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Does Anyone Regularly Image Servers?

Posted by: Nathaniel Bauer on 6/5/2013

The idea of server imaging seems a bit counterintuitive to me in most scenarios. In my mind, a server is setup to service a well-planned-out set of needs with specific intent and specific software, usually driven by some larger project. The server, post-configuration, would then be allowed to diligently do its work, sitting alone in the datacenter, never to be touched again, (outside of periodic updates and occasional maintenance/troubleshooting).

In that scenario, which I think is common, creating an image for a server class machine would be a waste of time under normal circumstances as the frequency of deployment would very likely be less than the frequency with which updates to operating system components or perhaps even operating system versions themselves are released. Hence, a server image would need to be updated or re-created for each application of that image, negating the typical justifications for applying an imaging model in the first place.

Now, I’ll admit that I can imagine situations and circumstances wherein creating and maintaining a server image would be useful. I would surmise that, in situations where server configuration standards are considered paramount, a prepared image could assist in guaranteeing conformity. Also, I would imagine that particular large organizations or at least organizations with large, fluid data/server needs may benefit from a prepared image that allowing a group of servers required to meet a temporally critical need to be quickly spun-up.

That said, our experience over the past 8 years has been that relatively few customers have asked, (approximately 1 request every 12 months on average), if we support imaging server operating systems. This is enough to force us to re-assess our offerings every so often. It is not enough, however, to create an assurance that the activity is widespread.

Does your organization regularly image servers? If so, what are your primary motivations for doing so? How has the advent of server virtualization affected your motivations and processes in this regard? Has the proliferation of on-demand or modular deployment solutions (e.g. SCCM) impacted your decision to employ imaging for servers?

I would absolutely appreciate some feedback in the interest of personal enlightenment.  Thank you in advance!

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1 Comment

    • Jun 18 2013, 11:55 AM Rob
    • At my "day job," we've just started diving into server imaging with SCCM. We expect the number of servers we image with SCCM to be small, but we plan to have our OSD task sequence build our VM image which can be sysprepp'ed/templatized. Generally speaking, obtaining drivers for server hardware isn't hard unless it's for the random piece of hardware that hangs around well past the date it goes off the books. By then, the imaging process & tooling has turned over that the original method to image that machine doesn't exist in the environment anymore. At that point, it's manual build time.

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