I'm an experienced UNIX and Linux sysadmin who is about to start working for a mixed UNIX/Windows shop. I've been deploying servers automatically using tools like Puppet, Chef, FAI, etc. I haven't worked with Windows for over 10 years.

I was wondering if anyone has tips as to what comparable tools exist to deploy and configure Windows servers automatically. In my UNIX environments, I can set things up so a box cold-boots from iron and is up and running without any manual intervention.

Back in the day I used Ghost, but I assume that since then the state of the art has improved.

Any tips for tools to avoid are also welcome. I will likely need to deploy Windows IIS and SQL servers.



for unattended network installations we use opsi, it boots off pxe and installs the OS using unattend(ed). Once the OS is loaded, then wpkg takes over and configures the rest according to the profiles you specify. Both projects are open source and actively maintained.

For MS SQL server 2005, copy the cdroms to a network share; you can edit the file template.ini on on cdrom 1 and run

setup.exe /settings /qn

more info: http://blog.sqlauthority.com/2007/04/10/sql-server-2005-silent-installation-unattended-installation/

Of course, for the newer version they had to change something, the ini file is now ConfigurationFile.ini (msdn)

IIS can also be fully scripted with pkgmgr. Here you will see how, scroll down to 'unattended installation' on the site.

To Microsoft's credit, there are now very few installers that cannot be automated, and most are not from Microsoft themselves.


Altiris is a Symantec product now but a good one http://www.symantec.com/business/deployment-solution

You should also take a look at Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager. It can do OS deployment but I'm not sure of it's flexibility compare to Altiris.


MS has their own, as well. Windows Deployment Services is a role you can add to a 2008 server - it'll take PXE boot-ed machines and dump the image to them. The MS deployment toolkit is enough to get started building and tweaking some config files. Those are free, and look pretty full-featured, tho I'm not sure where the feature-cutoff is for SCCM-required setups.


You mentioned Chef, so I'm obligated to answer that Chef now supports Windows. Work is in progress, but it is actually quite functional. More information:

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