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3.3 Desktops as Cattle

The concept of generic, replaceable machines was first used in desktop environments, long before the cattle and pets analogy was coined. We already discussed the importance of unifying workstation configurations in Chapter 1, “Climbing Out of the Hole,” and we’ll discuss it in greater detail in Chapter 8, “OS Installation Strategies.”

The benefits of generic desktops are manifold. Users benefit from improved customer support, as SAs are no longer struggling to learn and adapt to an infinite number of variations. Repairs happen faster because the IT staff has a single vendor repair procedure to navigate.

Contrast this to an environment where each PC is fully customized. Fixing a software problem is difficult because any change may break something else. It is difficult to know what “working” means when there is no understanding of what is on the machine. Support for older operating systems depends on finding someone on the IT team who remembers that OS.

Creating an environment where cattle are the norm is the primary focus of chapters in Part II, “Workstation Fleet Management,” and Part III, “Servers.” Chapter 11, “Workstation Standardization,” focuses on taking a fleet of workstations that are pets and bringing about unification.

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