Create SharePoint environments with AutoSPInstaller

Yo Pros! We have found this fantastic tool to help setup farms quickly that we had to share with you!

It’s our fifth project now requiring multiple SharePoint farms to support the ALM process for Dev, Test, Production; which was needed to built quickly whilst maintaining best practice and consistency.

We can unknowingly introduce small differences in deploying each farm. Lunch, tea breaks, consulting, distraction, distraction, distraction…. this is common in the workplace, but if you miss a step then the farms can become further apart in their quality and thus introduce risk and artifacts in deployments that were not expected.

Environments should be consistent in their configuration to ensure the business owners, testers and developers have confidence in the test results before a development piece is deployed for all to see; additionally, it would be awesome if this could be automated or provide unattended install.

So to solve this, we began exploring a tool created by Brian Lalancette and Ivan Josipovic called “AutoSPInstaller”. This PowerShell based tool is designed to build, configure your SharePoint farm on a vanilla Windows Server to a full operational battle station SharePoint farm.

Why this is so cool!

Firstly, it designed to work with SharePoint 2010, 2013 and 2016. It can install your prerequisites, SharePoint binaries, service packs, cumulative updates and language packs. In addition, the script can configure your farm, deploy a wide range service applications, web applications, site collections, enterprise service apps including all the best practice configuration!

So, Config, Build, Test, Sleep, Repeat!  – Ok that’s terrible, but this is a totally repeatable process, which is great if you are setting up ALM environments to follow the Dev  > Test > Pre-production > Production process. That’s four Farms!!

“Is this thing safe/ready/appropriate for Production?
It sure is! Brian and Ivan have personally set up many live customer farms with AutoSPInstaller in the past few years. In fact it’s even been used by organizations like CloudShare to create SharePoint VM templates. The standard caveats apply though: As the importance of your target farm increases, so should your level of knowledge about how to properly size, architect and build SharePoint. AutoSPInstaller does not mitigate this, it merely eases, standardizes and accelerates the process.”
– Quoted from AutoSPInstaller.com/FAQ

If you want to know about the full feature set, visit https://autospinstaller.codeplex.com/ scroll down to the middle of the homepage to see the list. It’s quite extensive and well thought-out for how much you can automate.

Configuring AutoSPInstaller

AutoSPBuilder uses an XML to provide all the detail for the configuration you require to build the farms. Thankfully, the developers have also build a website to provide a nice UI for configuring all of this, including in-line help and validation to ensure you complete all the required details.

“Please Note: Absolutely NO information about your Farm Config is ever sent to our servers!” – AutoSPInstaller.com

In highly secure environments, you could be sceptical about this, after digging around the source code, we found this is a Angular based client side tool running on a fairly empty asp.net MVC site, in fact the developers have open-sourced this on GitHub: https://github.com/IvanJosipovic/AutoSPInstallerOnline so you can check it out for yourself. You can clone this, open and run this locally in Visual Studio, there is some application insight code but you can uninstall the NPM packages to disable.

Once you have completed the farm configuration, you can click on “Review & Download” to copy the file into an XML file, if you want to make tweaks, you can re-upload the XML file to make changes… Sweet! We recommend storing this in source control though (without passwords in file) to keep track of what has changed.

There is a full guide on using this guide at https://autospinstaller.com/Guide that we recommend following to get you up and running; there is some prep work involved, but no different than setting up a new farm. We also highly recommend playing with this in a one server farm to get use to the process and to iron out any configuration issues missing from the configuration file, as it can take a few attempts to get right, before this is used in anger.

We hope you find this as awesome as we did; it saves you a heap of manual effort. Here are a few links to resources to help get you started:

Useful resources

Enjoy!

 

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