Creating Your Own Personal Hydration Solution: Introduction

Setting up a lab can be a pretty time consuming project.  A number of people, myself included, have created various hydration kits in an attempt to make it easier.  One thing that they many have in common is that they use the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) to generate a large build ISO to be used for building each virtual machine.

Using an MDT build ISO has both advantages and disadvantages.  It is portable.  It is simple. But it takes massive amounts of disk space and changes are very time consuming.

The ISO is portable, so it is easy to create it on one machine and use it on another.  I have one that I maintain that I share with my coworkers.  When I update it, I copy it to a share on my server and let my team know that a new version is available.

The ISO is easy to use.  This works well with it being portable.  The one I maintain for my coworkers, I just share the ISO with instructions (and scripts) on how the virtual environment should be configured and everyone can have their own personal lab environment.

On the other hand….

Maintaining that ISO consumes a tremendous amount of disk space.  Everything  included in the ISO is duplicated 3 times.  You want to add a new  ~4GB operating system?  There will be the copy when you add it to the deployment workbench.  The second copy will be when MDT copies it to the ISO source folder.  The third will be when it is added to the ISO.  Your 4GB OS will ultimately use 12GB of space on your disk.  Every item you want to add to the ISO will be like this.  That’s why Johan Arwidmark (his kits can be found here) has a check in his script to ensure that there is at least 100GB of free space available before it does anything.

This makes changes time consuming.  Should you want to make a change, maybe add a new application, or a new task sequence, you will need to generate a new ISO.  The ISO in even the most basic hydration kit can easily reach 15GB or more in size.  That takes time to generate, even on an SSD it takes time.  In addition if you’re being crafty in your MDT task sequences (face it, we all are) you need to be cautious and diligent with your tricks.  For example, a common thing to do is to have multiple special CustomSettings INI files that are called by the Gather actions.  When you generate an ISO if you have not manually copied these files into the proper location in the source folder for the ISO they will not be included.

This then lead me to want to find a way that would work better for myself.  I have a lab set up on my Hyper-V server that includes multiple subnets, routing between different networks, etc.  I was looking for a way to make building it simple and quick.  I was looking for a hydration solution that worked best for me.  I wanted a solution that would allow me to make changes quickly and easily and still give me the option to generate build media should I have the need for it.

Over a series of postings I’ll document how  I set up my MDT configuration, my Hyper-V networking, and my lab in general.  This is what works for me.  It may or may not work for you.  But I hope that you can find it interesting and perhaps give you ideas as to how to do things a little different.

My lab has a series of subnets tied together using Routing and Remote Access Server (RRAS) on a Windows server.    This allows me to test remote distribution points, Nomad Branch, etc.

Virtual Lab Network Diagram.png


You will need the following software for this.

You do not need both versions of MDT, Windows Server or Configuration Manager.  You can choose one or the other (or both if you wish).  I’ll document both sets and highlighting differences when needed.  I’ll do my best to make sure we don’t miss out on something.

You will of course need a machine to act as the host for your virtual machines.  My host is running Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V.  I will also make every effort to ensure to include VMWare Workstation and ensure that I cover that platform as well.

Posted on December 23, 2015, in Configuration Manager, Handy to Have, Hyper-V, MDT, MDT 2013, MDT Lab Builder, SCCM, Training, Virtual Router and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Make and ISO WAY smaller

    In regards to managing ISOs and their size, I found this on the website. It has been posted for awhile, but it is very cool. It tells how to shrink ISOs to by about 90% so they are much more portable,

    This sentence from the article says it all – “This is the story on how to store 183 GB of virtual machines in a single 16 GB file”


  1. Pingback: Creating Your Own Personal Hydration Solution: Setting Up | The Systems Monkey

  2. Pingback: Creating Your Own Personal Hydration Solution: Configuration Manager Infrastructure | The Systems Monkey

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