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Originally published to the Office 365 Preview blog.
While the concept of having deployment automation call online file sources for unattended installations isn’t new, Office 365 ProPlus adds the unique benefit of robust file streaming instead of the traditional download and execute style installation. Office 365 ProPlus and the Office Deployment Tool (see my earlier blog about deployment options) allows you to define the http://officecdn.onmicrosoft.com file path as the SourcePath location defined in the configuration XML of the Office Deployment Tool.
The current Office Deployment Tool lets you download and install Click-to-Run Office packages with your own software distribution tools. When you download Office Click-to-Run files, you will see the path where they are stored in the CMD window.
Download of the Office 365 ProPlus Click-to-Run files using the Office Deployment Tool
In this case, Office source files are located at http://officecdn.microsoft.com/pr/D85263CB-A813-4A8F-9895-E2EC9A47293. The Office Deployment Tool needs an XML with the SourcePath removed and no Office build or folder present where the setup.exe file is located. If you use a configuration XML with the following parameters:
<Add OfficeClientEdition="32" >
<Language ID="en-us" />
<Updates Enabled="FALSE" />
<Display Level="None" AcceptEULA="TRUE" />
<Logging Name="OfficeSetup.txt" Path="%temp%" />
your deployment automation will call the Office 365 streaming service and install according to the version number, architecture, language and other parameters that you assign in the configuration XML. I could even use an older version number than the current one and was able to declare update behavior, display level and accept the EULA on behalf of my users. In a nutshell, even though I am using Office 365 as the SourcePath to install from, I didn’t give up any controls I had by installing Office 365 ProPlus from my local file share location. If I had Group Policy settings enforced on the computers I target for my deployment, then I would have complete control over how Office is installed, configured and managed.
This is where it can get interesting… If I use the Office Deployment Tool – specifically just the setup.exe and the configuration XML sample I have above – I can pair this with System Center Configuration Manager 2012, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, Windows Intune, third party tools, simple logon scripts or even psexec commands. In this case, I decided to pair with another cloud service – Windows Intune – to show everything working.
Process for using Windows Intune to stream an Office 365 ProPlus installation – 1. Configure install, 2. Push install instructions to PC, 3. Stream from Office 365, 4. Report success back to Windows Intune
You might be asking yourself, “Why would I use Windows Intune versus sending users to the Office 365 Web portal to self-install Office?” If you are asking this question, there is a good chance you are an administrator on your computer or your users are able to install software themselves. For more than a decade, Microsoft has advocated Standard User accounts in Windows to maintain configuration control and therefore improve inherent security levels against malware. If you also manage a lot of software, it wouldn’t make sense to ask users to visit multiple websites to install their own software. Imagine your first day on the job and your boss tells you, “Here is your computer and email account. I sent you an email with a list of the 100 applications you’ll need to be productive and all the links of where to find the applications. Enjoy the next 3-8 hours of software installation.” What initially sounds like freedom for the end user would be a degraded experience for the person who otherwise receives a pre-configured PC with the 100 applications pre-installed based on his user role, geography and language preferences (you could argue that is the primary reason why Windows imaging and deployment automation exists). Centralizing your application resources to a single catalog and location along with using “required” or “push” installation performed by the administrator simplifies the process for the user and helps ensure that your users’ PCs stay in a manageable state. Windows Intune and System Center Configuration Manager 2012 both provide a central application catalog and support push software deployments.
I put together a short narrated video of the process using Windows Intune along with Office 365 streaming. Basically, I used a file similar to the configuration XML sample above (I named it configuration2.xml) and added that along with the setup.exe to my Windows Intune environment. These two files only constitute about half a megabyte (MB) of space, so it doesn’t really consume any storage resources. It also means that the files are quickly copied from the Windows Intune service to the managed PC’s local cache. Both Windows Intune and the application model in System Center Configuration Manager 2012 will download the entire application payload prior to executing installation commands. For Office 365 ProPlus, that would mean you would typically need to wait for a 1 gigabyte (GB) file download, then Office would be installed from the local Windows Intune or Configuration Manager file cache. In this case, we can just cache that tiny half MB file and the streaming begins immediately from Office 365 according to our instruction set. The result is that the Windows Intune service basically instructs the Office 365 service and when completed sends a success message back to Windows Intune. Here it is in action…
Office Deployment Team