Microsoft Virtual Machine Converter 3.0 will support Physical to Virtual conversions

Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 had the ability to convert physical servers to virtual machines (P2V) running on Hyper-V. For some reason Microsoft removed the P2V ability in Virtual Machine Manager 2012 R2.

Microsoft’s other tool for conversion is called Virtual Machine Converter. This free tool does not require any System Center component and is used to convert VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V or Azure (VHD format). Conversions can be performed using the console or using PowerShell. The current version is 2.0. It allows for a maximum of 3 parallel conversions running on the server which has Virtual Machine Converter installed.

Version 3.0 available in fall 2014 will support Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversions.

VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 5.5 released

Shortly after the release of VMware vSphere 5.5, VMware released its free converter tool vCenter Converter Standalone version 5.5.

Converter Standalone is a feature rich, mature tool for conversions of many types of workloads  to VMware virtual machines. It allows Image to Virtual (I2V) , Virtual to Virtual (V2V)  and Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversions. For obvious reasons this tool cannot be used for conversions where Hyper-V is a target server.

The VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 5.5 includes the following new functionality:
•Support for virtual machine hardware version 10 (62TB disks, virtual SATA controllers, etc.)
• Support for RedHat KVM virtual machines as a source
• A new option for selecting the network adapter for the target virtual machine
• Support for additional guest operating systems
• Parallel disk conversions
• Virtual SAN support

vCenter Converter has many interesting features. It is able to convert virtual machines with no downtime according to the release notes. I have not used Converter for a while and did not know conversions can be done without any downtime. I was under the impression there is always a short downtime.
Converter is able to do a two step conversion. First it copies all of the data of the source server to the target. The target remains offline. Then it can do a synchronization between source and target to move the delta or changed data. After that the source server is switched off (or disconnected from the network) and the target server connected to the production network.

Virtual SAN support is another interesting feature. Because VSAN uses an object based filesystem  instead of VMFS being block based or NFS being file based, Converter needed to be adjusted for supporting Virtual SAN.
Curious how long it will take before other V2V / P2V vendors start to support Virtual SAN.

The release notes are here.

Download VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 5.5  here

MAT (powered by Project Shift) converts from VMware to Hyper-V in less than 5 minutes

With Microsoft Hyper-V having  a rich feature set and offering a low cost purchase model,  current VMware vSphere customers may be  looking into using Hyper-V as an alternative.

However converting VMware virtual machines to Microsoft Hyper-V can be a complex and time consuming task when many vm’s are involved. One of the challenges is downtime. Because VMware is using a different format for its virtual disks than Hyper-V does, traditional conversion tools need at least one hour to convert, reboot, post processing and create a new VM.  Conversion is done cold, so during the conversion the VM is not available. That amount of downtime can be unacceptable for hosters and enterprises often  having SLA’s with 15 minutes of service windows or less,

If downtime is no issue, many tools are available. 5nine Software for instance has a free V2V conversion tool. Easy Converter can be downloaded here.

Customers of NetApp are lucky. They are able to convert from VMware to Hyper-V (or the other way) in minutes by using free NetApp Powershell tooling. This feature is called NetApp Project Shift and is currently in Tech Preview.

By using  a cmdlet part of the Data ONTAP PowerShell Toolkit  a 40GB VMDK file is converted  to a VHDx  in about 5 seconds. Then using additional tooling a new Hyper-V VM is created, VMware tools are removed and within 5 minutes the conversion is done using a single reboot. Magic!

Shift  supports bare-metal shifting with P2V &  V2P and cloud shifting or V2V between Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware vSphere. It only supports NetApp to NetApp conversions as it requires FlexClone which is a feature within Data ONTAP.

More info and a MUST SEE video in a blog written by Vaughn Stewart (Director of technical Marketing at NetAppTech Preview: Shift Cloud Platforms without Migrating Data

Microsoft extended NetApp Shift. It combines  scripts available in the Microsoft Migration Automation Toolkit (MAT) with the Shift technology. Microsoft calls it MAT (powered by Project Shift), a cold conversion technology that operates at warm conversion speed. It can convert most VMs with less than 5 minutes of downtime (and most of that it waiting for VMware tools removal).

MAT (powered by Project Shift) enables an automated conversion of VMware vSphere virtual machines to Hyper-V with less than 5 minutes downtime.

Read more about it here.

Also more on MAt in this NetApp blogpost,  

Download the technology preview of MAT (Powered by Project Shift) here.

Peter Noorderijk of Hyper-V.nu earlier blogged about NetApp Shift here.

More info

Converison VMDK  to VHDx or VHD

Project Shift NetApp MAT Microsoft

The Migration Automation Toolkit (MAT) is a collection of PowerShell scripts that will automate VM conversions. This version of MAT is powered by NetApp’s Project Shift (which are powershell cmdlets found in NetApp’s Data ONTAP PowerShell Toolkit version 3.0. Like the orginal MAT it is back ended by a SQL instance (SQL Express will work). MAT (powered by Project Shift) is able to convert VMs at incredible speeds. Most VMs are fully converted in under 5 mins, so that even customers with very small service windows can use the toolkit.

The MAT (powered by Project Shift) REQUIRES a NetApp storage device that is running ONTAP version 8.2 or later.

Prerequisites: ————–

  1. Data ONTAP PowerShell Toolkit version 3.0 from NetApp
  2. PowerCLI 5.1 from VMware (used to collect VMs)
  3. SQL Express or any other SQL Server Editions
  4. A Windows account with rights to execute MVMC locally
  5.  A Windows account with rights to schedule tasks on remote systems and run MVMC (if using remotes)
  6. A VMware account with admin rights to the ESX server or vCenter
  7. An account with local admin rights to the guest VM (if the above account does not)
  8. A NetApp admin account with rights to the controller

Novell PlateSpin Migrate 9.1 new features

Novell released version 9.1 of PlateSpin Migrate at August 5, 2o11. I have not been working with the product for a while so the release was unnoticed by me. Some new features are usefull. Mind that VMware has added some interesting new features in the free VMware Converter. A very usufull feature is the incremental synchronization. This enables to virtualize the source server in two steps. First all of the data while the applications on the source server are active. Then during off hours the incremental data. Read more here.

Release notes of Migrate 9.1 here.
New features are:

Support for SLES 9 and OES2 workloads

The addition of support for migrations of source workloads running SUSE Linux Enterprise 9 and Open Enterprise Server 2 expands the already market-leading range of workloads supported by PlateSpin Migrate.


Bandwidth throttling and compression

Bandwidth throttling gives you a greater degree of control over the amount of network resources used by PlateSpin Migrate during migration jobs. You can now reduce network strain during peak hours, and maximize network usage during off hours.

Compression also allows a greater degree of bandwidth consumption control, by reducing the amount of raw data sent over the network.


NAT Support

Support for Network Address Translation (NAT) environments allows PlateSpin Migrate to now be used in a much less intrusive way for source workloads residing behind a NAT environment. This gives you more flexibility and easier configuration for wide-area-network migrations, since PlateSpin Migrate can now be a viable migration option even in the absence of a Virtual Private Network (VPN).


Thin Disk Support

PlateSpin Migrate now has the ability to leverage the thin provisioning capabilities of the ESX hypervisor. Leveraging thin disks gives you a greater degree of control and flexibility over the total disk storage required for virtual machines. Workloads with large amounts of free space are no longer required to have the same level of free space allocated when converted to a virtual machine.

VMware Converter 5.0 incremental synchronization feature

When performing a conversion of a physical server to a virtual one (P2V)  several tools are available. VMware has been offering the free to use VMware Converter for a long time. Novell  has a commercial solution named PlateSpin Migrate.

PlateSpin Migrate used to have a unique feature which was able to create a virtual machine and transfer all the data while the source server remains online. Then, during a maintenance window applications on the source server are stopped and the changed data since the initial transfer (or delta) is tranfered (synchronization).
The synchronization feature reduces downtime of applications since only during delta transfer the application needs to be shutdown. Good for the end-users and good for the staff performing the conversion during off hours. Instead of waiting lots of hours to complete the P2V data transfer, you now can be ready in less than an hour (after post conversion tasks like removing management software etc).

Since the release of VMware Converter 5.0 the tool has a synchronization option like Migrate is offering. I used both Migrate and Converter and must say Converter works much easier. Migrate needs to prepare the target server and can have issues. Converter simply performs a P2V conversion and the admin selects to synchronize changes.  Synchronization can either be immediately or scheduled. Do not select ‘Perform final synchronization’ when you run the P2V job for for the first time.

A synchronization run can simply be started by clicking on the job used for the initial P2V and select ‘synchronize’. A click on Next and Finish and off you go. How simple is that!

As PlateSpin Migrate works with a helper VM this has much more potential issues than the vCenter Server API communication which Converter is using.
The only feature missing in Converter is the ability to automatically configure the IP-configuration of the target server. This is something which can be automated by PlateSpin Migrate. Also Migrate can be used for other hypervizors than VMware alone.  

Scheduling synchronization only works on vCenter or ESX(i) server 4.0 and above. For older ESX/VC and all Workstation/Fusion/Player only one-time immediate synchronization is supported.

Converter installs the so called “bitmap driver” which is used to track changes on the source between the last and the current synchronization. The idea is to transfer only changed sectors thus minimizing the synchronization time. Since bitmap driver once started cannot be stopped, it is set to manual start rather than an autostart. The idea is if Converter needs to track changes (synchronization) – it will start the driver on demand if not running.

The bitmap driver is installed as service on the source server. The service is called bmdrvr

 Keep in mind that scheduling and multiple incremental synchronizations have a limitation – the target needs to be a VC server or ESX version 4.0 and above. Converting to Workstation or ESX 3.5 does not allow scheduling synchronizations (however one immediate final synchronization is possible).