In January, my main project at work was to set up three XenServer Enterprise servers and to convert some of our physical machines into virtual machines. This was my first time working with a dedicated virtualization platform that ran at the bare-metal hypervisor level. My prior experience was using VMware’s free VMware Server, which runs as an application running on a Windows or Linux operating system.
Setting up XenServer was rather eventful, which was a good thing. Converting some of our physical servers into virtual machines, however, proved to be more challenging.
What is P2V and V2V
Physical-to-Virtual (P2V) describes the process of migrating a physical server’s operating system, applications, and data from a physical server to a virtual machine guest hosted on a virtualization platform. And virtual-to-virtual (V2V) is very similar, only you are converting a virtual server on one virtual platform — say VMware — to another virtual platform such as XenServer.
One way to move a physical server to a virtual server is to do it the old fashioned way — manually. Basically I’d do a fresh install of a Windows OS in the virtual environment, reinstall of the applications, and them migrate or recreate all of the settings and data the resided on the old physical machine.
Wanting to find an easy way out, I tried my hand at several fully automated P2V software solutions.
Leostream works by installing software on both your XenServer and the Windows OS that you want to convert. Unfortunately, Leosteam only supports 32-bit versions of Windows, but plans on offering a 64-bit version later this year. This was a setback since I had two 64-bit servers I needed to convert.
As for the 32-bit P2V conversions, they went rather well. I did have problems with one server that had two partitions on a single drive, which Leostream support and I couldn’t resolve.
Platespin’s PowerConvert was, well, more powerful than what Leostream offered. They also offer a free trial for each XenServer Enterprise license. They have a similar arrangement with virtual provider Virtual Iron.
PowerConvert requires a third-party server. While no software installed on either XenServer or the Windows OS you are attempting to convert, you still have to set up a third server to act as the middle-man during the conversion process. There are many more options offered by PowerConvert, which can be configured via a Wizard or Advance mode. While it was nice having more options, it also added complexity.
Just like Leostream, PowerConvert was incompatible with 64-bit versions of Windows 2003. I still need to find a way to convert two of my 64-bit servers.
VMware’s Converter is easily the best P2V utility. It is easy to use, it has always worked, it supports both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows, and it’s free. This is the gold standard of P2V software.
Since Leostream and Platespin couldn’t convert my 64-bit Windows 2003 Servers, I decided to attempt a two-step conversion.
- Step 1: Use the free VMware Converter to conduct a P2V conversion
- Step 2: Use the free XenSource Virtual Disk Migration Utility Version 1.1 to conduct a V2V conversion
XenSource Virtual Disk Migration Utility (V2XVA)
The V2XVA Utility is free command-line tool that will convert VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server/Virtual PC virtual machines to the Xen Virtual Appliance (XVA) format. Though this utility lacks a nice GUI and has zero whistles and bells, it’s free and it works. Best of all, I can convert 64-bit operating systems.
The P2V and V2V Procedure:
- Use VMware Converter to perform a P2V conversion
- Open the newly-created virtual machine in VMware Server
- Install remaining drivers and reboot a few times, but do not install VMware Tools
- Once the new virtual machine is stable in VMware Server, shut it down
- Use the V2XVA Utility to covert the VMware virtual machine into a XenServer virtual machine
- Use XenCenter to import the V2XVA-created virtual machine into the XenServer of your choosing
I guess I would call this my physical to VMware Converter to VMware Server to XenSource Virtual Disk Migration Utility to XenServer conversion. Whew. It may make for a long acronym and take a while to run, but it’s free and it works for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 2003.