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Effectively automating system image restore?
I know there are quite a few solutions out there to perform system imaging and restoring an image to a system to provision systems. And there are a variety of methods, mostly 2: local imaging from a boot/live CD with image on a local disk partition or on CD/DVD, or network based imaging via PXE/ or boot/live CD + fileshare or FTP.
But here's the dilemma we have: we have a proprietary PC platform that doesn't have a built in CD/DVD drive and limited USB ports, and a restricted drive setup (allows for 2 hard disk drives but one is designed to be used for drive mirroring, and the disk drive has a single partition, that ideally should not be changed to be 2 partitions, etc.).
We would like to start with a clean base image before running every automated test and restoring from a base image would be a good idea.
Only issue is how to automate that procedure. We don't want it to be a manual step to boot to a live CD and reimage. And if it was PXE solution, need to be able to automatically set system to boot to PXE for restore and later to boot to disk drive when running test, also need to be able to boot to disk drive when system reboots for our software application upgrades, etc.
Is there such a way to effectively restore an image in an automated hands-off approach where we can subsequently reboot the machine (and not have it go into PXE or boot into live CD) without manual intervention.
We kind of have a Symantec Ghost solution in the works but feel like getting more ideas. Plus ideally, I would prefer to have a solution that is more free or open source where possible, though we can't be choosy here. But most importantly need something that is easy to set up with minimal deployment configuration, and something that can be truly hands-off without manual intervention.
Your feedback is appreciated.