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Saying goodbye to FOG

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

In just over a week’s time, I’ll be shutting down and replacing my FOG server at work. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, and with the end of year in sight, I decided it’s as good a time as any. The main reason I’m shutting down the server is that FOG can’t really compete against the tools available from Microsoft for free for imaging Windows 7.

When it comes to imaging Windows XP, FOG is a wonderful tool. It works and works very well at this task. I think it beats the stuffing out of Symantec Ghost, and rightly so. It’s free, doesn’t require any licenses and is mostly straightforward to use. When it comes to Windows 7 however, the situation becomes a little more tricky due to the way Windows 7 is built. Windows 7 needs far more input for a successful clone in comparison to XP. As such, I’m looking to reduce the number of steps involved, not increase them.

Besides the above, I’ve also run into some issues with FOG over the last year. My most major issue is multicast not being entirely reliable. Despite being correctly configured, multicast is still a hit and miss affair on FOG in my experience. It’s no fun to start up 39 pc’s in a lab, only to have them sit and wait on a blue “Please Wait” screen. The pc’s then need to be imaged via unicast, and this takes a lot longer.

Another issue that has cropped up but isn’t FOG’s fault directly is speed when running in a virtual environment. We run a Citrix Xen server at work. One of the downsides is that if your guest OS isn’t supported, your OS will run a lot slower than if it was supported. Specifically, it comes down to the optimised storage and network drivers giving a supported OS the edge. Ubuntu Linux support under Citrix Xen is pretty thin at best, and since FOG runs best on Ubuntu, it’s a bit of catch-22 situation. Imaging is about half the speed it was on a physical server, due to no optimised drivers.

To replace FOG, I will be using Microsoft’s Deployment Toolkit 2010 as well as Windows Deployment Services, which is built into Server 2008 and up. In the time I’ve spent experimenting with MDT so far, I’ve come to see its power and flexibility. With some thought and a few clicks, I can set up a sequence that will SYSPREP and capture a computer, or will deploy an image to a computer. It can also join that computer to the domain without any 3rd party tools or separate accounts in Active Directory. Another benefit is that the images are stored in the WIM file format, which can be opened, edited and serviced by a number of tools. WIM files are also pretty highly compressed, which is a big bonus.

Once I get going with reimaging my computer labs, I’ll be posting more info on the blog on my experiences and thoughts with these tools. To FOG, I say thank you for 3 years of service, and I wish you continued success as a project. You are one of the few open source projects I truly enjoyed working with.

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