The Dell KACE K2000 is a client OS deployment appliance that supports both Mac OS and Windows OS images. The KACE K2000 comes as 1U rack-mounted server. You can also deploy the K2000 as a virtual machine (VM) in a VMware environment. Because it runs a version of the BSD UNIX OS, the K2000 isn’t supported on Microsoft’s Hyper-V platform.

The K2000 uses a file-based imaging technology known as K-imaging. One benefit of K-imaging is that when you capture a new image, only data that hasn’t previously been captured is transmitted to and stored on the unit. This technology minimizes the amount of time subsequent OS image captures take, as well as reduces the amount of space you need to store multiple OS images.

The K2000 uses a web-based administration console, which Figure 1 shows. This console means you don’t have to install software locally on the computer you use to manage OS deployment. The console is straightforward and well-designed. When preparing an OS deployment, you drag and drop tasks, such as disk partitioning and user state migration, into the order you want them completed. The K2000 console streamlines what can be a complicated and arcane task in other products.

Figure 1: KACE administration console
Figure 1: KACE administration console

If your organization uses only Windows desktops, you can use Windows Deployment Services and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 to accomplish most of what the K2000 does. Where the K2000 adds value is that it sits on top of these tools, providing you with an optimized way of accomplishing the same tasks. For example, the User State Migration Toolkit (USMT) is a powerful command-line utility that lets you migrate user data from one computer to another in desktop upgrade or replacement scenarios. The drawback of the USMT is that to fully leverage the tool, you need to become conversant with some obtuse command-line functionality and XML file configurations. The K2000 insulates you from all of that, letting you fully leverage the power of USMT without having to get into the nuts and bolts of using the command line correctly. You still need these tools, but the K2000 makes them easier to use.

One thing I liked about the product was that it’s relatively straightforward to fully automate the task of performing a wipe and load migration from Windows XP to Windows 7, while retaining user data. Although it’s certainly possible to do this using MDT 2010 and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manger (SCCM) 2007 R3, the process is complicated and can take time to get right.

The K2000 supports driver harvesting, allowing you to rapidly populate the device with all the drivers used in your organization. You can also configure computer inventory tasks, which lets you verify that a specific hardware configuration can be upgraded before the OS image is deployed. You can leverage the K2000’s built-in DHCP server to support Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) deployments, or you can integrate the K2000 with your existing DHCP infrastructure by configuring the appropriate DHCP options.

For organizations that have multiple sites, rather than deploy a full K2000 appliance to each site, you can deploy a stripped-down K2000 remote site appliance, which is a VM in open virtualization format, as a way of scaling out your deployment infrastructure.

The K2000 product documentation is available from the web console. The documentation provides useful walkthroughs for all the tasks you can perform with the appliance. There are also links to the KACE support website, which hosts video tutorials and FAQs. Customers also get several hours’ setup and deployment training from the vendor to ensure that they aren’t thrown completely in the deep end when the product arrives.

Dell KACE K2000
PROS: Makes OS deployment tasks straightforward, including post-installation application deployment; allows Mac OS deployment; simplifies building complex tasks, such as user state migration
CONS: Difficult to justify purchasing a separate product for organizations running only Windows desktops and already licensed for Microsoft’s System Center suite
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
PRICE: $5,466 for 100 nodes and 1 year of support and maintenance; $20,599 for 1,000 nodes and 1 year of support and maintenance; $40,006 for an unlimited site and 1 year of support and maintenance
RECOMMENDATION: If your organization wants to improve OS deployment and user state migration and isn’t eligible for the System Center suite, or you need to automate Mac OS deployment, the KACE K2000 can make your life significantly easier.
CONTACT: Dell • 877-646-8366 • www.kace.com