Native boot VHDs and MDT [1]

In my previous post I wrote about the development of the native boot VHD capability in Windows 7. As I noted, the specifics of this functionality is that a VHD can be copied to a destination computer’s hard disk and attached as a boot device. Windows can then be booted via the VHD file. There are considerable advantages for small scale imaging without the use of a full WDS environment such as we looked at in the past (about 4-5 years ago when I had more free time, I invested a considerable effort in setting up a Remote Install server and learning how to use RIS. The server did get upgraded to WDS but since then with Windows XP we have simply used Ghost for a very occasional re-image scenario).

My current plan is to have a look at a deployment walkthrough on Technet. However the next idea which has come along pretty quickly is whether MDT can help with creating a generalised VHD for native boot. So far I have found info on customising an MDT deployment task sequence to a VHD file on a physical computer. This doesn’t really address what I had in mind. My situation is that I want to be able to create a generalised VHD file that can simply be copied to target computers that applies the steps of the MDT deployment sequence, i.e. when the machine is booted to the VHD for the first time the operating system is deployed as if a user had selected a particular deployment task through the wizard. Generalised is important because the image has been sysprepped for deployment to multiple machines, and the MDT deployment task sequence can do useful things like inject drivers and install software allowing MDT’s customisation capabilities to be fully leveraged. The above scenario is basically to create an MDT deployment task sequence that will deploy the OS to a blank VHD on the target system instead of a physical hard disk. It is a good step in the right direction but I am looking for a bit more than that.

MDT does have support for using media to create bootable OS installs. For example you could deploy a task sequence using an external hard drive. What I am looking for beyond that is simply being able to copy a VHD to a computer, attach it as a boot device as described and then boot the computer which runs a task sequence saved on the VHD, applies an image and the deployment steps from the VHD and deploys the OS possibly to another VHD on the target platform. It may be that going through the media deployment steps is able to create the type of installation I am seeking, although the best scenario by far is to automate the deployment wizard steps, for which there are already means provided.