Create a Virtual Machine FAST with ISO Template Libraries

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When you go to create new virtual machines in vSphere (or any virtualization platform) you need some installation media for the operating system. You could be creating a new Windows 8 VM in Hyper-V on Windows Server 2012, in Fusion on a Mac, in Workstation on a PC, or in Windows 8 using Client Hyper-V. No matter the virtualization platform or the guest OS that you want to install inside the hypervisor, you'll need some installation media. While you could walk that media on a DVD/CD disc to a server or put it into your laptop to install the OS - that's just inconvenient and antiquated, right?

The best way to do this is to create an ISO software library for your virtual infrastructure such that any time you want to create a new VM and need the OS installation media, you have it available in a couple of clicks. The answer is to create an ISO library. With an ISO Library, you then want to create a VM Template library. Let's find out how to do both!


Creating an ISO Library in vSphere

Fortunately, creating an ISO library is easily done and the benefits pay off more and more over time. The concept here is to, preferably, use shared storage that all the vSphere ESXi hosts have access to already, create a shared folder inside, and store ISO media in there for easy access. That ISO media could be OS installation media or even applications like MS Office, SQL Server, or other frequently installed enterprise IT applications.

If you wanted to do this in Hyper-V, Fusion, or Workstation, the concept is exactly the same. Of course, in the local hypervisors (like Fusion and Workstation) you wouldn't have shared storage and you would just have a single host so you would just use a shared folder on your local PC/laptop or you could put the ISO files (as they could be quite large especially for laptops with SSD storage) on a network share (something I've had to do).

As I use a MacBook Pro for my primary daily computer, I had all the ISO files already downloaded from TechNet (in this case) and I transferred them to vSphere using a free FTP utility on my Mac, Yummy FTP/SCP Lite.

As you see in the graphic below, I connected directly to an ESXi host that had access to the shared datastore. In the datastore, I created a shared folder called "ISO." In that folder, I copied (using SCP) the ISO files. This didn't take very long over the LAN and nothing like the time it takes to install a new VM OS when you mount an ISO over the network using the vSphere Client.

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-1

With the ISO files transferred to the shared storage, I could go into the vSphere Datastore Browser and see the ISO files from the ESXi host (in the graphic below).

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-2

Now when I go to create a new virtual machine, I can simply map the virtual CD/DVD drive on the VM to the ISO file in the shared storage and install the new guest OS super-fast. As you can see, the path to the ISO file for my Windows 2012 Server ISO was:


[SHARED-STORAGE] ISO/en_windows_server_2012_x64_dvd_915478.iso

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-3

Having the ISO media on shared storage where the ESXi host has the fastest access to it will allow you to install your new guest operating systems faster than any other method. Using this method, after a few minutes, I had successfully installed Windows Server 2012 as a new VM inside VMware vSphere.

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-4

From here, I can now mount the MS Office ISO or MS SQL ISO files that I copied to the ISO shared library to install these applications inside my VM.


Creating a VM Template Library

Taking the ISO library idea a step further, once you have newly created virtual machines, just as it is smart to create an ISO library, it's also smart to create a virtual machine library of templates. This library of templates are copies of "fresh and clean" or "golden" (as some people call them) virtual machines that you save off. When you need a new VM in your infrastructure, you simply create the new VM from the template VM that you already installed. This means that you don't even need your ISO files! (but you still want them and will need them eventually) It also means that you don't have to go through the OS installation process, the application installation process, or any app/OS configurations. Your VMs are "ready to go."

With vSphere, to create VM templates, you must have vCenter in use (something that wasn't required to create an ISO library). Creating a VM template is as easy as right-clicking on a VM, going down to Template, and clicking on Clone to Template.

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-5

This brings up the Clone to Template Wizard and walks you through the process of storing the template.

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-6

Once created, you'll see the new VM template over in your "Virtual Machines and Templates" Inventory. From there, you can easily use that template to deploy a new virtual machine, easier than ever before.

Creating an ISO Library in vSphere-7

In summary, make sure that you make your life as a virtualization admin EASIER by creating an ISO library and a VM template library. When you need a new VM created fast, you'll be glad that you did!

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David Davis

David Davis has authored over 50 courses for Pluralsight around enterprise data center technologies such as cloud computing, virtualization, and (especially) VMware vSphere. He is a partner at where he creates compelling enterprise technology content, moderates online events, and helps to connect some of the best-known technology companies in the industry with the end user community. With over 20 years in enterprise technology, he has served as an IT Manager, administrator, and instructor. David is an 11x VMWare vExpert, VCP, VCAP, & CCIE# 9369.