Using Sysprep with SQL Server (and SharePoint Server too)

As soon as SQL Server 2014 came out I rushed to MSDN to download the bits. Because I install SQL Server in my lab all of the time, I decided it was time to build an image with SQL Server already baked in so I wouldn’t loose that much time again and again. Sysprep to the rescue!

What I usually do is build a basic operating system image with all tweaks and Windows Updates included. Then I sysprep that image and use it to build all of my lab machines. But then I have to install SQL Server & SharePoint Server again. That’s not geeky. Geeks are lazy – and so is this one.

To win some time, I prepare a sysprepped image for SQL Server and one for SharePoint Server. Both products support this way of working, as long as you follow the right procedures. That way I end up with a series of images that I can use when needed.

This is how that looks in VMware Workstation:

sysprep

SharePoint and Sysprep

For SharePoint it’s simple: install all prerequisites, binaries and updates but don’t run the configuration wizard. Sysprep your image and run the configuration wizard after deployment. This support article details what you can do and what not. It’s for SharePoint 2010 in an Azure context, but the same goes for SharePoint 2013 outside of Azure.

SQL Server and Sysprep

For SQL Server the procedure is similar, but not quite. The complete approach is detailed in this MSDN article. You install the SQL Server binaries, but you don’t use the regular wizard to do so. In stead, click “Image preparation of a stand-alone instance of SQL Server” on the Advanced page. When you deploy, you launch the SQL Server Installation Center from the start screen and choose “Image completion of a prepared stand-alone instance of SQL Server”:

sysprep2

Then you only have to provide some limited details (serial number, instance name, service accounts,…) and you’re done.

Product key problem

One additional gotcha I encountered was that my original product key was not accepted anymore. That’s strange, as I use the same one when installing without sysprep. As a workaround you can launch SQL Server setup from the ISO file and choose the “Image completion” option from there. It will automatically fill-in your product key for you. After that, it will continue with the bits already installed on your server so you’re not installing again – just configuring. I’m not sure this is a bug or not.

Slides and resources from my SQL Server Days 2013 session

Normally I teach SharePoint administrators how to manage SQL Server without getting laughed at by professional DBA’s. But this time it was the other way around: teaching a database crowd about SharePoint. I was a bit intimidated by the idea of speaking about SharePoint to a room full of hardcore database people – but hey, they invited me over so it couldn’t be that bad. The session went great and I even had some very interesting questions. Thanks for having me!

The key resources I mentioned were:

Speaking at SQL Server Days 2013

Save-the-Date

Regular readers of my blog will know that although I’m a SharePoint consultant I have a close affinity with SQL Server too. I’m on a personal crusade to educate SharePoint folks on good practices in setting up and maintaining SQL Servers. My involuntary DBA talk is always fun, but when meeting real DBA’s they’re often less impressed with SharePoint. That’s why I’m particularly honored to being given the chance to defend SharePoint towards SQL Server professionals.

The Belgian SQL Server user group organizes SQL Server Days 2013 on November 7 & 8 2013. I’m giving the following session on Friday 8:

Sharepoint – from Denial to Acceptance

Remember the day your boss pulled you aside for what seemed a friendly chat? “Oh, there’s one more thing… We’re getting SharePoint.” You probably had to run to the shower to wash off the dirty feeling – but hey, it isn’t so bad you know. In this session we’ll explore the ins and outs of SharePoint for DBA’s. Why does SharePoint likes to do things its own way? What can and can’t you do to SharePoint databases? What SharePoint specific settings do you have to know about? How to maintain SharePoint databases without ruining it with Microsoft support?

Head over to the SQL Server Days website to register for the event! The speakers list is very impressive, I’ll be looking forward to meet a lot of the thought leaders in the SQL Server world. Being the only SharePoint guy at the venue will be a bit intimidating though :)

Slides & resources for SharePoint Saturday Netherlands 2013

Last weekend I delivered a talk at SharePoint Saturday Netherlands on SharePoint and SQL Server Availability groups. It was a great event: nice location and nice people. Although my mother tongue is Dutch myself – believe it or not – it was my first talk in Dutch. In Belgium the user group sessions are always in English because our crowd is a mix of Dutch and French speaking people.

Judging from all the questions and comments afterwards it went pretty good actually. Thanks to everyone who attended my session! As promised I will publish some additional articles on the topic soon.

The essential resources I pointed to were: