For one of my customers I have been using PlateSpin Migrate for performing Physical to Virtual conversions. We had both Dell and HP servers which were converted to virtual machines running on VMware ESX 3.5. During the project we converted around 40 physical servers. PlateSpin Migrate is also able to convert to Hyper-V hosts, Citrix XenServer and Virtual Iron hosts.
We used both versions 8 and 9 for our conversions. For a review of Platespin migrate 9 see this blogposting https://up2v.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/platespin-migrate-9-review/
To compare VMware Converter and PlateSpin 9, see this review https://up2v.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/vmware-converter-40-versus-platespin/
During the conversion I learned a lot about the product and I want to share my experiences with those looking for more info on PlateSpin Migrate 8.
Selection of P2V tooling
The two most used tools for performing P2V conversions are VMware vCenter Converter (standalone version and vCenter plugin) and PlateSpin Migrate. VMware Converter is free of use and has a lot of options available. For a lot of situations this will be a good tool to perform a P2V to a VMware infrastructure.
There are severall reasons why to choose PlateSpin Migrate over VMware Converter in a situation where the target platform is VMware:
- The ability of PlateSpin to perform a block based or file based synchronization of data. This strongly reduces the downtime of an application.
- The ability of PlateSpin migrate to align VMware virtual disk files. Alignment is especially important when virtual machine demand a lot of disk resources. For more information on the importance of alignment http://vmtoday.com/2010/06/storage-basics-part-vii-storage-alignment/
VMware Converter will not align your virtual disk files. PlateSpin Migrate will align the virtual disk files, however only the first partition on the virtual disk. This is one of the reasons to always select an unique virtual disk file for each partition. Another reason is eing able to store each virtual disk on different disk types (FC storage, FATA storage etc)
- The ability to perform a V2P conversion. A couple of application managers were worried about the performance of the application once it was running on a virtual server. If a performance issue would arise after some there must be a way to take the physical server back in production. PlateSpin Migrate is one of the few of not the only tool available to perform a V2P conversion.
The main reason to select PlateSpin for this project was the ability to prepare a virtual machine during production hours and using synchronzation of changed data reducing the time needed during off hours to perform the actual switch from physical to virtual.
PlateSpin Migrate is part of the Portability Suite which also hold the Protect module. I used version 8.1.3.
During office hours we performed an initial live migration (source server remain operational) P2V. This job created the virtual machine and copied the data. A few days later during off hours, we created a synchronization job. This copies only the changed data (either files of bits) to the already created virtual machine. This reduces the downtime of the application. It also reduces the time, and thus costs, of IT staff performing the conversion, and application management staff to test and accept the virtual machine. Most servers were down for 1 hour for conversion to a virtual machine.
We saw average tranfers speeds of 40 GB per hour for the conversions.
Setup of PlateSpin Migrate is a straight forward process. The software constist of a database used for storing information on jobs, status of jobs and inventory of physical and virtual server, hosts and vCenter Servers. After setup has competed, a discovery of the vCenter Server is done for inventory of the VMware hosts. For the ESX 3.5 host this went without problems. To discover the vSphere 4 environment I had to create a standard switch on each ESXi 4 host to be able to complet the discovery job succesfully. Next step is disovery of the physical servers. Most servers were Windows 2003 and disovery went without problems. A few Windows 2000 servers had problems during discovery. This was mainly because corrupted WMI on the physical server, or lack of Admin$ and C$ administrative shares.
Documentation of the product is quite basic. The install guide does not tell you how to create a situation which enables a situation of both physical and virtual server to be running at the same time with the same IP-adress and hostname. When jobs fail the job points to an URL part of the PlateSpin Knowledgebase. However, this URL leads most of the times to zero articles describing the problem. This was one of the main reasons to create several blog postings on the product.
Support of PlateSpin was very, very good. Within a few hours after entering a Service request in the Novell portal I was contacted by a PlateSpin technician to assist in solving the problem. This was either done by email, by phone or by a websession in which the technician could see the PlateSpin client running on my desktop or server. Most of the issues were resolved quite fast.
PlateSpin Migrate is easy to install but hard to get it on. A correct working depends on a lot of components. Correct configuration of the source server for discovery and installation of agent (think about WMI, remote registry, admin shares), configuration of firewall ports, permissions on vCenter Server, setup of vCenter Server, storage, networking, DNS, etc etc. We experienced quite a few issues during the P2V’s we performed. Some are documented in this blog article https://up2v.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/platespin-migrate-troubleshooting/
Lack of support for the most recent software features
PlateSpin Migrate is considered to be one of the best tools for performing X2X conversions. It is strange though that Novell is slow on adjusting their software to the latest releases available. For instance PlateSpin Migrate is not supported to run on a Windows Server 2008 R2 while it was availble for a long time (as was in April 2010).
A bigger issue is the lack of support for distributed virtual switches! If your target servers are ESX4i servers and you are using distributed virtual swiches with virtual machine portgroups created on it, you will not be able to perform a conversion. PlateSpin migrate is only able to use standard, local switches with a virtual machine portgroup!
It can be solved by dedicating one of your ESXi hosts as a landing host. This host will have a standard switch with a virtual machine portgroup. After the P2V has finished, disconnect the server from the portgroup and connect it to a production virtual machine portgroup. A real puty you have to perform a workaround. Support for distributed switches should be available in June 2010 according to this article: http://www.virtualvcp.com/content/view/123/2/ and this article http://virtualnut.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/platespin-migrate-dont-remove-your-local-port-groups/
Also PlateSpin Migrate is unable to create a thin provisioned disk during the conversion. Novell PlateSpin does not have plans to add support in the near future. This means after the conversion has finished, you have to perform a storage migration to convert the thick disk to a thin disk. VMware Converter 4 is able to create a thin provisioned disk.
I think PlateSpin Migrate is a very usefull tool to perform X2X conversions. If ten or less servers need to be convert, you better use VMware Converter. It is free and does the job well enough. To understand PlateSpin Migrate and get the benefit, you will need to perform quite some conversion first.
Support of the product by the PlateSpin staff is wonderfull. They are dedicated to solve your issues and answer questions. Documentation and the online resources like knowledgebase can be improved a bit.
The lack of support for distributed switches is an important shortcoming of the product. In version 9 of Migrate support for distributed switches has been added. Also, the number of different issues encountered during the various conversions does not give the product a stable and robust impression.
The ability to be able to synchronize data (reducing downtime and working overtime ) and the ability to align virtual disks could be the main reason to select PlateSpin Migrate over VMware Converter 4.