PlateSpin Migrate 9 review

Novell released PlateSpin Migrate version 9 end of June 2010. This is the first version to support distributed switches available since the release of VMware  vSphere. Below are my experiences so far with this new version.

The release notes can be found here

The upgrade from version Portability Suite 8.1.3 to version 9 went without any problem. The upgrade took around 30 minutes. Before performing the upgrade, I de-installed the Portability Suite Client as described in the Install Notes.

The client has some minor changes in the user interface. I noticed it is still not possible to run two instances of the client on the same server. A pity as this is very usefull during conversions when several staff members are performing conversions at the same time. The alternative is to install the client on a workstation or other server.

I noticed the default job values were reset. I prefered to have the display name of the virtual servers without the ‘_VM’  string attached by default by PlateSpin. After the upgrade the _VM suffix was back.

Also , Migrate 9 still creates at random choosen datastores a folder called Platespin. This folder holds several files used for the conversion process. One of the files is a floppy image.

PlateSpin Migrate immediately displayed the  portgroups which are created on distributed switches of ESX4 servers. I did not have to perform another inventory of the vCenter Server 4 nor the ESXi4 hosts even I discovered those using Migrate version 8.1.3. This is nice.

The conversion speed does not seem to have changed. We still see an average data transfer speed during P2V’s filebased transfer of 40 GB per hour.

Platespin Migrate is lacking an important feature if you decided to use thin provisioned disks. Platespin migrate 9 does not support thin provisioned disks. So if you want to convert your physical server to a virtual, Platespin will create thick provisioned disks. VMware Converter however is perfectly able to create thin thick during the P2V process.
To solve this using Platespin, after the P2V is done, you will need to storage migrate the discs to another datastore, and storage migrate back to the original datastore selecting thin provsioned discs. A time consuming process.

Unfortunately, the ability to create thin provisioned discs is not on the roadmap for future releases at this moment. (september 2010).

We did a couple of P2V conversions of servers having a lot of data. Over 1.5 TB of data in many small files. Because the partitions of the physical server were too small, we needed to enlarge the target volume. This means instead of the faster blocklevel copy, we had to select the filebased transfer. We had several jobs that aborted or seem to hang at 1% copying files. This is an issue which is described in the knowledgbase of PlateSpin. Solution is to select the blocklevel copy.

Also we had an issue while performing a P2V conversion to either ESX4 or ESX4.1 hosts. We are using vCenter Server to discover hosts and virtual machines.

Platespin 9 is a must have if you are performing lots pf  X2X conversions to vSphere 4.x platforms and using distributed switches for your vm portgroups, when minimum downtime is a must. However, prepare for various issues which can be caused by a lot of things. PlateSpin is not an easy to use tool which guarantees succesfull conversions.

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