Build Virtual Appliances: SQL Server 2005

A guide to building your own virtual appliances based on installation and configuration best practices.


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With the advent of machine virtualization technologies such as VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure, Citrix XenServer, and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, IT pros are looking to new formats for server configurations. One of the most popular is the virtual appliance—the creation of a standard, configured virtual machine including specific applications. This article begins a series whose objective is to demonstrate how you can build your own virtual appliances based on installation and configuration best practices. Then, once the appliance is built, you can use and reuse it to your heart’s content.

Virtual machine technology is taking the IT industry by storm. Organizations everywhere are looking to virtualization technologies to improve infrastructure management strategies and ‘green’ their datacenter. There is no doubt that virtualization is here to stay with now the proliferation of new virtualization engines on the market today. But what does it really mean to you, the IT professional?

First and foremost, it means that your practices and procedures will change. As you know, a virtual machine (VM) is nothing but a set of files on a disk (see Figure 1). There are several advantages that derive from this feature:

• First, because the machines are nothing but files on a disk, you can move them from host to host. Just pause the VM, move the files from one host machine to another, and then launch it on the new host machine. Even better, configure your hosts with shared disks so that you don’t even have to move the files from one place to another.

• Second, since VMs are nothing but a set of files, provisioning servers has just become really simple: just create a VM and run the Windows Sysprep command against it. Then when you need a new machine, copy the original VM and open it to personalize it again. In most cases, you can do this in less than 20 minutes!

• Third, since VMs are self-contained and transportable, they can be delivered in a pre-configured state. This is the virtual appliance (VAP). Think about it. You may never need to install another product again; just get it in a VM and run it.

Obviously, this is not for the faint of heart. But, since virtual appliances for Microsoft products haven’t hit the market yet for certain products, you can and should build your own. Then, just reuse them wherever you need them. This way you only need to install your products once. You can build VAPs for a multitude of different products.

build a virtual appliance

Figure 1. The make-up of a virtual machine

Your Objective
To build your first virtual appliance, you’ll need to create a standard system build for Windows Server 2003 into a virtual machine. Hopefully, you’ll use the R2 version and run the appropriate edition to meet your needs. This particular procedure outlines how to build a VAP for SQL Server 2005. Use this shortcut procedure to do so.

Your Required Toolkit
You’ll need the following tools to perform your installation into the virtual appliance. Download them or locate the appropriate installation disks. Ideally, you would be using ISO CD images since they are easier to work with when working with virtual machines.

build a virtual appliance

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