This capability, known as targeting, helps you meet the particular deployment requirements of your organization. As an example, you can target one configuration for an application to one group and a different configuration of that application to another group. This targeted approach to deployment provides increased flexibility while maintaining the ability to deploy software in an automated method.

Software Removal

An often overlooked benefit of using ConfigMgr for software packaging is the ability to automate uninstalling those software packages. An instance where this would be beneficial is a software package with a specified timeframe of when it should be available and when it needs to be removed. This might be a software package licensed only for 1 year.

Another advantage to automated software removal is the ability to deal with unwanted software. If ConfigMgr, using its software inventory functionality, determines a nonsupported software package is residing on a system, you can define a process to uninstall that software. As an example, assume your organization does not permit installing peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software on the network. The general approach to shutting down these types of software packages is to block them at the network level. If that is not viable, you can use ConfigMgr to automate the process of uninstalling these software packages when found on a system. You can remove the software by using a program in a software package that performs the removal. For applications installed using MSI files, software can be removed using a program defined in the MSI package. For those applications without a predefined software removal command line, you would need to create an uninstall program to uninstall the application. This also provides a good alternative approach to controlling P2P software, in addition to blocking those applications on the network layer.

Software Package Reuse

Packages created with Configuration Manager are reusable. As an example, if you create a software package for a single location in a company, you can use that same package for other locations in the company—without having to deploy the software manually. You can also configure software packages for use with other ConfigMgr technologies such as Operating System Deployment (OSD).

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