Given that not all PCs are identical and many include different devices and peripherals, how does single image management work on a variety of desktops?
Single image management software hinges on an important technology called driver injection, which it uses when streaming an image to a particular PC. The software maintains a collection of configuration files so it knows which drivers each PC needs, and it maintains something called a driver library, where it keeps a collection of all the drivers it needs to inject the correct drivers into an image being streamed to one PC or another.
Single image management tools, such as those from VMware (Wanova Mirage, now folded into the Horizon Suite), Microsoft (System Center Configuration Manager), SmartDeploy, Unidesk and 1mage do the seemingly impossible -- maintain a single image (or gold image, as it's also often called) for desktop PCs, yet provide lots of different PCs with a usable runtime image. Some also work to manage virtual desktops, making it even easier to maintain several types of endpoints at once.
The real benefit of single image management, though, is convenience. That's because it's a lot easier to manage only one desktop image -- and to work with the supporting driver library from time to time -- than it is to manage a unique image for each and every desktop. For a dozen PCs, a one-to-one mapping between machines and images might not amount to much, but for organizations with hundreds to thousands of PCs, single image management is the only way to go.
This was first published in April 2013