I just finished my last official Q3 TechNet Event today in Albuquerque, NM. The “Tour” started in Phoenix on February 23rd; took me to Burbank on February 25th and Irvine on February 26th. As I sit on the plane ride home, I decided to put some quick thoughts down and share with everyone.
Session 1: Windows Azure
Windows Azure was the first session and as I expected, the initial interest was low (prior to delivering the session). The same could be said of the level of understanding around our Cloud Computing strategy and what Azure actually offered. In all four cities, I received quite a few questions during the session as well as afterwards. Evidently more people are interested in Azure once they get an understanding of what it is and what it has to offer. Keep in mind that we are still in our infancy, so don’t expect it to offer every possible feature / capability that you can get if you host it yourself or use a hoster.
Session 2: Building Test Environment using Hyper-V
My second session covered things to know when building a test environment using Hyper-V (R2). I was quite clear that my session was focused on using Hyper-V for a lab / test / demo environment and NOT for production. The two environments are totally different and you would configure Hyper-V differently depending on what you are doing. For example, I would never, never, never use a laptop to run my virtualization environment in production. I do want to review a few things that I covered around how I use Hyper-V.
Working with VHDs and Base OS Images
- I create a base OS image for each of the Operating Systems that I plan to use in my test environment. The following are the ones I have in my tool belt now.
- Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2 Enterprise Edition
- Windows Server 2003 R2 SP2 Standard Edition
- Windows Server 2008 SP2 Standard Edition
- Windows Server 2008 SP2 Enterprise Edition
- Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition
- Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition
- In this Base OS Image, I configure the key settings (like disable IESC, shutdown tracker, etc.).
- Sysprep the image and shut down the VM.
- I then copy the Base OS Image to a safe place where I can reference it using a Differencing Disk.
- As I need a new server, I will create a new Differencing Disk that references the appropriate parent VHD from the list above and now I have a new server within a few minutes versus 45 minutes. Plus, I conserver disk space on my test machine.
Working with Virtual Networks
- I prefer to use Private Networks to connect my VMs for test unless there is a real reason to have the VM and host communicate.
- If I need to connect a VM to the External Network (usually for Internet access) and I only have Wireless connectivity, I will bridge the Wireless adapter with an Internal Network adapter and then create an External Network in Virtual Network Manager that uses the Bridge.
- After I finish creating my Test / Demo environment with all the necessary Snapshots (to move forward and backward to a given point in time), I export the VM and save it on an external USB Hard Drive. This way, if I accidentally mess up the VMs, I can copy the export over and import them back in. Plus, I can now share with co-workers.
- I have an ISO image creation tool so that I can create an ISO image from any miscellaneous files and insert the ISO as a CD / DVD drive so I can get files to the VM as needed.
Session 3: Automating Windows 7 Deployment
In the third session, I went through the key steps required to use the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 to create a Light Touch (LT) deployment of Windows 7. Both of the tools that I discussed and demoed are free tools that anyone can download and use. As I mentioned in my session, both of these kits have great tools / capabilities included in them. Because of that, I highly recommend that you read the documentation and prescriptive guidance available with the tools before you start using the tools.
The thing to keep in mind about using the MDT to deploy Windows 7 images, is that the deployment to target computers is not a block level copy, but an installation of Windows 7 that just happens to be automated with all the necessary options and settings that you configured. This is great because a 6 month old Windows 7 Image can still be deployed to new hardware that has out of the box drivers as well as the ability to incorporate patches or hot fixes that have come out since the image was created.
Even though applications can be included in MDT 2010 to deploy with Windows 7 to new computers, you must use the appropriate tool to configure the application package (such as the Office Resource Kit for Office, etc.).
I hope this quick recap helps.