Two of the most common tools used for conversions of physical servers to virtual machines on VMware platforms are VMware Converter and Novell PlateSpin Migrate. VMware Converter Standalone is free to use while PlateSpin Migrate needs a license for every workload (server to be converted).
VMware released in the beginning of June a public beta of the next release of Converter: version 5.
Novell is expected to release a new version of PlateSpin Migrate. Version 9.1 to be released at July 15.
VMware Converter 5 is having almost all the features that PlateSpin Migrate has. The current release of PlateSpin is missing some features which can be quite handy. Being able to thin provision virtual disk is one of those features. PlateSpin has been slow in adopting new vSphere features. Support for distributed switches was also added quite some time after being released by VMware.
VMware Converter Standalone 5 beta.
Version 5 has two interesting new features which are currently only available in PlateSpin Migrate. The first new feature is the ability to align virtual diskfiles with the storage system. This is important to prevent performance issues. A lot can be found on Internet about alignment.
The second new feature is the ability to synchronize data after the conversion has ended. In the current version the process of a conversion is that a source physical server can be running while performing the conversion (hot clone). When the data transfer has ended a last synchronization will take place to make sure the changes in data during the file transfer are copied to the target virtual machine. This does not allow for a conversion split in two jobs in which the last job is to be run during off hours copying only the incremental data. Using PlateSpin it is possible to perform an intial creation of the virtual machine and the data during office hours. Then, at off hours a synchronization job can be performed while the applications/services are down syncing only the changed delta.
With Converter 5 there is also an option for “enhanced synchronization”, allowing to run multiple incremental updates and actually schedule them for appropriate time.
Novell PlateSpin Migrate 9.1
So far there has not been an option in the conversion job properties to set which virtual network adapter should be used. Migrate installs the flexible adapter which. This has been fixed in the 9.1 version. The default logic will be to use the best adapter available on the target host for the VM type being created.
Thin provisioning of virtual disk is a feature that finally will be available in at least PlateSpin Protect. Not sure if it will be available in the 9.1 release of Migrate.
There are still some features on the wishlist. Like the ability to select the VMware paravirtual SCSI controller in the job (choices are now limited to LSI Logic and bus Logic). Also the ability to set the annotations to something else as the default of Migrate ‘Virtual Machine created by PlateSpin on <date> and <time>’ would be nice.
The current version of Migrate can have issues with multi-homed source servers (servers with more than one network adapter). While the deployment of the agent is succesfull, the file transfer will hang at 1 % with an error saying ‘no response on port 3725. This happens because the agent/controller is using the wrong network adapter. Sometimes this can be solved by disabling all but one adapters but this workaround is not usefull for live servers.
The new version of Migrate will include NAT support, which will be beneficial in this type of scenario. Essentially, NAT support allows the user to define the IPs used for communication during the migration jobs. Being able to specify the IP on which both the PS server and source/target servers communicate has proven to be beneficial in cases like this.
Migrate still has some unique features. It will automatically configure the IP-configuration on the target server. Using Converter first the original adapter needs to be removed before the IP configuration can be set on the virtual adapters manually. This is additional labour and can lead to errors.
Also Migrate is able to convert to Hyper-V and perform virtual to physical conversions.