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Image-based Installations of Server Clusters

Updated: January 1, 2003

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

Image-based installations, also known as disk cloning or simply cloning, are the fastest method of deploying Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server. Image-based installations are useful if you are deploying computers that have similar hardware and you want to perform quick, clean installations with minimal end user interaction

Cloning Server clusters consists of the following steps:

Building a master installation on a master computer. Building a master installation includes installing and configuring the operating system and any software and drivers you need to include on your disk image.

Preparing the master installation with the Sysprep tool. This includes configuring and running the Sysprep tool on the master computer.

Generating a disk image of the master installation with the disk-imaging tool. This includes saving each disk image to a permanent storage location.

Loading disk images on destination computers that will make up a cluster.

You cannot clone a cluster node with cluster service installed. You must de-install the cluster service or use a specially prepared master computer without cluster services installed to create a disk image.

Using SYSPREP to Prepare for Imaging

Building a Master Installation

You need to setup a master computer which you will use to build a master installation and later to create a disk image. Make sure your master computer does not have cluster service installed and is not attached to any shared storage.

Building a master installation includes installing and configuring the operating system and any software and drivers you need to include on your disk image.

Prepare the Master Installation

After you have prepared a master installation on the master computer, you need to prepare a disk image for cloning. Microsoft provides a tool called sysprep that allows you to prepare an image for cloning. The tool can be found on the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server CD in the \support\tools directory. When you run sysprep on the master computer, you can supply one of the following two switches: -factory or reseal.

You can use Factory mode to install additional drivers and applications at the stage after the reboot that follows Sysprep. Normally, running Sysprep as the last step in the pre-installation process prepares the computer for delivery. When rebooted, the computer starts Mini-Setup. By running Sysprep with the -factory option, the computer reboots in a network-enabled state without starting Mini-Setup. In this state, Factory.exe processes its answer file, Winbom.ini, and performs the following actions:

Copies drivers from a network source to the computer

Starts Plug and Play enumeration

Stages, installs, and uninstalls applications on the computer from source files located on either the computer or a network source

Adds customer data

When finished, run Sysprep with the -reseal option to prepare the disk image for cloning.

For example, you can create a master installation that contains a minimal set of drivers, run sysprep -factory, create an image of the installation, and copy the image to multiple destination computers. If any destination computers require additional drivers, run sysprep -factory on the destination computer and load those drivers at that time.

For more information about the Factory mode and winbom.ini file, refer to the Microsoft Windows XP Preinstallation Guide which can be found on the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server CD in the \support\tools\deploy.cab file.

If you do not need to install any additional drivers or applications on the destination computers, run sysprep in the Reseal mode.

Sysprep and Sysprep.inf Answer File

To completely automate cluster server installation, you will need to use the sysprep.inf file which is an answer file used by sysprep during and after Mini-Setup.

Required Sections and Entries in sysprep.inf

A fully unattended Setup requires the following sections and entries:

 

Required section Required entries in that section Comments

[Unattended]

UnattendMode

TargetPath

[GuiUnattended]

AdminPassword

TimeZone

[Identification]

JoinWorkgroup

You may instead specify JoinDomain, DomainAdmin, and DomainAdminPassword.

[LicenseFilePrintData]

AutoMode

AutoUsers

Requires AutoUsers if AutoMode = PerServer.

[Networking]

Required to configure network protocols.

[UserData]

ComputerName

FullName

Please refer to the Required Sections and Entries section of this document for an explanation of what each of these entries is used for.

Additional sysprep.inf Entries

Vendor-Specific Devices

Sometimes you need to install vendor-specific device drivers or third-party device drivers that are not available with Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server, for example storage controller drivers.

One way to do it is to install the needed drivers on a master computer and then distribute them to destination computers as a part of a disk image if the storage controllers are identical on all cluster nodes. If the storage controllers are different on different cluster nodes, you will need to:

create separate disk images that contain those device drivers or

follow the guidelines below that describe how to use the same image for computers with different storage controllers.

[SysprepMassStorage] Entry in sysprep.inf

Before running Sysprep on the master installation and creating your image, identify the different mass-storage controllers that you want to install on each destination computer in the [SysprepMassStorage] section of the Sysprep.inf file. Sysprep then prepopulates the necessary driver information so that Windows can load the correct drivers when the operating system boots on a computer that uses one of the predefined mass-storage controllers.

You do not need to create the entries manually in the [SysprepMassStorage] section. Instead, you can use one of the following techniques:

Include the BuildMassStorageSection entry in the [Sysprep] section in the Sysprep.inf file. Sysprep will automatically generate the entries in [SysprepMassStorage] for all mass-storage controllers specified by the Plug and Play hardware IDs in Machine.inf, Scsi.inf, Pnpscsi.inf and Mshdc.inf and will install those mass-storage controllers.

--OR--

Do not include the BuildMassStorageSection entry in the [Sysprep] section in the Sysprep.inf file. Run the command Sysprep -bmsd. Sysprep will automatically generate the entries in [SysprepMassStorage] for all mass-storage controllers specified by the Plug and Play hardware IDs in Machine.inf, Scsi.inf, Pnpscsi.inf, and Mshdc.inf, but will not install those controllers. You can then delete items from this section before running Sysprep -reseal or Sysprep -factory on this installation. Installing a smaller number of items in the critical device database reduces the time required for this image to reboot into the operating system.

noteNote
When you run Sysprep -reseal or Sysprep -factory, Sysprep reads the [SysprepMassStorage] section of the Sysprep.inf file and writes the mass storage information into the registry before shutdown. The next time the computer is started, all mass storage controllers are available.

Hardware_ID

Specifies the Plug and Play ID for the device as specified in the devices .inf file.

 

Syntax path_to_device_inf[, disk_directory[, disk_description[, disk_tag]]]

Values

path_to_device_inf

Specifies the path to the .inf file that contains the Plug and Play ID of the controller to install. Enclose path_to_device_inf in quotes if it is a long file name.

disk_directory

Specifies the name of the directory on the floppy disk provided by the third party that contains the copy of the mass-storage driver.

disk_description

Specifies the description of the floppy disk as specified in the Txtsetup.oem file provided by the third party.

disk_tag

Specifies the disk tag of the floppy disk as specified in the Txtsetup.oem file provided by the third party.

Example

To support a new Qlogic driver, copy the qlogic.inf file to the Sysprep folder and include the following section in the Sysprep.inf file:

[SysprepMassStorage]

PCI\VEN_1077&DEV_1080 = "C:\Sysprep\qlogic\qlogic.inf", "\nt", "Qlogic Software Disk", "\qlogic"

For more information about sysprep, sysprep.inf or [SysprepMassStorage] entry refer to the Microsoft Windows XP Preinstallation Guide which can be found on the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server CD in the \support\tools\deploy.cab file.

If you are using the same image for computers with different storage controllers you will need to include the [SysprepMassStorage] and [BuildMassStorageSection] as described above.

For a complete list of sysprep.inf entries please refer to the Microsoft Windows XP Preinstallation Guide which can be found on the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server CD in the \support\tools\deploy.cab file.

Refer to Appendix A for a sample sysprep.inf file.

Assigning Drive Letters to Shared Storage Drives (Optional)

You may want to control how drive letters are assigned to shared storage drives. You can assign the drive letters using the diskpart.exe utility as shown in an example below. First you need to create a text file with parameters that the diskpart.exe will use as command line parameters, in the example below it is called diskpartparams.txt. The batch file itself is very short, it only calls the diskpart.exe utility with the parameters supplied in the diskpartparams.txt file.

Include the following line in sysprep.inf:

[GuiRunOnce] 
Command1=%systemdrive%\scripts\AssisgnDriveLetters.bat

Make sure you create a directory called scripts (or any other name you like) on the system drive and place the following batch files there:

AssignDriveLetters.bat

diskpart /s diskpartparams.txt 
pause 
diskpartparams.txt 
select volume 0 
assign letter Q 
select volume 1 
assign letter R 
select volume 2 
assign letter S 
select volume 3 
assign letter T 
exit

Adding Cluster Service Account to the Local Administrators Group

If you are not installing the cluster service on your destination computers at the time Mini-Setup runs but plan on creating a server cluster later using those nodes, you may want to add a cluster service account to the local administrators group. If you do that, you can later follow the instructions in the Command Line Setup chapter of this document to create a cluster and/or add nodes to an existing cluster.

To add a cluster service account to the Local Administrators group, include the following line in the sysprep.inf file:

[GuiRunOnce] 
Command0=net localgroup administrators /add domain\clussvc_acct

Generating and Distributing a Disk Image

Creating a Disk Image

After you have prepared a disk image for cloning, you need to create a disk image of your master installation with a disk-imaging tool and save the disk image to a permanent storage location. You can either use a third-party disk imaging software or Microsoft software called iBIG.

If you are using a third-party product, refer to the accompanying documentation on how to create and distribute a disk image.

Startup Media

Before you can load disk images on destination computers, you need some kind of startup media to boot your computers from. Startup media contains the system files and device drivers that are necessary to start a computer so that the primary hard disk is accessible but not in use. Startup media might also contain network adapter and network drivers, CD and DVD device drivers, disk configuration tools, and scripts or batch files. You can use a floppy, CD, DVD or network boot as your startup media, depending on capabilities of your destination computers.

If you use third-party disk imaging products, they often provide tools to create different startup media. Otherwise you need to create your own.

Follow these guidelines when creating your startup media:

  • Your startup media must provide network support if you are distributing disk images across a network.

  • Your startup media must provide CD or DVD device support if you are distributing disk images on media and you are using a floppy disk as your startup media.

  • Your startup media must support the tools you need to copy a disk image from a storage location to a destination computer. For example, if your startup media is an MS-DOS boot disk then you need to use MS-DOS tools to copy the disk image onto the destination computer.

For more information about choosing and creating startup media, refer to the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Corporate Deployment Tools User's Guide (Deploy.chm). Deploy.chm is included in the Deploy.cab file in the support folder on the Windows Server 2003 operating CD.

Distributing Disk Images

After an image (or images) has been created and placed on a distribution share (or distribution media such as CD or DVD) and you have a startup media to boot your destination computers, you are ready to distribute the images to destination computers.

You need to make sure that your cluster hardware and networks are set up as described in the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server Online Help/Availability and Scalability/Cluster Servers. All of your cluster nodes that you will be installing already have to be connected to the shared storage.

You can load disk images to all of your cluster nodes simultaneously. Many third-party tools support multicast image distribution. You can also use BIG to distribute disk images to your cluster nodes.

When all disk images are loaded on destination computers, do not start or restart them all at once. When creating a cluster, you must be careful to install the first cluster node separately from others. Once the first node is up and running, verify that the cluster service is up and running as well. Then you can install the rest of the cluster nodes. Since Server clusters use shared storage, corruption of data on shared storage may occur if shared storage is not protected by the cluster service.

After you have distributed disk images to destination computers, sysprep runs Mini-Setup. After Mini-Setup finishes, you should verify that all of the nodes have successfully joined the cluster. Open Cluster Administrator to see which nodes participate in the cluster, and whether everything is up and running. If it is, your cluster is ready.

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