A. Windows 2000 introduces the concept of publishing applications using the Active Directory however to support this new ability the application has to be supplied with a new type of installation file, a .MSI file which is of the Microsoft Windows Installer Server package format..

These MSI files include information about registry entries, core files etc and a summary of the application details such as name, publisher. This knowledge of the registry entry and file usage means if when the application starts and it detects that a registry entry is missing or a core file gone it can automatically re-download information from the distribution server and fix itself.

Once you have your .msi package you can publish via the Group Policy editor to domains, Organizational Units and Sites. Its also easy to upgrade and retire packages all via the .msi. Current applications that support Microsoft installer packages are Microsoft Office 2000 and the Windows 2000 Resource Kit (among others).

In future service packs will be shipped with MSI files allowing you to deploy them via group policies with very little effort.

This is best paired with the Remote Installation Service allowing RIS to install the operating system and group policies to install the applications and settings. Of course, you may still want to use SMS for some features; Windows 2000 has been designed to work with SMS 2.0 and not against.