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My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
With ESX 3.5 and Virtual Centre 2.5 you needed to copy a bunch of sysprep files to use the excellent template deployment functionality (step by step account here)
Now that vSphere supports all the newer versions I had to update my Windows 2008 templates
There has been some confusion over how you deploy Windows 2008/Vista from a template in vSphere Virtual Center 4.0 and have it sysprep’d ready for use. The good news is – you don’t need to do anything special; you don’t need to put sysprep in a particular directory on the VC box as in Windows 2008 & Vista as there is no longer a separate sysprep download, it’s built into the default Windows OS installation
Just use the customization specification manager and it can even set the IP address of your new virtual machine as part of the template deployment.
Under the hood it injects a sysprep unattended/answer file into the OS as it boots and does all the customisations for you based on the specification you created/imported from vCenter 2.5
So all you need to do is get your master VM built with the OS, patched, VMtools installed and you can shut it down, convert to template and then just use the deploy from template wizard going forward.