P2V conversion tips and tricks

Update: best practises for using PlateSpin migrate here : https://up2v.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/platespin-migrate-best-practises/

A conversion  of a physical server to a virtual server is the most time efficient way of migration your physical servers applications to virtual servers while keeping the configuration. Basically it copies the bits on the harddisk one to one and creates a virtual disk.

The alternative to a P2V is to create a new virtual machine, install a server operating system from scratch, install the application and configure the whole thing. This is time consuming and might lead to disruption of the application. How well documented is your infrastructure?

A P2V conversion can be performed using several free and commercial tools. Free tools are VMware Converter standalone and vCenter Server Converter. One of the best commercial tools available is Novell Platespin Migrate.

The procedure of a P2V conversion has three phases:

1 – preparation

2- actual conversion

3- post conversion tasks

1. Preparation phase

In the preparation phase, you should make sure you have all the needed information about the server and the applications running on the server. Does the application vendor support running the application on a virtual server. Who  are using the applications; end-users, system admin? What are the Service Level Agreements for the application. Who is the application owner.?Where is the application data located? If the application data is located on a shared storage it does not need to be converted. Exclude those drive letters in the conversion! Mind the configuration of the iSCSI initiator after conversion.

Make sure the network performance is what it should be! I have seen several network issues which caused PlateSpin to need a long time for the P2V process. Switches which were performing at 100 Mbps for example. Perform some simple file copy tests to see if the network performs as the speed it should be. It could save you some hours waiting to have the P2V process complete and will also reduce the downtime of applications/servers!

Also make sure the virtualization platform supports all the VLAN’s and IP-networks as the physical server did!

Make sure the source server data is not adjusted during the conversion. An inconsistent database is not what you want.

Although a live conversion can be performed (the physical server is running during the conversion) applications changing the data on the to be converted disks should be shut down during conversion.   

Another important task is to select the tool right for the job. If you need to convert a small number of conversion, VMware tooling will do the job. For 50 or more servers, consider a look at commercial tooling. I will later explain why.

If the source server is a virtual machine running on Microsoft Virtual Server or Virtual PC , remove the Virtual Machine additions software before you start the conversion. After the conversion, the software cannot be un-installed and you are stuck with a service which cannot be run.

After un-deletion of the virtual machine additions, your virtual server might respond very slowly. Installing the converter agent might take a long time, reboot might take a long time. In that case, shutdown the virtual machine and perform a V2V conversion. In this conversion, the Microsoft .VHD is selected as the source.  

The same applies for converting virtual machines running on Hyper-V.

Check if your physical server is running an OEM license of Windows Server. After the server has been P2V-ed  it will aks for re-activation since it detects it is running on different hardware. In some cases activation will fail because of the lack of hardware. In all cases reactivation of an OEM license is not according to the End User License Agreement. An OEM license is bound to the physical server.

To resolve issues with activation, twooptions are available:

Rick Vanover has an interesting Visio P2V flowchart on Virtualization Review showing the steps and descisions on the inventory phase.

2. Conversion

The actual conversion is done by tooling. I wil discuss three tools which will do the job in short:

VMware Converter 4 is available for free. It can convert runing physical server and virtual servers to Vmware virtual server format (P2V and V2V). It is able to load the virtual machine on an ESX(i) host directly or via vCenter Server. It has quite a lot of options. The partitions of the hard disk can be resized and either be thick or thin provisioned. Thin provisioning will save you a lot of costly shared storage while maintaining the same performance of a thick provisioned disk. Conversions cannot be scheduled by you can run simultaneous conversions.

VMware vCenter Converter in integrated in vCenter Server as a plug in. VMware support this version, while you cannot get support for the standalone version. The interface has much less customization settings compared to the standalone, free edition. It lacks the possibility to thin provision the target virtual disk. The only way to thin provision the disk(s) is to perform a storage migration after the conversion has ended. The vCenter integrated version is able to schedule conversion. So you can run a conversion job in the middle of the night without disturbing end users.

To compare both version see this link!   VMware vCenter Converter plugin version 4.2 is the last version released as this product will be discontinued. VMware will focus on Converter standalone as its only solution for performing conversion.

Vizioncore offers a free converter tool called vConverter SC

Novell Platespin Migrate is a robust tool for performing all types of conversion on a lot of operating systems and file systems. It is one of the few applications able to perform a virtual to physical conversion. It is able to do a lot of post  conversion tasks which otherwise needs to be performed manually. Manually adjusting the configuration of network cards, removing hardware based agents will cost you some time. These costs might justify the cost of buying Platespin Migrate or another commercial tool.

A tool I am not familiar with is Double-Take Move. More info on the website. It seems an interesting solution being able to live transfer a workload with no downtime.

Post conversion tasks

After converion has ended, the virtual machine needs to be adjusted for it’s live as a virtual server. The physical server probably had a lot of software like agents, drivers for scsi controllers, teaming software etc. All of these need to be removed. Also, because new virtual hardware is added to the virtual machine, you will loose your networking configuration. IP-address etc needs to be added.

A batch job to delete HP ProLiant software can be found here

The HP Proliant Support Pack Cleaner v1.1 is a free tool to remove the HP Proliant Support Pack from Virtualized Servers.

Make sure to disable the viruscanner. I have seen slow performance when deleting the Dell Open Manage software. Disable/stopping the McAfee virusscanner helped speeding up the deletion.

You might want to take advantage of the latest drivers for virtual SCSI adapters and virtual nic’s available in vSphere 4. To replace the buslogic parallel scsi adapter by the paravirtualized scsi adapter (PVSCSI). This adapter supports if Update 1 is used, also booting from the Paravirtual SCSI adapter. To replace the default SCSI adapter after the conversion has ended, follow the instructions published on http://www.virtu-al.net/2009/12/02/boot-from-paravirtualized-scsi-adapter/

When you configure the network card with IP-settings you might get the error

“The IP address you have entered for this network adapter is already assigned to another adapter “Fast Ethernet Adapter #2″. “Fast Ethernet Adapter #2″ is hidden from the Network Connections folder because it is not physically in the computer. If the same address is assigned to both adapters and they both become active, only one of them will use this address. This may result in incorrect system configuration. Do you want to enter a different IP address for this adapter in the list of IP addresses in the Advanced dialog box?”

to fix this:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type cmd.exe, and then press ENTER.
  2. Type set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1, and then press ENTER.
  3. Type Start DEVMGMT.MSC, and then press ENTER.
  4. Click View, and then click Show Hidden Devices.
  5. Expand the Network adapters tree.
  6. Right-click the dimmed network adapter, and then click Uninstall.

A manual P2V conversion will take more time than you might think.

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About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

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