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Managing SMS Installer IPF Files
By Nick Beaugeard
Nick is head of the Systems Management Division at TSG Australia. Using a combination of technology, procedures, documentation and process, TSG now deliver a coherent and quality set of solutions based around Microsoft Systems Management Server 2.0. Nick has been a freelance consultant for the last seven years working in London, UK and the US. Upon moving to Australia, he was coerced to work for a Microsoft Solution Provider Partner, TSG Australia and concentrates on delivering quality solutions. One of the most useful and cost saving functions of Microsoft SMS is being able to deploy software automatically to client workstations...
Visit TSG Australia at: www.tsg.com.au
One of the most useful and cost saving functions of Microsoft SMS is being able to deploy software automatically to client workstations. Although an extremely powerful function, without a quality control practice for managing packages during the design, testing and release phase, organisations run the risk of deploying a package which may cause operating systems to fail, rendering users machines dysfunctional. This is compounded when packages are deployed to server systems. If the package is not fully tested, serious service disruption can be caused.
The question is, how can we easily ascertain what functions a package is performing and how can this be easily reviewed by operations staff?
This article discusses Microsoft SMS Installer however other tools, for example , Seagate WinINSTALL can be used and the procedure documented below followed.
The question posed was, "How do we understand what a package does?".
In coming to an appropriate answer, I looked for where this information was stored. With Microsoft SMS Installer, it is in the *.IPF file. When I first looked at this file, it seemed extremely cryptic. How would I ever be quickly able to gather information on this package and present it in an easy to understand form?
After some investigation, I found that the IPF file is constructed of logical blocks and these contain items and values. Unfortunately, not all similar blocks contain the same items and values.
At the client site I was working at, a requirement is for IT specific information to be presented in a HTML form. Thus I came up with the idea of IPFPARSE. IPF parse is a small command line utility which extracts pursuant information from the IPF files and presents it as a "cute" web page, automatically generated.
You can download IPFParse.EXE here
With this tool, we can simply provide information from an IPF file and present it in a format that users and management can easily understand.