System Center Virtual Machine Manager for Beginners (Part 10)

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

In my previous article in this series, I showed you how to make a model virtual machine that could be turned into a template VM and then used to generate new virtual machines on an as needed basis. In this article, I want to walk you through the process of creating a virtual machine template.

Before I Begin

As you may recall, at the end of the previous article I told you to configure the model virtual machine in a manner that is appropriate for your organization, but I said not to join the model VM to a domain. The reason for this is that the template creation process involves randomizing the virtual machine.

As you probably know, Windows installations include data that is unique to that deployment. A virtual machine that is running Windows 8.1 for example will have a unique computer name, a unique Globally Unique Identifier, a unique IP address, and the list goes on. Randomizing a virtual machine removes everything unique from the virtual machine so that the VM can be safely cloned. The process is very similar to running Sysprep. The reason why I said not to join the model virtual machine to a domain is because the randomization process would have broken the domain membership.

Converting the Virtual Machine to a Template

So let’s go ahead and convert the virtual machine into a template. Before we get started, I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to make sure that the virtual machine is configured in the way that you want. The reason for this is that there is a limit to the number of times that a virtual machine can be randomized, so you really don’t want to have to rebuild the template if doing so can be avoided.

In the previous article, we created a model virtual machine named Windows 8.1 Model VM, and this is the virtual machine from which I will be creating a template.

Begin the process by opening the Virtual Machine Manager console and selecting the Library workspace. Next, navigate through the console tree to Templates | VM Templates. As you can see in Figure A, the VM Templates container acts as a repository for virtual machine templates.

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Figure A: The virtual machine templates are stored in the VM Templates container.

To create a virtual machine template, click on the Create VM Template button, located on the ribbon. You can see this button in the previous figure. Upon doing so, Windows will launch the Create VM Template Wizard.

The wizard’s initial screen asks if you want to create a template from an existing VM template, or virtual hard disk stored in the library, or if you would prefer to build the template from a virtual machine that is deployed on the host. Go ahead and select the From an Existing Virtual Machine that is Deployed on a Host option, as shown in Figure B.

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Figure B: Choose the option to build a VM template from an existing virtual machine.

Click the Browse button and select the virtual machine that you want to use. It is critically important to only select model virtual machines because the virtual machine that you select will be destroyed by the randomization process.

Click Next and you will see a warning message like the one shown in Figure C indicating that the original virtual machine will be destroyed. Now would be a good time to confirm that you have selected the correct virtual machine before clicking Yes to continue.

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Figure C: Make sure that the correct virtual machine has been selected before you click Yes.

At this point, you will see a screen asking you to enter a name for the template that you are creating. In addition to entering a name, it is also a good idea to enter a meaningful description of what the template includes and what it is intended to be used for.

Click Next and you will be taken to the wizard’s Configure Hardware screen, shown in Figure D. You can’t do anything on this screen because the template inherits the same hardware configuration as the original virtual machine. However, when you create virtual machines from the template you will be able to make changes to the hardware if necessary. For now, just click Next.

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Figure D: You won’t be able to do anything on the wizard’s Configure Hardware screen.

Click Next, and you will be taken to the Configure Operating System Screen, which you can see in Figure E. This screen is used to control the virtual machine deployment. If you have previously created a Guest OS Profile then you can simply select it. Otherwise, you can manually enter information such as the operating system, the time zone, and the product key. Since we are only building a template right now (as opposed to production virtual machines) my advice is to avoid joining a domain.

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Figure E: Populate the Configure Operating System screen with information about the guest OS or select a Guest OS Profile.

Click Next and you will be asked to select a library server on which to store the newly created VM template. Make your selection and click Next.

The next screen asks you to provide a virtual machine path. In spite of the way that this prompt sounds, what System Center Virtual Machine Manager is really asking for is the location within the library hierarchy in which the template VM should be stored. The easiest thing to do is to click the Browse button and then select your Virtual Machine Manager Library from the list. In case you are wondering, the Templates container is not displayed within the path list, so you will need to select the top level of the library. You can see what the path looks like in Figure F.

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Figure F: You will need to path location in which to save the new virtual machine template.

Click Next and you will see a summary screen. The summary screen doesn’t provide any information beyond the VM template name, so go ahead and click the Create button to create the new template. The creation process can take a bit of time to complete because the model virtual machine has to be randomized and then cloned.

This brings up another important point. It is extremely important to periodically check your Virtual Machine Manager server to make sure that it has plenty of free storage space. It is amazing how quickly ISO files and templates can fill up the server’s hard disk.

When I originally started working on this article series, I created a 127 GB volume for storing ISO files and template files. In the course of writing this article, that volume became filled to capacity and I had to delete a couple of ISO files just to have room to create the Windows 8.1 VM template.

Conclusion

In this article, I showed you how to create a VM template. In Part 11, I will conclude the series by showing you how to use your newly created template to deploy a virtual machine.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

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