Whether you've got physical servers running Microsoft Windows or Windows guests running on Microsoft Virtual Server, VMware Inc.'s physical-to-virtual (P2V) tool is now available to help you port them to the VMware virtualization platform.
Originally announced last fall, VMware Converter has completed its beta and is now generally available. VMware Converter Starter is free and allows users to perform a single migration at a time, while VMware Converter Enterprise comes bundled with a VirtualCenter subscription and allows up to 40 simultaneous migrations.
Converter is an improvement over VMware's previous P2V tool, P2V Assistant, said John Humphreys, program director for IDC's Enterprise Virtualization group, thanks to its ability to schedule multiple simultaneous migrations and perform them remotely.
Converter is also much more reliable than ad-hoc imaging tools like Norton Ghost or Acronis TrueImage, said Timothy Happychuk, regional IT director for Sun Media Corp., a division of Quebecor Inc. in Montreal, Canada.
Happychuk and his team have been aggressively virtualizing legacy servers for more than three years to a pair of IBM 16-way x445s. But until VMware pitched them on Converter, most migrations were done manually because the imaging software didn't always recognize the hardware in Sun Media's legacy servers. Converter has successfully migrated all but one of the two dozen machines Sun Media has presented it with – a "really weird" custom box, according to Happychuk, with Chinese and Russian printed on the circuit boards, Happychuk said.
"The darn thing just works," Happychuk said.
According to Ben Matheson, VMware director of product marketing, the GA product doesn't differ significantly from the beta announced in October. "Luckily, we didn't encounter any major changes – just minor bug fixes and user-interface tweaks."
Linux support lacking
VMware Converter's most glaring shortcoming is therefore the same as it was a few months ago. Anyone wanting to use VMware Converter to migrate a Linux server to a virtual machine is out of luck.
Going forward, though, Matheson did say that the company would consider adding Linux support to the product, even though thus far, the company hasn't fielded tremendous demand for that feature. "We like our Linux users as much as our Windows users," he said.
Matheson also suggested that Converter could eventually be integrated with VMware Capacity Planner, a tool sold as a service that assesses your environment and makes recommendations about what physical machines are good candidates for virtualization, and on what host (See Virtualization planning: Cirba steps in.)
The P2V competition
Despite Converter's free price tag, there's still one major reason to look at third-party P2V tools such as PlateSpin PowerConvert, Acronis FullCircle and LeoStreamP>V Direct: Converter's inability to go virtual-to-physical (V2P). "What about the direction?" asked IDC's Humphreys. "What if you want to switch platforms?"
The ability to do V2P is said to be useful in cases when a server isn't performing well under a virtual machine and needs its own dedicated box.
Nevertheless, Stephen Elliot, principal analyst with IDC's IT management service, doubts whether V2P alone will be enough to prompt users to pay for a third-party migration tool. "P2V isn't a market – it's a niche area of need," he said.