IT deployment: From 'nuke and pave' to paving the way

Device deployment and configuration is moving to a self-service model that suits everybody

This is a contributed post by Jason Stanaland, an IT professional with a decade of experience specializing in systems architecture design, IT service management, and execution of information technology-related projects. Jason currently works at JAMF Software, a leading Apple device management company.

We all have an image that we project to others – an image that reflects our own views of ourselves. This image is often something we consider personal and unique. If you have been in the field of technology for a while, the term “image” means something entirely different - perhaps even quite the opposite. In technology, imaging means creating, preserving and duplicating the bits and bytes from one machine to another. Imaging is about copying the current state of a computer over and over and over again. The more copies we make, the more consistency and efficiency we yield – but as we create computers as clones, we take away their personality and our ability to use them to project our own unique image to the world.

Traditionally, most IT teams have procured new desktop computers and set about what has been called “nuke and pave” imaging. Here, we'd remove the factory operating system from the computer and lay down a new OS that was created to meet our organization’s needs. We would do that for every computer that we brought in the door. Then the time came (on the Mac side at least) that we decided we were blowing away a perfectly good OS and we started imaging machines modularly. Here, we’d leave the factory OS on the machine and install approved software, apps and settings on top of it. This method was slightly more streamlined, but still a tightly controlled process in which IT would dictate what software was accessible to what users at what time.

More recently, new trends have emerged where instead of cloning new devices as they come on to the corporate network, many IT teams are letting the machines adopt the unique personalities of their users. IT pros and tech giants like Apple are abandoning the concept of traditional “imaging” altogether and adopting a more personalized approach to device deployment and configuration. This new user self-provisioning approach follows a self-service model in which users are provided with a device from the factory, allowed to enroll it into management themselves upon initial setup (via self enrollment or Apple’s Device Enrollment Program), and given access to install their own software and content in their own time, as needed - all without IT even touching the device. This is more of a true form of giving the machine an “image”, because each machine now adopts more of its own personality - one that is aligned to the personality of its user.

The joys of self-service

The use of self service-driven IT management methodologies can benefit IT in many ways. For example, Microsoft has reported that by offering self-service, IT helpdesk calls were reduced by 15.4%, at a savings of about $30 a call. These savings show the value of self-service, but it’s the benefit to the end user that yields the biggest bang for buck in a business. Self-service-driven deployment and configuration can increase user productivity and satisfaction, help attract and keep the best talent, encourage a self-sufficient culture, bring out an organization’s power users and problem-solvers and lead to a more integrated relationship between IT and the user community. In fact, recent research by Forrester indicates that 72% of consumers and users prefer self-service support.

The new road to success for IT is in facilitating self-service by providing guidance and tools to make it easy for users to get what they need when they need it. Instead of nuking and paving roads, IT must reinforce existing roads and pave new ones so that users decide which paths to take while knowing that each one is safe and supported. As traditional client device management evolves and merges with identity management this will become critical for IT teams to understand and embrace. Each user has a unique identity that the technologies they use must align with. This must be understood from both a security and a usability perspective. The image belongs to the user, not the machine.