What Is CrucibleWDS?
CrucibleWDS is a Windows deployment solution created exclusively for Windows Operating Systems. It supports imaging Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8. CrucibleWDS is not the first of its kind, but what separates it from the rest, is its simplicity. It is also the only open source imaging solution that can be installed on Windows Operating Systems or Linux. It supports both Unicast and Multicast technologies. It could be compared to commercial products such as Symantec Ghost Solution Suite™ and Acronis Snap Deploy™, but without the heavy licensing fees.
Is It For Me?
CrucibleWDS was created to be used primarily in schools or businesses with more than just a few computers. It can be used to image 1000’s of computers (probably not all at once). It should be used with an existing infrastructure. Meaning, a network with managed routers and/or switches, DHCP server, etc. This does not mean it won’t work in a home environment or small business, but it may be overkill for your needs. CrucibleWDS is intended to be used on a server that is always running, enabling your clients to PXE boot successfully, and to ensure imaging is readily available.
Which Version Should I Use?
CrucibleWDS was created to be used on Windows and therefore most testing has been done with Windows installations. But thanks to the Mono Project it can be installed on Linux using the same code base with some minor changes. The end result is the same experience regardless of the platform you choose. I have experienced better multicasting performance with Linux, I believe this is because Linux handles UDP traffic at higher speeds better than Windows, but at the same time there are alot of variables that affect multicast performance.
How It Works
CrucibleWDS is a managed solution consisting of two parts. A server side component
and a client side component. The server side is installed on Windows or Linux and the UI
can be accessed from any web capable device within your network. The client side
uses Linux. If you are not familiar with Linux don’t worry. Everything is automated
and does not require any previous Linux experience. Imaging is achieved through
your network with the use of PXE booting and WOL. There are no CD's or external
hard drives to use. To achieve the best results all of your clients are added to
a database, then you simply search for the computer you wish to deploy and click
on deploy. The client will automatically turn on and begin to image. Imaging can
be accomplished without ever being present at the physical machine’s location. This
is accomplished through the use of WOL. The imaging process is completely automated
without requiring any user intervention.
The program requires the knowledge of each client name and MAC address. CrucibleWDS offers a few solutions to add this information to the database. The clients can be imported via a CSV file(I know you have a good inventory of all of your machines). If you don’t have an inventory, clients can be easily added from the PXE boot menu. Select Add Host from the menu, type in the name of the machine and the clients name and MAC are automatically added to the database. The final option is called custom deployment mode. This enables you to image PC’s without needing to add them to the database. A simple menu lists the images available, select the one you want and imaging begins. More detail can be found in the How To section. CrucibleWDS Server consists of several components, all installed automatically without any confusing setup.
- Internet Information Services ( Web Server ), Apache on Linux
- PostgreSQL 9.2 ( Database )
- Windows Services For Unix ( NFS Server For Unicast ), NFS Kernel Server on Linux
- TFTP Server ( For PXE Booting )
- Udpcast ( For Multicast )
- Boot To Windows
- Client Console
- Add Host
The performance of CrucibleWDS depends on many factors. Your network speed, Server specs, and client compatibility. Depending on the size of your images, you should expect to be able to image most computers in under 20 minutes. If you watch the videos posted under screenshots, you will see I restored a 4GB Windows XP image in 1 minute. Generally you will be able to image Desktops faster than laptops.
Typical Deployment Speed Unicast
If you are using all Gigabit equipment you should expect to download images at a rate b/w 2.5 and 6 GB/min. If you are not using Gigabit you should see speeds b/w 1.2 and 2.5 GB/min.
Typical Upload Speed Unicast
Uploads are significantly slower than downloads. This is because the image is compressed while it is being uploaded. Compression of anything always takes longer than Decompression. The average upload speed seems to be b/w 800MB/m and 1.0GB/m.
Typical Multicast Speed
Multicasting technically should see the same speeds as a Unicast, but will appear slower. This depends greatly on the setup of your network. Also a multicast is decompressed before it is sent from the server. The amount of data you are transferring is actually larger than a Unicast. You could experience a wide range of speeds from 500MB/m to 2+ GB/m.