Tuesday, January 21, 2014

VMWare 5.5, Vconverter and VSphere Client tips

Let's face it, when you think virtual servers, Microsoft isn't the first name to jump into your head.  VMWare shows up a whole lot more than Hyper-V and chances are if you're in a large enough organization it's the one you've got to manage.

The latest incarnation is version 5.5 which is primarily an answer to a laundry list of bugs that started with the 5.0 platform. 

For most people, the first time they get to play with virtualization is in a sandbox like VirtualBox or VMWare Workstation.  But what if you want to go beyond just taking Ubuntu out for a spin on your Windows desktop?

That's where ESX comes in and even in a large deployment you're going to find out that your most important tools are deceptively simple.  That being the VSphere Client and VConverter.

The whole concept of Virtualization revolves around the Host.  It's the container (hardware) that all your virtual machines live on.  While VMWare's VCenter suite has a number of tools and features to help you manage the virtual enterprise nothing really ever strays that far from those two tools.  Know them and you've got a handle on 80% of what VMWare is all about.

The VSphere client is your portal into managing a single VMWare host and while you can learn a lot by creating a Virtual Machine from scratch on it most people take a shortcut.  That shortcut is provided by VConverter which lets you take an image of your physical PC and migrate it to and ESX Host.  It's called Physical to Virtual Migration or P2V for short.

As VMWare has matured so have the tools.  VConverter now allows you to use backups from programs like Acronis True Image and Symantec to create a new virtual machine.  It also allows the import of Microsoft Virtual PC and HYPER-V images and a few other formats as well.  In fact, VConverter is so versatile that its VM's can often be used in other virtualization platforms like VirtualBox. 

That's the good but of course there's always a few bad apples in the bunch.  The most annoying of which is the fact that VConverter still needs Windows.   Speaking of windows, migrating a Windows installation often requires having full administrative privileges on the machine running VConverter as well as the disabling of UAC (User Account Control) on the Windows P2V target.  Those aren't exactly best security practices in my book.

That there isn't a native Linux version of the VConverter utility only exacerbates nagging problems with migrating Linux deployments to the VMWare platform.   

That doesn't mean you can't move Linux PC's to ESX or even Workstation.  The option is there, it just doesn't always work and requires a lot of configuration of the Linux host just to find out it doesn't.
Still, getting familiar with the tools is a worthwhile endeavor and can only add to your arsenal of IT skills. 
It's said a picture is worth a 1000 words so a video should be worth at least twice that, so I've provided one below...


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