If you are contemplating the rollout of Windows XP Service Pack 2 it may be time for you to investigate some of the lower hanging fruits of Microsoft's Dynamic Systems Initiative. DSI is a portfolio of products and services that are to be integrated together to enable easier network management done with fewer management tools. Microsoft MOM, Virtual PC, Windows Update Services, SMS, and other products fall under this initiative. There's a published architecture for this platform, the Microsoft Systems Architecture (MSA), as well as the expectation of additional product investments by Microsoft in this area.
If you aren't committed at this point to updating your network systems using a third party network management package such as LANDesk, Altiris, or others you might take a look at using the System Update Services or SUS. This freely downloadable tool lets an administrator disable the Automatic Updates or individual Windows Updates and also lets you silently update XP systems to SP2 without additional oversight.
SUS may grow to be a more complete deployment offering in the future, but you can get an idea of its usefulness in the XP SP2 rollout. The major problem with SP2 is its size which at 270 MB can choke your network's bandwidth. With an SUS server and a 100BaseT connection you could theoretically upgrade 2800 clients assuming that there was only one connection at a time and that each connection dovetailed with the next one. What SUS does is randomize the intervals at which clients contact the server so that the service doesn't shut down when a lot of systems come on. When a client system comes on it contacts the SUS server and depending on load it is either serviced or assigned another time.
Microsoft recommends one SUS server for XP SP2 rollout per 2000 clients. For larger deployments using SUS you may want to limit the number of connections that are serviced by an SUS IIS server, as well as limiting the amount of bandwidth that SUS can use to download content. Configuration of bandwidth may be done using the Background Intelligent Transfer Service 2.0 (BITS).
Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.