Deployment: We Need To Talk

What do you call it when you, as a Mac Admin, prepare a new or used Mac for a new user (or set of users)? Imaging? Deployment? Provisioning? Any or all of these? Or perhaps, “I don’t call it anything, I just do it”?
Yes, we Mac Admins and DevOps are really good at getting stuff done, building community, and are getting better at documenting things. But, one of the things we are not so good at is using consistent terminology when we describe what we do. We’re also a little weak at breaking down our processes in a way that that is easy to describe to others. This is particularly problematic to new Mac Admins, but can affect everybody in our field.
This became apparent to me about five years ago while participating in a fairly lengthy discussion thread on the MacEnterprise List (no Slack back then). The most contested term was “thin imaging,” probably because imaging and deployment used to be synonymous (not so any more). Through that discussion, we as a community got a really good start on trying to understand each other and to move forward on being a little more consistent with our words.
I then dug in to this matter a lot more and published an article a number of months later on AFP548 that tried to iron out all the variables, defining both the possible workflows Admins were using and suggesting the best terminology to use when describing those methods (adding some new terms and suggesting the deprecation of others). I got some thoughtful feedback on that piece, but the thing that seemed to get some traction was describing Deployment as the process of moving from an unknown or undesired state to a known bootable state and then to a desired state. Imaging, if used at all, was used to get from an unknown state to a known state. The diagramme was something like this:
Re-reading the article now, I’m honestly surprised that it still stands up almost entirely, especially since I understand a lot more now than I did then. But it’s definitely time for an update.
Here’s why: Apple is signalling loud and clear that “monolithic imaging” workflows (those that block copy images to a Mac) are not the way of the future and in some instances are now unsupported. DEP and MDM are going to become very important. How does that affect our workflows? Which workflows break? How can we as a community talk about this clearly with each other so that we can better help each other? That’s what my session at MacAD.UK in February aims to tackle.
I hope to see you there!
Anthony Reimer

About MacAD.UK 2018

Amsys has announced that the Mac Administrator and Developer Conference (MacAD.UK) will come to London for the third year running and has already secured participation from the world’s biggest technology companies.
Run between the 20th and 21st February 2018 at the Vue entertainment complex in Leicester Square, the conference is attended by over 250 technical professionals administering Apple technology in Enterprise, SME and Education.
MacAD.UK has become a must-attend event for Mac tech professionals since its inception in 2016. With intensive sessions run over two days, delegates attend to network, share, discover, compare, meet, learn, hang out and socialise with the other Apple techs from around the world.