Steps to Clone a Server to Make a Golden Image

Follow these steps to clone your server and make a new golden image that you can use.

This article refers to the MyCloudIT Gen 2 platform, which was launched in 2015. Look for MyCloudIT Gen 3 to be launched in Summer 2020.

Overview

Here are the brief steps to clone a golden image. 

1. Clone an existing Session Host Virtual Machine
2. Update and SysPrep the New Virtual Machine
3. Deploy New Virtual Machine(s) based on New Image
4. Remove Old Session Hosts
5. Update Your Schedule
6. Test Your New Golden Image

Steps to Clone and Make a Golden Image:

Prior to starting this process, please make sure to add a local machine Admin account to the Session Host you are going to clone and make a Golden Image. Failure to define a local admin account vs. a Domain Account could create a VM that you are unable to log into.

Note that each cloned VM will be charged a MyCloudIT license ($8/VM/mo).

1. Clone an existing Session Host Virtual Machine

Remember, you must add a local machine admin account, not a domain admin account before cloning your session host. If you do not create a local user account, you will be unable to log into the cloned VM to update and sysprep it.

  • On the Deployment Details page select the appropriate Collection (Desktop Collection/RemoteApp) that contains the session host image you want to clone.
  • Pick the Server you wish to clone and Select the Actions dropdown > Select Clone > and then Confirm.

The cloning process should take less than 10 minutes. Once the Clone process starts you will be able to track progress of the cloning in the Notifications section.  It will be listed as a “Create/Update Deployment” process.

  • Once the cloning process has started, you can select the Deployments tab and then Refresh to show the Deployment in the deployment list.
  • The Deployment name should be in the form Clone-DeploymentName-SessionHostName-TimeStamp-RG with a product type of Clone Server. Monitor the Notifications bell at the top of the page for Completion.

Please note that the Cloned VM will be stored in the same Resource Group as the deployment it was taken from but will be in a separate Virtual Network. This will prevent the clone from seeing the deployment it came out of. This is necessary to prevent name collisions. I mentioned that the cloned VM will remain in the same Resource Group because if you need to leverage the Cloned VM for a different deployment, it will have to be copied into a storage container within a resource group within the destination deployment. 

2. Update and SysPrep the New Virtual Machine

  • Once the deployment is complete, click on the new Deployment name and click the green square “Connect”.

  • This will open the Azure portal and drop you right into the new VM clone properties where you can click Connect (1), then Download RDP File (2) to access the Server.

  • Login to VM with your local Machine Admin Account
  • It is normal that you receive the error “We can’t sign into your account”. You are signed in with a temporary profile.
  • Once you are logged in, make any desired updates/patches/changes
  • To SysPrep the new VM image, open Powershell as an administrator and copy/paste the following command:

                   & “$Env:SystemRoot\system32\sysprep\sysprep.exe” /generalize /oobe /shutdown

  • Once the VM starts to shut down and you are logged out, go to Virtual Machines section of your deployment and click on Refresh until Status shows “VM stopped”.

    Note: The VM is stopped, but still incurring charges because it is not deallocated yet. You must not Stop the VM and force a deallocation.
  • Go into Actions dropdown and select Stop to force the VM into a Stopped – VM Deallocated state. You must select Stop to force the VM to deallocate before you are able to create a new image.

  • Once successful, the status will change to “VM deallocated”. You’ll need to click on the Refresh button in the upper right to refresh the status.
  • Now that the VM is in a VM deallocated state, you can now create a new Golden Image from it.
  • Select the Actions dropdown and choose Create Image, then Confirm the process.Note: The Create Image option will only be visible when the VM is in the VM deallocated state. 

  • In the notifications bell, you will see the process Capture Golden Image as a running process. Please wait for the process to complete. You can check on the progress by clicking on Notifications blade. Once the process completes, please open the process to obtain the location of the image that was just created.
  • You will find the Golden Image URL > as the top entry of the notification process. Take note of storage account name (circled in red) immediately after Golden Image Url: https://

3. Deploy New Virtual Machine(s) based on New Image

Caution: Always add new VMs to a collection before deleting the current VMs from the collection. Removing all the VMs from a collection will cause the RDS collection to fail. The collection must always contain at least one session host.

  • Please Add and Remote session hosts from the MyCloudIT management portal. Our portal will take care of adding the session hosts to the Domain and collection, as well as removing the session hosts from the collection.
  • Navigate to the collection within the deployment where you wish to create the new session hosts based on the new clone. In the Session Hosts section of the collection, click on the +Add box in the upper right of the screen.

  • You will now be asked to choose the Windows Experience. Select Golden Image.

  • For the Storage Account Name, choose the name of the storage account we highlighted earlier (after Golden Image Url: https://). If you have created multiple clone VMs, you may see more than one image. Take note of the names listed below. I have highlighted the most current clone image.

  • Once you’ve selected the clone image, then enter the of Users you’d like the new image to support. If you are planning to replace all the existing session hosts with the new image, please ensure you create enough new session host servers to support all your users once the old session hosts are removed from the deployment. Here is a completed screen shot before creating the new session hosts:

  • Now click Create and the MyCloudIT automation will create the new session hosts in your existing collection in 20-30 minutes.
  • Please monitor the notifications section for progress on the session host additions.

4. Removing Old Session Hosts

  • New session hosts are always created with a name of RDSSH- and a serial number at the end. For example, RDSSH-4, RDSSH-5… Serial numbers will always increase. This means that your newest session hosts will always have a larger serial number than older session hosts.

5. Update Your Schedule

  • If you are using a schedule to start and stop all or part of your deployment, be sure to update the schedule since your session host server names have changed. The scheduler will not “automatically” update with the new session host server names.

6. If you want to test your new image before moving it into production, you can create a new collection based on your new Golden Image and test it there.

  • This gives you the ability to test your newest image within the production domain without impacting your production users, and this testing process can be leveraged during production hours.
  • First, create a new collection. Go to the Desktop Collection page for your deployment and select +Add.

  • Select a name for the new collection, you can even add a description. Then in Windows Experience, be sure to choose Golden image.

If you have created multiple images, all of them will be listed here (see image below). Find the Date Time stamp for the image you want to use. Note: Azure adds random text to the end of your image to prevent file name collisions. The beginning of the name is what was created earlier in the process.

Because you are creating a new Collection, you will be given the opportunity to define the Storage / user for the collection. Each collection maintains its own User Profile Disks (UPDs). If you create a new collection and move users to the new collection, your users will lose all their customizations. It is easier to test the image in a new collection, then either add session hosts to the original collection, or transfer session hosts from the test collection.

  • Once the new collection is configured properly, select Create to create the new collection.
  • The new collection will take about 20 minutes to create, you can monitor its progress in the Notification section.
  • Once the new collection is functional, you will now see two collections.

  • Now that the new collection has been created, you need to add your admin users to the new collection, so you are able to log in and test it. Once the user has been added, you can then log into the RDWeb portal to access the new collection.

  • Now you can log into the collection containing your new Golden Image to verify functionality. Once you sign-off on the new image, you can then transfer this session host to the production collection, or just add new session hosts from your golden image to the production collection.
  • To transfer a session host to another collection; within the Host Servers section of the test collection, you can choose Transfer for the session host you want to transfer.

Take note: You cannot transfer the last VM out of a collection.

If you have any questions about the process, feel free to email us at support@mycloudit.com.