Microsoft Deployment Toolkit automates VDI images

Automating VDI image creation shrinks the margin of error, combats performance problems and eases image management. At a BriForum 2014 session this week, attendees learned how to automate golden images with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.

BOSTON -- Image management often becomes a major focus of VDI deployments, but you shouldn't spend all your time...

tweaking and redeploying golden images.

Luckily, the wonderful world of automation makes things easier.

"VDI is not an image management solution; it's an image delivery system," said Aaron Parker, a solutions architect for Mountain View, California-based Atlantis Computing, Inc., during his BriForum 2014 session here this week, called "Hands off my Gold Image!"

Why automate VDI?

VDI automation can simplify image management and help build a consistent and reliable virtual desktop environment.

Automation is valuable whether endpoints are physical or virtual machines, and it simplifies recreating master images when necessary, Parker said. As an added bonus, it improves the user experience, which is one of the most important facets of any VDI deployment.

You can automate just about everything in the process of creating golden images, but many people don't.

Automation is something that administrators tend to forget about, said Elias Khnaser, CTO of Sigma Solutions in Chicago in a session comparing features of desktop delivery from AWS and Microsoft Windows Azure clouds. In addition to VDI, if you're seriously considering offloading desktops to the cloud, it's worth it to consider how much automation the provider you choose will include.

The lack of automation leaves room for error. And because there are so many layers to VDI, you must comb through a lot of configurations to get to the root of a problem. The last thing you want is problems with your master VDI image. It should be perfect – or "golden," Parker said.

Automate the whole process from the beginning, rather than  mess around with the golden image too much or add  Group Policies to tweak it after you've created it, Parker said.

"Group Policy is the enemy of an efficient desktop," because it makes for slow performance, so use it sparingly, he said.

How to automate VDI image creation

One utility that automates VDI image creation is the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. It's free with licenses you already have, agentless, easy to use, PowerShell-based and comes with a whole community of users who have your back.

The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, in version 2013 since October, works with any infrastructure, such as Citrix, VMware and obviously Microsoft.

To use the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, all you need is a network file share, the Deployment Workbench and the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit. To automate VDI image creation, you need to set up Task Sequences that are based on the operating system you want to use, and specify whether it should be 64 or 32-bit. You'll need a different Task Sequence for each OS and bit level.

After you've created the Task Sequence, you'll boot the Windows Preinstallation Environment and connect to the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit share, which reads CustomSettings.ini. Then you go through the deployment wizard.

Within the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit there is the CustomSettings.ini, which lets you turn it "from a light-touch into an almost zero-touch" utility, Parker said. CustomSettings.ini tells the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit what to do, so you can add things like product keys to it instead of putting them in the Task Sequence.

It's worth noting, however, that you'll have to add applications after you get through the deployment wizard. Although it adds some complexity, you can add them to base VDI images through the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit as well.


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