-- MikeGore - 2013-12-02

WatItis Network Imaging 2013


Network Based Image Deployment for Linux/Windows Operating Systems

  • When: 2:30 PM to 3:15 PM December 3rd 2013
  • Where: QNC 1502
  • Speaker:
    • Mike Gore
      • Computing Support Specialist
      • David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science

Talk Summary

  • Mike will discuss the benefits of network based Image deployment for Linux/Windows operating systems and all key software packages as a time saving measure. Topics will include: Setting up your own PXE boot server and software repository, creating and deploying images, Acronis (Imaging tool), Windows Sysprep (Windows tool used to prepare a system for deployment as a master image) and references to the CSCF online TWIKI documentation.

  • Time permitting this session may have a live demonstration.

Why "imaging" - the really big picture


  • We have students and faculty that expect rich computing environments with all of the bells and whistles tossed in.
  • We have many systems to setup and limited time

Basic Problem statement

  • Installing computers one at time, from scratch, operating systems, updates and settings can be very time consuming

Can we do it ?

  • Desired solution
    • So wouldn't be great if we could somehow take a copy of a fully configured system with multiple operating systems and apply it other machines? Bonus points if we can do this on more than one at a time.
  • Is this possible ?
    • Yes! - There are a number of tools and solutions available.
  • The goal of this talk is to share some of the solutions and tools we have been using in Computer Science

What kinds of alternatives to manual installation are there?

  • Remote software package deployment tools
    • These let you manage the installation of software on remote workstations
  • Imaging tools
    • These make an entire copy of an existing systems

Why chose imaging over remote package deployment

  • There are cost benefits to each choice
    • Imaging has a much simpler overhead
      • Easy to setup and learn
      • Setup and forget
    • Package deployment allows for continual changes after installation
      • Much more complex to setup and learn
      • Higher degree of flexibility

Experience guides your choices

  • In CS we update systems every 4 years
  • Observed that most of the packages self update
  • Concluded that imaging is good enough in many cases after examining implementation options
    • Does not imply it is the correct choice for you!

What are the main difficulties of imaging?

Windows - Licensing issues and copy protection

  • Copy Protection and Licensing/Activation issues to understand.
    • Institutional products generally permit imaging of products
  • Consumer software products cannot be imaged
      • Limited by license terms or by activation restrictions.

Fees to be paid in some cases

  • The University through IST has obtained many products whose licensing terms permits imaging.
  • This is NOT the same as being free!
  • The University Information Systems & Technology group manages licensing.
    • You are still required to verify any costs you are responsible for.
    • Many products are either low cost or covered by a Campus wide agreement.

Licensed software at the University

Linux Licensing issues - no copy protection

  • It is open source - no issues

Hardware driver issues challenges


  • Is extremely sensitive to hardware changes
    • BSOD - (Blue Screen of Death) most common result - rolls over and dies
  • Copy protection makes it hard to even image identical systems
  • Free Microsoft tool called SYSPREP to the rescue!
    • Using SYSPREP allows Windows systems to be copied to another system
    • On identical systems it works without issue
    • On alien hardware - this can be done with much effort.
      • Hardware specific drivers, utilities and software make this hard.
      • At minimum you need to teach sysprep where the drivers are located. * Write scripts to remove the unwanted software...
      • It is easier to create new images for new hardware in hard cases * You can standardize systems - limiting changes to say once a year


  • You can copy to identical hardware without issue
  • You can frequently copy to alien hardware without issue.
  • Problems with alien hardware are generally limited to
    • Vender specific drivers called "proprietary drivers".
    • You can avoid this by using the default open source drivers.
    • Unsupported hardware
      • Wireless, Video and USB3 drivers will be the most common.

Minimizing Imaging problems

  • Stick with standard configurations that change infrequently
    • Say once per year
    • Advantages
      • You can now put vender specific drivers and software into the image
      • No special post install scripting or configuration

Summary formula for creating a master image in two stages

First - we create a vender neutral configuration

  • That is; no special drivers or vender software
    • Hint - I like to use VMWARE to do this.
      • Reason - there is only ONE package to remove later - VMWARE TOOLS
  • Install everything licensed or free even if only a few people use it.
    • Installing it now will avoid the time you spend later on multiplied by the size of your user base.
  • Perform all updates
  • Don't forget the antivirus software when using Windows
  • Save this image to an external disk or file server
    • You always want to have a pre-sysprep image
    • Hint I use VMWARE and just take a snapshot
  • SYSPREP this image if you have windows
  • Save this image to an external disk or file server using an Imaging tool

Second - we customize the image for the target hardware we plan to use

  • Install the image on the target hardware
  • Add any vender drivers and software
  • Save this image to an external disk or file server using an Imaging tool
    • You always want to have a pre-sysprep image
  • SYSPREP this image if you have windows
  • Save this image to an external disk or file server using an Imaging tool
  • You are ready to use it!

Imaging Tools and recommendations


  • Try Clonezilla - it is now a mature product.
    • When we started imaging (many years ago) this option was not viable.


Acronis Backup and Recovery

Windows Specific Tools

Linux Specific Tools

Image Creation Environments

  • VMWARE workstation
    • https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/twiki/view/CF/VMwareWorkstation
    • Fantastic for creating initial images
      • Snapshot feature allows you to try multiple configurations
      • You can use sysprep and the imaging tools from within this environment
      • Aside: Using Windows in a virtual machine under Linux makes imaging trivial - just copy the VM files.

Network Image Server Overview

Services Detail

  • PXE Live Booting
    • https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/twiki/view/CF/PXELiveBoot
      • Actual examples and tools to make this easy to setup
    • Setup network bootable Linux Live Boot images
    • Most modern computers can PXE boot
      • It must be enable in the BIOS
        • Look for BBS popup on many systems - this gives you the option to boot from any device
        • Differing systems use various function keys to activate this during boot.
        • Most common is F12 or F8 but you will see ESC and F11 on some systems

External References


* Links used in this talk

IST software information and Licensing links

Optional Hand On

  • BIOS Boot Menu
  • PXE Boot Menu

PXE Booting Acronis

  • PXE Acronis Boot Menu
  • Acronis Boot - network settings
  • Acronis 10 Main screen
  • Connect to Server
  • Find the Archive
  • Restore

PXE Live Boot

  • PXE Live Boot Menu
  • Live Boot Ubuntu 14.04 prerelease

Questions ?

Topic attachments
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JPEGjpg IMAG0026.jpg r1 manage 761.4 K 2013-12-02 - 03:26 MikeGore Acronis 10 Main creen
JPEGjpg IMAG0029.jpg r1 manage 1065.6 K 2013-12-03 - 10:19 MikeGore  
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PNGpng WatITis2013NetwokImaging.png r1 manage 155.2 K 2013-12-02 - 03:11 MikeGore  
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Topic revision: r6 - 2013-12-04 - MikeGore
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