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Virtualizing servers: What to monitor and where to get migration help

A reader is in the process of picking which servers to virtualize with VMware, but like many IT system architects, doesn't have the ideal resources to bring in value-enhancing software or third-party vendors to help with the process. Expert Anil Desai gives him several pointers for his transition, and points him to monitoring tools and where to find information on the process of virtualizing.

We are in the early stages of evaluating VMware and preparing to migrate appropriate physical machines to virtual. We (and I'm sure many of us out there) don't have a lot of money to spend on extra value-enhancing software or third-party vendors to evaluate and install/migrate our infrastructure to virtual.

My questions are: How do we use existing tools to evaluate our current physical processing requirements and convert that information into what we'll need in hardware to meet our virtual processing requirements? Are there best practices for doing this? Can this all be done simply using System Monitor (old perfmon) to evaluate current performance, then matching or exceeding that with the new hardware we buy? What are the rules for translating physical to virtual performance numbers?

Capacity planning and performance monitoring are important concerns when it comes to moving to virtualization, so it's great that you're looking into this ahead of time! In fact, I've created several webcasts and articles related to addressing exactly this issue. Be sure to check out the following on SearchServerVirtualization.com: "How to decide which servers and applications are good virtualization candidates" and "Profiling and load distribution for virtual machines."

To answer your question briefly, I think that the approach that you take to performance monitoring is just as important as your selection of tools. A good start is to use tool like the Windows System Monitor for Windows-based guest and host OS's. Measure statistics related to CPU, memory, disk and network utilization. Tools are generally available for other platforms (such as Linux or VMware's ESX Server platform), though they can be a little tougher to work with.

Unfortunately, there are no "rules" for translating physical to virtual performance. The best way to get the information you want is to build Virtual Machines (VMs) with the configuration you need to support and then to test the VMs under load.

As far as migration goes, you can choose to create new VMs (and manually install and configure your applications), or you can look into an automated conversion process. There are several tools available from Microsoft, VMware and several third-party vendors that can help make the process go much more smoothly. To get started, search for "Physical to Virtual (P2V)" solutions.

Overall, the fact that you're considering performance and capacity issues up-front is a great sign. Feel free to follow-up with other questions, and good luck!

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