ConfigMgr 101: Pull Distribution Points
With all the excitement of the SP1 release this is something many people will have overlooked or not even seen, especially if you already have all your distribution points setup. Pull Distribution Points allow us to specify a distribution point to act as an upstream server for a specific distribution point.
Imagine the following scenario, we have a primary site and two distribution points which are connected via 100 Mbit network links, meaning we have no issue sending content down that link to serve out to clients. We do however need to introduce a third distribution point for a new office serving 20 users, this site has a 2 Mbit link back to the head office where our primary site is located.
If we picture this scenario drawn out in ConfigMgr 2012, we could have something like the following diagram shown below.
Now that is good because we can obviously set scheduling and rate limits on that distribution point. However if we have other services running on this link then we may still have some problems sending content down to the distribution point. This is where pull distribution points comes in useful. As we have already established, site three does not have a good link back to the primary site but we do have a 10 Mbit link to site two where we have a distribution point already, taking pull distribution points into account this is how this design would look in SP1.
Now what will happen is content from the distribution point at site two will be used as a source location for our distribution point at site three. This is a great way to utilise bandwidth and inter-site links to better effect. This is not the only situation where pull distribution points could be useful though.
Cloud Distribution Points
Starting with SP1, we introduced the functionality for cloud based distribution points which are storage containers in Windows Azure. Cloud DPs can be spun up easily and destroyed when they are finished with, this can help with mass application upgrades or projects which require additional distribution capabilities.
Currently in preview in Windows Azure is the ability to host virtual machines and create site to site VPN connections to your internal network to extend your own corporate network out into the Windows Azure cloud.
Using the pull distribution point method, you could create a virtual machine in Windows Azure as a distribution point, however to save coming back over the VPN link, if you have a cloud DP already setup you can use the cloud DP as a pull source location, we would express this setup as shown in the following diagram.
How this could also help is how much you are charged. Transfers of data within Windows Azure are free of change and uploads of data are free of charge, only data leaving the Azure network are charged.
Pull Distribution Point Setup
The setup could not be simpler. When you create a new distribution point you will be prompted for any pull settings on the wizard. You can see how this is setup below.
As you can see, simply check the box at the top, click the Add button at the bottom and a list of distribution points will be available for you. Once the distribution point is setup you can change these settings like others just by looking at the properties of the distribution point.
You cannot specify pull distribution point settings on a distribution point that is on a primary site, this is only applicable to remote distribution points.