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vSphere Deployment Options

I talk to a lot of vSphere administrators today who use a number of different deployment techniques. Some are sticking with templates, as they have for years, but some also have moved to newer deployment techniques. One of the fashionable approaches right now includes using Windows Deployment Services (WDS), which is a PXE-boot mechanism. And there are also VM clones.

I don't always have a recommendation on what's best. I'm skipping over the use case of vCloud Director libraries or vCloud Automation Center workflows; but determining what's the best new VM deployment approach really depends on the target environment.

Personally, when I'm in my lab environments, I find that clones and WDS work really well. Their deployment processes easily accommodate the one-offs that make up the normal behavior of a lab. Additionally, customization specifications used in templates can be used in cloned VMs.

Deploying a template (with or without a customization specification) is very similar to deploying a clone. The big difference is whether or not the customizations kick in and provide specifics like operating system product keys (in the Windows use case). WDS works pretty good for labs as well, but has a few more manual steps. It's rather quick, but not quite as quick as a clone or template. The clone task for a VM is a right-click on a VM in the vSphere Web Client:

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. Cloning a VM is a simple right-click.

WDS does well with a good healthy mix of vSphere and Hyper-V, as well as some physical servers. It can use the same mechanism for all platforms, which is good for consistency.

Believe it or not, plenty of people still do entire builds of new VMs by hand. This is typically a smaller organization that doesn't need a template because new VMs aren't constantly being built. For production environments, I prefer templates with the customization specifications that apply to a particular production VM. The main difference between cloning a VM and deploying a template is that the template can't be powered on, and therefore can't have configuration drift.

How do you deploy VMs from production and lab environments? Do you do it differently for production, lab or test environments? How so? Share your comments below.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 09/30/2014 at 11:33 AM


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