The Pipeline

When mere cloning isn’t enough; The invisible task.

When mere cloning isn’t enough

Dolly the cloned sheep has nothing on enterprise networks when it comes to cloning. Dolly might be a miracle of genetic science and biology but, let’s face it, she was one sheep. Information technology administrators shepherd whole flocks of cloned computers every day.

In the enterprise networking world, cloning is a great way to deploy new computers, software upgrades and patches. It involves creating a master configuration, called an image, and then copying that image onto multiple machines.

Sounds simple, right? It might be if it weren’t for the breakneck speed at which new technology is developed these days.

One problem is that new computers are likely to be loaded with different drivers than models bought just a few months earlier. If that’s the case, an administrator’s image will no longer work.

The result is that administrators can find themselves juggling different images for different groups of PCs. In addition, vendors are constantly introducing new drivers for various devices such as DVD and CD drives, scanners, USB drives and more.

All of that can add up to an administrative nightmare, and that’s where something called a universal imaging solution comes in.

A company called Binary Research International distributes one such solution, developed by Big Bang, called the Universal Imaging Utility (UIU). Version 3.0 recently hit the market.

UIU prepares an ideal PC so that, once an administrator creates an image file, all of the drivers that will be needed on all of the target machines are already in place. Essentially you get a one-size-fits-all image.

“It’s not unusual for administrators to be juggling 25, 30 or more different images,” said Jim Szopinski, executive vice president of Binary Research International. “With UIU, it goes down to one.”

Administrators can now successfully clone any computer running Microsoft Windows XP, 2000 or the Tablet PC operating system except for rare cases in which new drivers have been released but not yet added to UIU.

Typically, however, only a day or two passes before UIU updates all drivers because the company remains in constant contact with vendors.

UIU is not a stand-alone system; instead, it’s designed to work with leading hard-drive cloning and data-backup solutions, such as Symantec Ghost, Altiris Migration Suite, Novell ZENworks, Acronis True Image and others.

The latest version of the utility, UIU 3.0, contains a handful of new features including an updated, wizard-style graphical user interface that allows administrators to review a configuration before it’s finalized. There’s a more efficient hardware driver database and an enhanced tracking feature that lets software inventory tools detect computers that have been cloned with UIU. The program also adds individual driver updates as they become available rather than bundling them together.

The invisible task

Hard disk defragmentation is one of those maintenance tasks we all need to do but don’t always like to do, like flossing. One of the issues with defragging is that it slows down the computer while it runs, and it can take awhile.

A new technology from Diskeeper promises to solve this problem and make defragging a breeze so you won’t even notice it.

The technology is called InvisiTasking and it’s included in the company’s latest offering, Diskeeper 2007. It allows any system maintenance task to run invisibly in the background without affecting system performance.

In addition to InvisiTasking, Diskeeper 2007’s new functionality includes Intelligent File Access Acceleration Sequencing Technology 2.0, which dramatically increases file access speed.