Delivering A Scaleable Automated Build Of Windows Servers Using A VMWare Cluster

As part of a major project our client asked us to implement the design and build of a VMWare cluster which would be required to run around 200 instances of Windows Server 2016. All these instances would have to be created and almost identical. This would support the deployment of a software package that would be run on them and had it's own remote configuration protocol.

As a side issue there were also a large number of stand-alone client PCs that had to be built to the same specification.

We decided that the best way to implement this and to ensure that each instance was correctly built and up-to-date with the latest security patches, would be to carefully automate the process. Ideally providing a similar process for both the virtual machines as well as the physical machines.

The Challenge
Our customers always strive to make the most of the systems and equipment they have especially in the design and build phase of a major project where budget is always an issue. This particular project had a need for a large number of physical and virtual computers with an almost identical, accurate, repeatable and scalable configuration on each device.

Producing 200-300 consistent configurations is almost impossible manually for a small team of 4 or 5 staff. Each person may take slightly different paths through a configuration, create typographical errors or simply "forget" to carry out some steps or simply do things differently. This will always lead to inconsistencies in the configuration of devices, this in turn can lead to unexpected operation or failures on a small number of devices. Additionally performing a manual build of this number of servers would have taken more hours than this workstream of the customer's project had available to it

The challenge was how we could create an automated build process that could handle the creation of both Virtual Machines and Physical machines with a common scripting process, that was repeatable and reliable and could be modified as required over the lifespan of the installation. It needed to be simple enough that the process could be easily understood and quickly executed even after months of not using the process.

The Solution
The customer required both virtual machines and stand-alone clients to be built from the same template. The solution meant the implementation of a build server and a build 'control' server that used standard Microsoft protocols to enable the creation of any number of instances with incrementing machine names and IP address plus a standard software package install.

The stand-alone clients required booting off a USB memory stick whereas the virtual machines used VMware APIs to clone and modify a standard disk image.

The automation of the build was driven by an Excel spreadsheet with a mixture of batch files, registry hives and PowerShell providing the control and deployment of the build. This enabled us to go directly from the System Integrator's documentation to generating the deployed images and machines in a matter of minutes.

We were able to produce all the required images in a timely fashion and we were able to hand over the build process to local support staff in order that they could add extra servers and maintain their deployed base in a documented, repeatable and supportable fashion.
  • Layer3 provided a cost effective solution for under £2,500 per month.
  • £600,000 reduction in staff costs in building systems at the start of the project.
  • Continued cost reduction of £250,000 per year with reduced number of staff needed to support and maintain systems.
  • Great simplification and standardisation of design
  • Scalable and consistent approach
  • Trained technical staff able to easily change the deployment configuration
  • Fully secured and can be made robust according to requirement
How Can We Help?
For your project to be successful, you need to focus on your deliverables. You can confidently use Layer3 to liberate you from your technology challenges. You can trust Layer3 to find the right solution, so no matter what challenges you face, now or in the future, we can help you overcome them!

Please contact us for a free initial discussion - you can either contact us on 0203 805 7795 or email