I blogged previously about how Windows 2008 R2 has native "bare metal restore" http://sqlblogcasts.com/blogs/grumpyolddba/archive/2011/05/13/windows-2008-r2-bare-metal-restore.aspx , see the Core Team's blog post here; http://blogs.technet.com/b/askcore/archive/2011/05/12/bare-metal-restore.aspx
Well since then I’ve actually had the chance not only to put the process to the test but to see if I could go one step further.
I have a six identical IBM Servers, part of the development infrastructure, which I am rebuilding with windows 2008 R2, when one of these died I wondered if I could use the bare metal backup from a preciously built server to rebuild this one.
Creating images for building servers is nothing new, however I've never built a server this way before and I'm not aware of this feature ever being available out of the box in a windows o/s.
Just to recap on why you might want to to do this, when I built my first server I applied security patches and service pack 1 plus a number of other changes before I made my backup. This means the restore applied to another server avoids me having to go through all that again.
So the big question is can you use the windows 2008 R2 backup to build servers? The answer is yes it works perfectly and very quickly.
Did I have any problems? Yes as the backup wasn't created with this in mind so the computer name and ip addresses were duplicated which entailed a little bit of work.
When I build my next Server I will not name the server, leave it on dhcp and not add it to the domain; then I'll make my backup which I can use to build the remaining three servers as and when.
If you're wondering how easy it is to use this technique, I needed the o/s install dvd, a usb drive with the server storage drivers and another usb drive with the backup files created earlier, these were just under 11GB in my case.
If you're also wondering what this has to do with SQL Server, well you can use this backup to make an after install image for any SQL Server you've just built, it could also allow you to perform testing and then put it back where it was before. Obviously the more drives and applications the bigger your backup and I don't have a way to test if it works with SAN drives, but I see no reason why it shouldn't.
Despite some of the frustrations of "where is xxxx now !" I think praise is is due to microsoft for the advances in windows 2008 R2