Ask any number of Windows administrators how long it takes to rebuild a server system, and you will get a variety of answers. When it comes to building a server, Windows Server 2008 R2 (as well as the base release) makes it easy; there are minimal options other than basic disk provisioning, and anyone can do it. You can get to the login screen quite easily, but how do you go beyond that to stand the servers up quickly?
The answer is to leverage infrastructure-centric solutions to deploy the basics, as well as the specifics, automatically; the two main tools for doing this are Windows Group Policy and system management software. I've written a number of Group Policy tips in this blog to help administrators ensure consistent configuration and system management software can deploy software installations, certificate deployments, antivirus configurations, inventory management, and more. Some system management software includes Microsoft System Center, Symantec's Altiris, Novell ZENWorks, and LANDesk.
The other key component to server provisioning that you need to consider is a virtual machine. All of the major products for server virtualization include some form of rapid deployment, usually through a template or conversion program. A virtual machine is the perfect case for having Group Policy and system management software provision the server after it is deployed.
Deploying the server is easy; provisioning the server is the complicated part. When it comes to Group Policy and system management software, pushing as much configuration and installation packages to these two mechanisms will increase the overhead of managing multiple configurations. I'd much rather have a complicated management configuration and Group Policy in favor of a bunch of servers that have been configured and nobody knows how to rebuild them. Do you disagree?
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Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.