Cloning is useful if you want to save time when you create a new virtual machine and the linked cloning is the best for testing purposes, but none of them available, if you use only the ESXi hypervisor v5. You will be faced this problem when you try to install your first vCenter solution virtually. You install and configure a server for a template, and you need three servers for the beginning: Active Directory, SQL, and vCenter Server. Wasting time for repeating the installation steps? This is a chicken egg problem, let me show you, how you can solve.
The vCenter v5 cloning is a full copy of the machine, so we need something similar.
Prepare your first server, and permanently shut down after sysprep. This will be you server template, so do not power it on again.
Create a directory for the first three virtual machines on the target datastore. The name of the directory must match the new three virtual machine name. We need to copy files from the template machine into these directories, as the cloning command usually does. After that the cloning command renames files, and reconfigures the configuration file of the new machine. These steps are a little bit problematic, and we usually use different CPU, RAM configuration, so we skip these steps. We need to copy only two files from the template directory, the HDD configuration file and the HDD file. The naming convention is <template server name>-disk1.vmdk, and <template server name>-disk1-flat.vmdk.
Create a new virtual machine in advanced mode; on the Name and Location session use the same name that you use at the directory creation. On the storage session choose the datastore where you create the directories. At the Select a Disc session choose the Use an existing virtual disc, and the Select Existing Disc session browse the HDD, located into the directory. Configure the remaining sessions, then click on Finish.
After that we have “standard” virtual machine, all files located in a certain directory. Repeat the virtual machine creation for the last two servers.