Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am going to be setting up / working with a large cluster of VMs using VMWare Esxi and accessing them with VShpere.

All the VMs will be running XP and a bunch of our software. On each VM only one file will differ from the other VMs and this config file will be read by our software to decide what to do on each vm.

So my question is if I wanted to patch all the VMs, or install another piece of software on all the VMs with out going into each one individually what is the best way to do this?


share|improve this question
Note that for many of the solutions to this problem, the fact that the systems are VMs is incidental. There's a lot of approaches to managing a cluster of near-similar systems, and the most important factor is what OS they're running. – mattdm Dec 1 '10 at 2:31
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Each VM is its own machine and has be to dealt with separately. Patching can be handled via WSUS automatically, and software deployments can be done via AD so you don't need to touch any of the VMs to make it happen.

share|improve this answer
AD? Sorry for my ignorance. Ah... active directory, got it. – nextgenneo Dec 1 '10 at 4:24
yep, Active Directory. – mrdenny Dec 1 '10 at 5:08
Okay so researched AD. If I deploy software to that can it automatically install the software on the XP machines? – nextgenneo Dec 1 '10 at 5:58
Yes. The big catch is that the software needs to be installable via an MSI. If not there are other third party software deployment tools which can push software to a group of computers. – mrdenny Dec 2 '10 at 3:07
Well done on your 10k :) – Chopper3 Dec 2 '10 at 17:29

If gpo won't work...VMware PowerCLI (powershell & vmware) has Invoke-VMscript which you could use to execute update/deployment scripts on the VMs. Requires VMware tools on each VM.

share|improve this answer

vSphere has a plug-in called Update Manager which will allow you to update Windows on the VMs (it also does ESXi host patches) and it works fairly well. Your application install could be scripted through a login or startup script using AD or you could add it to the template you are cloning from.

share|improve this answer

Depending on how many VM images you have to manage you may be much better off approaching this with VMware View. Amongst other things this allows you to use linked clones - the master template holds the actual XP image and the linked clones are diffs from this base. To patch all systems you patch the master image and then recompose the clones.

It's a bit more complex than that in practice but it does give you the ability to patch once and have that roll out to all the VM's you are concerned with. There may be performance considerations too but this could make your life significantly easier if you have a lot of desktop images to manage.

Some high level marketing spiel on View Composer here, main product page here with a link to an eval that you can use if you already have a vSphere Cluster.

share|improve this answer
This sounds like exactly what I need. One thing is my host machines are all over the world so lets say I deploy XP with some software onto all of them via a master template. Then I update the master template (add a 10mb program). When I resynch all the systems does it only download the 10mb + whatever overhead or resynch the entire image (could be gigs)? Thanks! – nextgenneo Dec 4 '10 at 0:28

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.