You get basically two styles of cloning systems (or disks in general). Either one at a time with the LiveCD or many at a time with a multicasting server. I've only tried the liveCD method since I was simply doing two hosts. And in my case, I was dealing with the 'doze which is always more of a pain than it should be. So here's what I did to clone a Windows Server 2003 install to two hosts.
- Get the Windows host installed and setup with all the desired applications but not joined to the domain
- Create an unattended install file for Sysprep (it's a quick wizard)
- SAVE THAT SYSPREP FILE (for some reason, sysprep will destroy this as incriminating evidence?)
- Sysprep the host - this will strip the Security ID (SID), computer name, and remove it from the domain (if you had it on one) and it shuts down the host
- Get the Clonezilla LiveCD and something for external storage
- Boot the sysprepped host from the liveCD
- Basically defaults all the way, it will ask what the storage media for system images is, what disk or partition to copy (I did it by partition, though you could do disk if you wanted to keep the partition info)
- It ripped a 5.4GB base server install into a ~2GB image in about 5 minutes
- Reboot, reconfigure PC with a name, join it to the domain, etc
Then on each target host,
- Boot from the Clonezilla LiveCD
- Attach the external storage
- Follow the wizard
- It restored the above partition for me in 2 minutes, 17 seconds
- Reboot, give the PC a name, put it in the domain, etc
- Repeat for each host you are cloning
The crazy thing I was finding was that "proprietary" cloning tools were hard to find. Basically, Symantec has been buying up everyone in the field, killing the products, and then telling everyone to use Ghost which at least since when they acquired Norton and until recently, did not take offline disk copies. Instead, you have to install the application in the OS (which you'll note with Sysprep is impossible since the host is SHUT OFF) and it does a "hot backup". It just doesn't work for cloning at all. WTH?
But apparently, between some more sophisticated usage of sysprep and using a "clonezilla server", you could have your PCs, say in a lab, all doing PXE boot, re-imaging themselves, and picking up their name and domain information simultaneously. Once setup, you could do a lab of, I don't know what size, but whatever the max number of clients is (presumably dozens or hundreds) in less time than it takes to get a Starbucks.