Configuring and using Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

Windows Deployment Services (WDS) is a really interesting tool from Microsoft. It allows an administrator to remotely deploy Windows operating systems to machines booting from a network adapter.

In environments with a high number of clients WDS can be very useful, a new computer can be formatted just plugging the Ethernet, without any physical support like Windows DVDs or USB drives.

The configuration isn’t difficult but there are some requirements:

  • There must be an Active Directory Domain Services
  • At least one partition on the server must be formatted as NTFS
  • A DHCP server must be active to assign IP addresses to the WDS clients

Let’s see how you can configure and use the Windows Deployment Services.

How to hot-extend a virtual disk with VMware ESXi

Hot-extending a virtual disk is the act of increasing the capacity of a virtual disk while it’s operating and the guest OS is running. Today is a really simple operation to perform, on both ESXi and Hyper-V, but still very useful.

We are going to see how to hot-extend a virtual disk connected to a running VMware ESXi virtual machine with the vSphere Web Client.

How to configure and administer the ESXi firewall

Securing ESXi and vCenter servers is an essential part of any virtual infrastructure administrator’s responsibilities.

VMware makes available a several features to protect the servers, including the ability to set granular permissions, a directory authentication mechanism, a firewall, a virtual switch layer 2 security and more.

Knowing the capabilities of these features and how to use them is essential to administer ESXi and vCenter enviroments.

Some years ago, only ESX came with a firewall, but with vSphere 5, VMware added a firewall to ESXi 5.

Convert a thick provisioned disk to thin and vice versa on VMware ESXi

Thick-to-thin and thin-to-thick virtual disk provisioning conversion is one of the most common operations performed by the IT staff administering a virtual environment. The allocated spaces of a thin provisioned virtual disk is equal to the used space plus a bunch of bytes while with a thick provisioned virtual disk the maximum capacity will be allocated despite the usage of the drive.

Thin provisioned disks allow IT admins to store more virtual machines in the same datastore. It’s possible to convert a thick provisioned disk to a thin one in a bunch of clicks thanks to the powerful vSphere Web Client, for VMware ESXi virtual machines. It’s also possible to perform the inverse operation.

How to add an ESXi Host to an Active Directory Domain

This is a basic tutorial explaining how to add an ESXi Host to a directory service, like Microsoft’s Active Directory, to simplify the administration and security of the ESXi hosts.

As prerequisites, you need:

  • The ESXi host DNS server must resolve AD Domain controller and Domain Name
  • The ESXi host name must be fully qualified with the domain name of the Active Directory forest, for example, esxtest1.contoso.local
  • The time between the AD server and the ESXi Host should be syncronized

Before specifying the Active Directory credentials you need to add the ESXi host to the domain controller.

How to deploy (and/or remove) software packages via GPO

One of the greatest advantages of having an Active Directory Domain is the possibility to deploy software packages via GPO (Group Policy Object). Software deployment is crucial in business environments to save time and money.

Microsoft not only gives us a simple way to deploy software, but also provides a quick solution to uninstall it when we don’t need it anymore.

How to configure a Distributed File System (DFS) Namespace

Locating shared folders to access specific documents is a common problem in business environments. System administrators have to decide how to share folders and how the users will be able to find them.

Distributed File System (DFS) is the Microsoft solution to the problem: a simplified way for users to access geographically dispersed files.

DFS allows system administrator to create trees of virtual directories aggregating shared folders across the entire network.

There are two types of DFS:

  • DFS Namespace: a virtual tree aggregating shared folders from the entire network. Administrators can set up multiple DFS Namespaces.
  • DFS Replication: creates replicated shared folder with scheduling and bandwidth throttling configured by the administrator.

We are going to see how to configure a Distributed File System Namespace on Windows Server 2012 R2.