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Virtualised Implimentation

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey all,

I recently got a job at my former school (general ICT support) and have been complimenting some new methods of doing things.
This has involved so far system image creation, and deployment.
Ive settled on (for now) - creating images in VirtualBox and imaging it out to a file server, using DISM to add the drivers for our systems (currently systems from 2009 > Current) and using imagex to image them (used to use Ghost) - i know its not the most elegant, but i wrote a handful of scripts that have made the process almost set and forget for me.

The next project im looking at is in the server environment. I dont have very much experience other than dabbling in servers in general, however i grabbed an old server, installed ESXi and have been playing around with that.
The school currently has a dedicated server for most things, and a network designed for failures (3 domain controllers etc). We have a ESXi server in operation for management of our cisco wireless network and its hugely overspec'd for just that (Xeon equiv of a 980x, 6 core chip - HP DL380 G7). So we are looking at adding further redundant systems onto that server initially and adding another 2 physical boxes into VM duty in the new year as they get replaced.
Initial rollout would be moving one of the domain controllers, a DNS server and something of a file server onto the VM environment.

There isnt much of a question in that, but i guess what im asking is, is there something of a best practice i should be subscribing to with this sort of a rollout.
Im thinking of ESXi just as i have more experience in that over HyperV/other things, and running the servers alone, although clustering would be interesting for myself - likelihood of it going production is im thinking rare.
This is mostly a consolidation exercise, and moving the school 'forward' somewhat, to retire old hardware and make management of our client systems easier (800ish currently)

Im happy to answer any questions to the best of my knowledge, but i may be limited in my answer as im still rather new with this all.

Thanks guys

scottath.
Edited by scottath - 9/30/13 at 9:08pm
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post #2 of 12
Seems like you have a good grasp of things, just please remember free ESXI 5.1 can only use upto 32GB ram.

Seems you already have a highly redundant and good specced network though
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post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 
The network itself (and the wireless network) is quite robust, gigabit at the least, and 10gb links between the main racks and the majority of the switches. The wireless is almost an AP per room, and we have had very very few issues with it.

The systems that ive been using thus far have had 16gb or 24gb of ram (whitebox systems). Ive not looked at the 2 other servers (1ru HPs i think) that we should be replacing at the end of the year though (might get to tomorrow).

The majority of my experience has been with consumer hardware/software - and specing a system for that is easy - can do that in seconds, with this virtualisation i guess im looking for something of a 'best practice' in provisioning of the systems. EG a general Windows OS id assume the same as i have in the past (2gb is ok, 4gb is better) - but thats for a user system, when doing something specific id assume less would be required.

Further to my consumer based background, i know much of the server roles, how they work in general (eg a domain controller), but setting it up is where ill be struggling majorly. Going to try and get an ESXi capable box at home to play with in that regard. I guess thats a bit of a pride thing in how i want to present the solution to my boss - im doing well in that department already with the above mentioned imaging.....(coming from a pure ghost situation: Build a master from scratch > generalise > ghost > etc - thus im saving hours and hours of time for successive images by keeping the images virtualised)
Edited by scottath - 10/1/13 at 2:42am
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post #4 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottath View Post

Hey all,

I recently got a job at my former school (general ICT support) and have been complimenting some new methods of doing things.
This has involved so far system image creation, and deployment.
Ive settled on (for now) - creating images in VirtualBox and imaging it out to a file server, using DISM to add the drivers for our systems (currently systems from 2009 > Current) and using imagex to image them (used to use Ghost) - i know its not the most elegant, but i wrote a handful of scripts that have made the process almost set and forget for me.

The next project im looking at is in the server environment. I dont have very much experience other than dabbling in servers in general, however i grabbed an old server, installed ESXi and have been playing around with that.
The school currently has a dedicated server for most things, and a network designed for failures (3 domain controllers etc). We have a ESXi server in operation for management of our cisco wireless network and its hugely overspec'd for just that (Xeon equiv of a 980x, 6 core chip - HP DL380 G7). So we are looking at adding further redundant systems onto that server initially and adding another 2 physical boxes into VM duty in the new year as they get replaced.
Initial rollout would be moving one of the domain controllers, a DNS server and something of a file server onto the VM environment.

There isnt much of a question in that, but i guess what im asking is, is there something of a best practice i should be subscribing to with this sort of a rollout.
Im thinking of ESXi just as i have more experience in that over HyperV/other things, and running the servers alone, although clustering would be interesting for myself - likelihood of it going production is im thinking rare.
This is mostly a consolidation exercise, and moving the school 'forward' somewhat, to retire old hardware and make management of our client systems easier (800ish currently)

Im happy to answer any questions to the best of my knowledge, but i may be limited in my answer as im still rather new with this all.

Thanks guys

scottath.

Very cool to see some some Systems Management people on here. My primary skill set revolves around virtualization and Systems Management, and I highly recommend you take a look at the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT). it's a free Microsoft tool that you install on a server and will allow you to manage and deploy OS images to computers via bootable media (CD/FDD), offline media (full image on a CD/FDD), and even imaging over PXE (best method). You can manage drivers and driver packages to create hardware agnostic images, and reuse a lot of the custom scripts you have already written.

If clustering is not an option, there are other ways to create high availability, which is a must in any virtualized production environment. One of the great features of Hyper-V, is Hyper-V Replica, where you can have your VMs replicate to another physical server, and in the event that the original hypervisor failed, the replica would power on and take it's place. Minimal downtime. I'm sure VMware has a comparable feature, but I'm not sure about the licesning/cost of it, whereas it's free with Hyper-V. Another option that is free, would be XenCloud Platform. Yeah, you don't have support, but it's based on the Xen hypervisor which is very mature, and well documented. XenCloud Platform integrates APIs that allow you to use Citrix XenServer management tools, such as XenCenter. Definitely another option.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 
In theory this wont be looked at to actually impliment till q1-2 next year, so i have plenty of time to play around with things around my usual duties.
Im moulding myself into something of a Systems Managment position - i graduate from uni in December and am looking to make something of the degree, as its not been the most helpful of things.

Ill download the MDT tomorrow at work (11pm here atm) and have a play with it, Ill post some excerts of the scripts ive made up too so you can have an idea of what im doing with the imaging. I have my deployment on the client machines down to booting off a CD and starting a single script (typing run.bat from the WinPE prompt) and the rest is done for me. Just have to manually join the domain and assign the printers on the computer as to where-ever its going on-site.

We have server 2012 licences that i have access to use also, so Hyper-V could also be an option (im unsure as to how thats licensed), and im happy to try anything at this stage to get a working solution. Free/cheap solutions are a preference initially - as it would be a piloted implementation of non-critical/fallover servers (DNS/Domain controller/DHCP etc) in addition to the current setup, and there is a HUGE rollout of new systems planned and there would be no budget for additional licencing, at least in the initial rollout (and why i was looking at ESXi).
Clustering is an option, but with the above i think ill struggle with the cost factors (initially at least)
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post #6 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottath View Post

In theory this wont be looked at to actually impliment till q1-2 next year, so i have plenty of time to play around with things around my usual duties.
Im moulding myself into something of a Systems Managment position - i graduate from uni in December and am looking to make something of the degree, as its not been the most helpful of things.

Ill download the MDT tomorrow at work (11pm here atm) and have a play with it, Ill post some excerts of the scripts ive made up too so you can have an idea of what im doing with the imaging. I have my deployment on the client machines down to booting off a CD and starting a single script (typing run.bat from the WinPE prompt) and the rest is done for me. Just have to manually join the domain and assign the printers on the computer as to where-ever its going on-site.

We have server 2012 licences that i have access to use also, so Hyper-V could also be an option (im unsure as to how thats licensed), and im happy to try anything at this stage to get a working solution. Free/cheap solutions are a preference initially - as it would be a piloted implementation of non-critical/fallover servers (DNS/Domain controller/DHCP etc) in addition to the current setup, and there is a HUGE rollout of new systems planned and there would be no budget for additional licencing, at least in the initial rollout (and why i was looking at ESXi).
Clustering is an option, but with the above i think ill struggle with the cost factors (initially at least)

MDT is pretty cool and can automate your domain join. You can also do some scripting to add printers based on roles, computer name, or IP subnet (using the Advanced features). Depending on your Microsoft Licensing, check into System Center Configuration Manager (2012 R2, which is about to drop in like a month or less), which can do even more than MDT but gives you even more System Management capabilities such as patch management, software distribution, reporting, power management, remote control, and more. Great piece of software.

Hyper-V licensing is pretty easy. Server 2012 Datacenter gives you the right to have as many guest VMs as you want with no additional licenses required for them guests. Since you are an educational facility, I assume you can get a Server 2012 Datacenter license pretty cheap. At that point, you can roll out Windows based VMs without having to worry about licensing as much. Definitely talk to your Microsoft rep for more info. Since you are an educational facility, Hyper-V may be cheaper than VMware.

When talking about clustering, it will get expensive because you will need shared storage, i.e. SAN. Another great feature of Server 2012 though, is Clustered Storage Spaces. Something I did for a customer a few months back was set up a 4 Node Hyper-V cluster, but used each physical box as a node for Clustered Storage Spaces. Each box had access to the same NAS storage (via SMB3), utilizing LACP, and the 4 physical servers were now the Hyper-V hosts, and redundant storage hosts, giving shared storage for Cluster Shared Volumes. Was pretty neat, and worked great. With Server 2012 R2, Storage Spaces is working a lot more on tiered storage, so you can really boost performance by having a few SSDs in a Mirror in front of a Mirror of 7200RPM SATA drives for storage. Plenty of IOPS for VMs, depending on the number of drives in the Space. Seriously though, checking into Hyper-V on Server 2012. Talk to your rep and haggle a great educational price for a couple Datacenter licenses, and you can run all the VMs you want without worrying about additional licenses for the guest VMs.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
Script wise, ive been running something like the following:
Quote:
xcopy J:\Rollout\*.wim C:\ /y
dism /mount-wim /wimfile:C:\image.wim /index:1 /mountdir:D:\Mountdir
dism /image:D:\Mountdir /add-driver /driver:"\\bfs\PC Installs\Drivers\BULK_INSTALL" /recurse
dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:D:\Mountdir /commit
xcopy c:\*.wim J:\Rollout\ /y
del c:\image.wim
del c:\image2.wim
Quote:
net use Z: \\bfs\Support ****** /user:******\******

diskpart.exe /s \\bfs\support\Scripts\scripts\generictest.txt

format c: /FS:NTFS /v:Progs /q /y
format R: /FS:NTFS /v:Swap /q /y
format T: /FS:NTFS /v:Data /q /y
format Y: /FS:NTFS /v:GhostA /q /y
format U: /FS:FAT32 /v:GhostB /q /y

Imagex /apply Z:\Rollout\Image2.wim 1 t:
Imagex /apply Z:\Rollout\Image.wim 1 c:

bcdboot c:\windows

Wpeutil reboot

exit
Where generictest.txt is my formatting script (based around a 232gb image - hopefully new systems will have an SSD of around that size)
Quote:
select disk 0
clean
create partition primary size=102400
assign letter=c
active
create partition extended noerr
create partition logical size=4096 noerr
assign letter=R
create partition logical size=86016 noerr
assign letter=T
create partition logical size=38912 noerr
assign letter=Y
create partition logical size=400 noerr
assign letter=U
exit
Long story with the lettering, but it works for now, and gets made into more normal letters on first boot (another script)
Basically it:
Quote:
C: 100gb
Z: Swap 4gb
D: 85gb
X: GhostA (NTFS partition for image storage - as per old deployment method)
Y: GhostB (Fat32 for ghost booting)


A colleague was demoing SCCM on a virtual network of systems and wasnt convinced of its power over the current ghosting. Whilst it worked, he felt that it was much more tedious than the current way we have been doing things.

It turns out i do have access to Svr2012 Datacenter, installing that on a ESXi VM atm as a test. Just installed MDT also, looking through it now.
Now for the fun configuration side.....learning time smile.gif
Edited by scottath - 10/1/13 at 9:03pm
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post #8 of 12
If he thinks Ghost is better than SCCM, then he just doesn't understand how SCCM works, haha. SCCM is much easier for image management than ghost, and also easier for image customization. Then again, SCCM can do way more than OS imaging which is all Ghost can do.

FYI, if you are interested in SCCM, there are some Microsoft Virtual Academy labs that can help aide with training/understanding. Free too.
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 
Ill have a look into the SCCM lab then.
My colleague is happy to be shown otherwise, just couldnt get it to work for himself nicely.
The ESXi vm of Server 2012 wouldnt play nice with hyperV (was a bit of a long shot anyhow) - so next thing is to format the esxi box with server 2012 for some hyperV fun. Then onto learning the SCCM stuff and anything else i can dream up.
Didnt get the chance to get any further than just installing MDT today, but if SCCM will replace it then ill go with that.

Thanks for the help so far guys, these little pointers have been quite helpful and provoked alot of research and interest. This will be a long journey im thinking, but im always up for a challenge, and this is proving to be something of one for my current knowledge at least.
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Samsung 840 Pro 256gb | 3*3TB Raid 5 | Corsair F60 Windows 8 x64 *EYEFINITY* Dell 2405FPW + 2*E248WFP Logitech Illuminated 
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post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottath View Post

Ill have a look into the SCCM lab then.
My colleague is happy to be shown otherwise, just couldnt get it to work for himself nicely.
The ESXi vm of Server 2012 wouldnt play nice with hyperV (was a bit of a long shot anyhow) - so next thing is to format the esxi box with server 2012 for some hyperV fun. Then onto learning the SCCM stuff and anything else i can dream up.
Didnt get the chance to get any further than just installing MDT today, but if SCCM will replace it then ill go with that.

Thanks for the help so far guys, these little pointers have been quite helpful and provoked alot of research and interest. This will be a long journey im thinking, but im always up for a challenge, and this is proving to be something of one for my current knowledge at least.

Yeah, hypervisor inception is something I have never tried, lol. You will like Hyper-V 2012 if you give it a chance, and let me know if you have any SCCM questions. I changed jobs about a month ago, but my previous job was for a consulting firm where I specialized with SCCM. Did several installs ranging from a 500 computer school system, to a 60k user Fortune 500 company, with several big names in between that I'm sure we all know.

If you are considering SCCM, don't bother with MDT standalone. You can actually integrate MDT with SCCM for a true ZTI (Zero Touch Installation) for OSD (Operating System deployment), and even UDI (User Driven Installation), based on the needs of your company. So many options, and SCCM 2012 + MDT 2012U1 is about as powerful as it gets when talking about OSD. With a little work, you can do anything (literally) with PowerShell and/or custom HTA scripts. I've done some really cool stuff with it.

MVA Links:
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/overview-and-infrastructure-changes-in-sccm-2012
http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/training-courses/introduction-to-hyper-v-jump-start
Edited by tycoonbob - 10/2/13 at 6:41am
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