System Center Virtual Machine Manager for Beginners (Part 8)

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

Introduction

In the previous article in this series, I showed you how to create a virtual machine template. The method that I discussed in that article works great for one off template creation, but if you would rather keep things more uniform then I recommend creating guest OS profiles and hardware profiles. In this article, I will show you how to do just that.

Hardware Profiles

As I’m sure you know, every running virtual machine is allocated physical hardware. When we created the VM template in the previous article, we were able to configure hardware allocations within the template. However, it may be more useful to build a separate hardware profile.

A hardware profile is a collection of virtual machine hardware settings. A single hardware profile can be shared by multiple virtual machine templates. Best of all, if you find yourself needing to modify hardware allocations, you can edit a hardware profile without having to make changes to your VM template.

You can create a hardware profile by opening the Virtual Machine Manager console and selecting the Library workspace. Next, right click on the Hardware Profile container and select the Create Hardware Profile command from the shortcut menu. This will cause Windows to display the New Hardware Profile dialog box, as shown in Figure A.

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Figure A: Enter a name and a description of the new hardware profile.

You will need to enter a name for the hardware profile, and it is a really good idea to also enter a description of what the profile is going to be used for. You will also notice that the dialog box contains a Generation drop down list. The reason for this is that Generation 1 and Generation 2 VMs support different hardware. For example, Generation 2 VMs do not provide an IDE bus.

After entering a name and description for the hardware profile and selecting the VM generation, select the Hardware tab. This tab, which is shown in Figure B allows you to choose the profile’s cloud compatibility (Hyper-V, ESX Server, or XenServer). You can also configure individual hardware settings such as memory, virtual CPU, and virtual hard disk.

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Figure B: The Hardware Profile tab allows you to configure cloud compatibility and hardware settings.

When you finish editing the hardware profile, click OK and the new hardware profile will be listed within the Hardware Profile container. You can see an example of this in Figure C.

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Figure C: The new hardware profile is listed within the Hardware Profiles container.

Guest OS Profiles

Guest OS profiles are designed to automate the process of generating a virtual machine from a template. As you may know, you can’t simply clone a Windows virtual machine without doing some prep work first. Windows VMs contain unique information such as the computer name, GUIDs, SIDs, and possibly a static IP address.

When you create a VM template, you normally install Windows on a template VM and then run Sysprep. Sysprep randomizes the virtual machine by getting rid of any data that is unique to the virtual machine. This allows the VM to be safely cloned.

When a VM is created from such a template then booting the VM causes the guest OS to ask a series of questions in an effort to complete the setup process. For instance the guest OS would likely ask you for your time zone, language, and your product key.

You can enter all of this information manually and have a brand new VM up and running in about five minutes. However, System Center Virtual Machine Manager gives you the ability to fully automate the virtual machine deployment process. The key to doing so is to use a guest OS profile.

You can think of a guest OS profile as a Sysprep answer file. The guest OS profile provides answers to all of the questions that Windows Server setup would ordinarily ask when a VM that has been generated from a template is booted for the first time. This allows the VM to be created automatically without the administrator having to provide any additional information.

You can create a guest OS profile by right clicking on the Guest OS Profile container and selecting the Create Guest OS Profile command from the shortcut menu. Upon doing so, Windows will display the New Guest OS Profile window, shown in Figure D.

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Figure D: Enter a name and a description for your guest OS profile.

As was the case with hardware profiles, you will need to enter a name and a description for the guest OS profile that you are creating. It’s a good idea to be as descriptive as possible. You will also need to specify whether the profile will apply to Windows or Linux virtual machines.

After entering the required information, click the Guest OS Profile tab. You can now begin entering information to be applied to the virtual machines that will eventually spawned using the guest OS profile. For instance, you can set the operating system, product key, administrative password, time zone and more. You can even join servers to a domain as a part of the creation process.

If you look at Figure E, you will notice that there are options for specifying roles and features. As such, you could create guest OS profiles for varying types of VMs. For instance, you might have a file server guest OS profile and another guest OS profile for Web servers.

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Figure E: You can provide answers to the various setup questions.

When you are done, click OK and the new guest OS profile will be listed in the Guest OS Profiles container, as shown in Figure F.

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Figure F: The new guest OS profile is listed in the Guest OS Profiles container.

Bringing it All Together

In the next article in this series, I plan to show you how you can put templates to work. For right now though, I wanted to show you the connection between VM templates, hardware profiles, and guest OS profiles.

I’m not going to walk you through the entire process of creating a VM template because I did that in the last article, but check out the Configure Hardware screen, shown in Figure G. As you can see in the figure, we can choose our hardware profile instead of entering all of the template’s hardware settings manually.

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Figure G: You can link a hardware profile to a VM template.

The same can also be said for our guest OS profile. You can select a guest OS profile within the Create VM Template Wizard, as shown in Figure H.

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Figure H: You can link a Guest OS Profile to a VM template.

Conclusion

In this article, I have shown you the relationship between VM templates, guest OS profiles, and hardware profiles. In the next article in this series, I want to show you how to build a VM template that you can actually use, and how you can automatically generate VMs from that template.

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

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