While Disk Utility and ASR provide the backbone for Mac deployment, either individually using an external drive/unicast network connection or a multicast stream, there are several tools to speed up, automate, and improve your workflow for capturing a source image, preparing it for use with ASR, and initiating deployment. Be sure to check out SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner for image capture and basic single-Mac deployment, and Blast Image Config for setting up ASR sessions.
Network booting has been a staple since OS X Server debuted, and Apple has built off the NetBoot concept with NetInstall and NetRestore, both of which allow servers to host boot volumes, thereby enabling clients to boot directly from the network based on your deployment options.
NetInstall is designed for booting into the OS X installer utility and allows admins to configure options for a traditional OS X install. (It is not monolithic imaging per se, though that is possible.) It also performs pre- and post-install tasks such as disk partitioning, directory binding, and application installation.
NetRestore is designed around ASR and provides a broader range of options for monolithic imaging. It can be configured to automatically deploy specific images or to allow clients to select from available images. As with NetInstall, many deployment-related tasks can be included in the NetRestore process.
Both NetInstall and NetRestore come with the current release of Lion Server and require no client or usage license beyond the cost of Lion Server (a $49 add-on to the $29 Lion).
Essential Mac tool No. 5: DeployStudio
Heterogeneous organizations looking to standardize on a single deployment tool should check out DeployStudio, a freeware monolithic imaging solution for Mac and Windows clients.
DeployStudio offers local disk deployment, network deployment, and multicasting. It comes equipped with solid image management and client selection tools, integrates with Apple's NetBoot, and provides excellent deployment monitoring, all of which make it a great deployment workflow management solution. The biggest drawback -- if you can consider it a drawback -- is that it relies on OS X Server to create a complete network-based solution, including both boot and deployment.
Essential Mac tools Nos. 6 and 7: StarDeploy and Munki
Apple's package (.pkg) and metapackage (.mpkg) files are the primary software installation mechanisms in OS X. While these are typically installed by a user, OS X supports package deployment without user intervention -- for example, by adding packages to a NetInstall workflow.
Organizations looking to deploy packages over a network should check out donationware StarDeploy and open source Munki. These network-based solutions, along with the commercial Apple Remote Desktop, allow admins to deploy packages in the background; they're excellent updating tools as well.