A year or so ago, a chunk of my client base (the employees of the school), complained that they often didn’t have the same–or rather most recent–software. This presented an issue since our primary method of deploying new software was just re-imaging machines. Given all our employee machines have local accounts, re-imaging would be a serious task. So we started thinking about it, and started drawing up early plans for converting everyone over to PHDs. But, that was going to be a heck of a task, and there doesn’t seem to be an established way of doing it (something I’m still investigating since it’s still on the list of tasks).
But then in the last few months, I heard about Puppet, and via that, Munki. They’re very similar tools, but Munki gives more attention to the GUI interface for users to say “Yes, I want to logout and run these updates”. Puppet does this all in the background.
Since playing with it, I’ve been in the process of building various installs for our software. Final Cut, Adobe CS5, KeyAccess, Flash Player, Firefox, etc (the only caveat so far has been Acrobat… but that’s another article). The idea is that once we can get all these together, we can install Munki on the clients, and they’ll keep themselves updated. So far, with testing, I’m exceedingly impressed. While configuration seems convoluted, once it’s up and going with the products you want, it runs smoothly and seamlessly.
One question I’m still not sure of is if this can be used for home computers, as much of this software is large. Also, the ability to secure the software repository so that random people aren’t downloading it. Looks like that’s going to require the same username and password for everyone. But thankfully, that info won’t be easily accessible as it can exist in /var/root/Library/Preferences.
All of this is going to be a huge benefit when construction starts on the building, and everyone ends up spread out all over campus (and at home). Worst case, we just deliver the important things to home users like KeyAccess updates, Office updates, and the like. If they want something like Final Cut, they can come in and get it. =)
Take a look at Munki. It’s looks to be a pretty great tool. Once we’re ready to roll it out (probably Winter break), I’ll try to post back and let you know the results. =)