Imaging has undergone a series of evolutions; what we are left with today is a way to quickly provision new machines in a reliable and scalable fashion.
IntroductionIf Mac deployment is a part of what you do, you’ll know that imaging has, up until recently, been the preferred method of delivering a specific set of configurations, apps, and settings to your end users. Since consistency is all-important when overseeing an enterprise fleet, it’s crucial to ensure that the right software is installed and ready, Wi-Fi connection settings are configured, and passwords are enforced. Having these points addressed generally keeps things nice and simple for the user and helps to reduce Help Desk calls and IT support tickets. The problem with imaging is that there is a substantial amount of work and maintenance that goes into the process, all simply to ensure you are current with the latest updates. Lately, however, there’s a new sheriff in town—Using a set of tools and systems including Jamf Pro, Apple Device Enrollment Program (DEP), and Volume Purchase Program (VPP), imaging is now on the back burner.
The History of ImagingUp until recently, imaging has been the only way to deploy macOS devices in an enterprise setting. Apple even included native tools with their earlier versions to assist with the process: Disk Utility, System Image Utility, and a plethora of terminal commands were the go-to tools for creating disk images, which could then be deployed in a variety of ways, either using Firewire or Thunderbolt, or more recently, remotely over the network. There were even third-party tools you could implement towards establishing a more comprehensive imaging solution (which is, by the way, how Jamf got started in Mac management). As time went by, imaging was optimized through the implementation of these three techniques:
1. Monolithic imagingMonolithic imaging involves scrubbing the entire hard drive and overwriting it with a new image that includes the operating system as well as all the required configurations, apps, and settings jam-packed into a single image. Keeping those images current presented a major challenge.
2. Modular imagingModular imaging also requires scrubbing the hard drive. However, instead of packaging all of your settings and configs into the image, they are added using device management tools like Jamf Pro. Modular imaging was “a little easier” to manage and maintain, as the only time you needed to update it was when Apple pushed out an updated operating system. Still, “a little easier” does not mean it was ideal … tiny steps.
3. Thin imagingThin imaging assumes the shipped OS is just fine, and settings, apps, and configurations are added in on top using a management tool. In the Jamf Pro environment, this is called “User Initiated Enrollment.” All of these techniques share a common dilemma. These days, software versions become outdated faster than ever before. Consider this: since the inception of OSX some 16 years ago, there have been more than 110 releases and there are no signs of this trend slowing anytime soon. Additionally, when new hardware ships, it generally comes with a new and updated build number, so it won’t play well with existing images. It was a problem. Apple’s solution was to introduce DEP.
Related: See how we helped Okta implement Jamf Pro, prepare for zero-touch, and meet CIS compliance.