Imaging in 50+ locations

Speakers: Robby Barnes & Chase Thompson-Baugh

Level: Intermediate, Lecture

Excerpt: Simply Mac needed a better way to image customer computers in their service department and standardize imaging files across 50+ different stores using Mac mini servers. Using Imagr, AWS, and Jamf, we built a workflow to deliver a reliable Imagr repo and custom NBI files to take the pain out of managing file versions and deliver new content overnight. Imagr Server, deployed to AWS Lambda and AWS RDS, plays a big role in reporting status across all locations.

Description: Simply Mac is an Apple Authorized service center with over 50 locations nation-wide. Each store is required to use Apple diagnostic tools which require macOS to run specialized NetBoot files. They also install OS upgrades, deliver macOS restores, and diagnose using third-party utilities via NetInstall, NetRestore, and NeBoot images respectively. We used to use DropBox to try to deliver the NBI files to each server and later tried using Jamf policies for each image. This became unruly and difficult to maintain really quickly. We needed a new way to distribute NBI files across the company. There was also a growing number of NBI files we were trying to support for different OS versions that made picking the right one at Option-Boot a real pain. We also had the challenge of trying to deliver NetRestore images to reimage a store computer in need of service.

We turned to using the open-source solution Imagr (along with NBICreator and AutoImagrNBI) to replace our existing NetInstall, NetRestore, and NetBoot NBIs. Because Imagr uses a configuration file to deliver customized workflows, we were able to deliver Install and Restore workflows for each OS we support while picking just one NBI at Option-Boot. It also allowed us to embed workflows to deliver custom store computer imaging workflows. We store Imagr’s configuration in GitHub for version tracking and sync the full Imagr repository to Amazon S3. In Jamf, we have two scripts/policies that utilize the awscli to authenticate to S3 every night and synchronize the Imagr repo and the updated NBI files. Since each server has a different IP we use custom LaunchDaemons and Outset scripts to update the IPs and boot environment during each boot of the NBIs.

We’ve also turned to Imagr Server to report on the status of Imagr in each store during every workflow. Since Imagr Server needs to be accessible for each store, we run it in AWS Lambda and store its database in AWS Aurora. The notification for each Imagr run are then sent to Slack for quick viewing and are audit-able with SQL queries. Many times, I reach out to a store about an Imagr issue just moments after it occurred.

This allows us to be more nimble in delivering up-to-date content in a reliable way to our 50+ locations. It significantly cuts down on the amount of NBIs we have visible to the store technician There is a paper trail at every step of the way with Git, S3 logs, and Jamf policy logs.

About the speakers

Chase Thompson-Baugh (Twitter: @chase_tb) – Division Senior Technician – GameStop Technology Brands

After getting Apple Certified in OS 10.5 support on my own, I applied to work for an Apple Authorized reseller and service center, Simply Mac, in 2008. I performed many roles there from sales, in-store customer technical support, and business technical support when Simply Mac offered had an MSP program. After Simply Mac was acquired by GameStop, I moved into an internal IT position within the newly formed Technology Brands division. Today I create solutions for Simply Mac and Spring Mobile, both part of Technology Brands. I work to improve and automate our technical processes and frequently rely on AWS cloud services and custom Python to accomplish this.

Robby Barnes (Twitter: @robby_barnes) – Senior IT Manager – System and Data Architecture – Simply Mac

I worked for Apple for nearly 5 years, having many really great experiences and falling in love with the products and company. After working for Apple I started at Simply Mac, an Apple reseller, and helped build out many of the programs and initiatives that helped grow the company substantially in a short amount of time. After Simply Mac was purchased by GameStop, I began working for their Tech Brands division, which includes Simply Mac, Spring Mobile, and Cricket wireless, and now support the systems for nearly 1600 retail stores.

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