Jun 25, 2012

How To Create and Deploy Templates in VMWare ESXi (Workaround)

At my day job we have a disaster recovery (DR) site in a data center in a different state. That way if California falls off into the ocean, my company can still do business assuming that I don't die in the massive cataclysm, and can still fail over to our DR site. Anyway, the equipment we have there isn't quite at the same specs as our production environment. namely, we use the free VMWare ESXi there because as a small company we can't afford the outrageous prices of vCenter for our DR site.

Anyway, I'm working on a project to re-build DR, and I have to deploy a number of servers. Since we aren't using vCenter there, I can't just deploy one server, template it, and deploy the rest from the template. That is because cloning, and templating is a function of vCenter, not ESXi, or even ESX for that matter.
I did see a really great suggestion from Dave Mishchenko on the VMWare communities forums that is a pretty good workaround. He suggests:

  • Create a new VM with the VI client - give it a small HD size.
  • Edit the new VM and remove the HD.
  • With the RCLI,  use vmkfstools to copy the template VMDK to the new VM's folder.
  • Edit the VM and add a HD - use the option to select an existing VMDK.
  • Start the VM and run sysprep, etc to customize the OS.

You don't really need the RCLI to copy the VMDK to the clone machines. You can do that through the VI Client, and you will probably want to sysprep your template machine first before copying it around, but hey, this works and saves a heap of time. Thanks for the tip Dave!

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