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P2V wins, losses: VMware Converter

The road from physical to virtual servers isn’t a freeway…yet. There some potholes that hold up P2V migrations. Here are a couple of views from those who’ve taken a trip with VMware Converter.

Language support issues on VMware Converter caused several P2V mishaps for Robert Sieber of SHD System-Haus-Dresden GmbH in Dresden, Germany. Responding to my blog entry on physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration mishaps, he wrote:

“Mainly all of our tries to migrate from physical to virtual or virtual to virtual failing at 97%. It looks like if there is an issue with the language of the underlying OS. We used German OSes for installing VMware converter and now we are trying to use only English ones. Since we switched to English success rate is somewhat better.

“I really hope that the people who developed ESX server are much better than the one who developed Converter and Capacity Planner.”

Blogger Scott Lowe had mostly good experiences with VMware Converter. Check out his trip through online and CD-boot experiments on his blog. Lowe liked VMware’s network throughput of about 8-9GB per hour and its ability to import directly to VMFS on ESX Server farm with no need to use a helper VM or vmkfstools. On the other hand, he had trouble logging in to VirtualCenter and had to connect to back-end ESX server instead. Booting up seemed to take more time on VMware Converter than on VMware’s older tool, P2V Assistant; but, he says, “this is a very subjective assessment.”

What are your objective or subjective opinions about the state of P2V migration tools? Please comment here, or email me at

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Adam Baum, IT Architect with CIty of Mesa, Arizona, sent me these comments about his P2V experiences. "I've had good luck with virtualization and P2V. Like most companies, we are moving towards virtualization to cut down on capital costs and maximize utilization of existing equipment. We've settled on VMware's VI3 platform and use a few different VMware tools to facilitate P2V. "Some of the apps we have P2Vd in our production environment: Active Directory Blackberry Enterprise Server Lotus Notes Lotus Enterprise Integrator Various FileNet components Citrix Presentation Server SQL Server "Our development environment has even more. We have many more scheduled over the next few months as we move toward our goal of about 70 production systems running in a virtual environment. "All of our P2Vs have been successful.Yes, we did encounter some problems, but these were easilty fixed. Our biggest problem is forgetting to disable a number of the device specific drivers that the P2V software does not deal with. In particular, a few of the HP drivers needed to be manually disabled. The only other issues we've encountered are P2V tool specific. "We like the new VMware Converter, but we've run into some minor gotchas. No matter what I configure a guest to be, VM Converter always seems to create a dual vCPU system. I have to manually reconfigure the P2V'd guest to be single CPU. My preferred method of P2Ving is to boot from the P2V CD. The new VM Converter sometimes links into our network at 10Mbps, half-duplex. I admit that I have not read the documentation so I don't know how to force it to 1Gbps, Full Duplex. The way around this is to boot the server normally and do a live migration. I haven't performed any benchmarking, but it seems to have similar performance characteristics as the other method. "One feature that I really liked in the older P2V software was that it would tell me my network parameters (IP, Speed, Duplex). I don't see this info anywhere in VM Converter. "Again, I have not read the documentation so the answers to all my annoyances may exist in the tool, and I just haven't stumbled upon it yet."
An unknown and unresolved error stymied Puyallup (WA) School District's physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration. Here's what Preston Gallwas told us about this project. He decided to virtualize to simplify a Windows upgrade. "The legacy apps are on servers that have dying hardware. We wanted to P2V them so we could upgrade them to Server 2003 from NT4 and consolidate them into a single Windows installation." His team had tested the VMWare Converter beta on a single server P2V migration, and the process went without a hitch. So, they decided to use VMWare Converter 3 in the project. At first, everything worked, and then it didn't. Gallwas: "The GUI and display went well, up until 99%, before failing with an unknown error. Apparently others on the VMWare forums were having the same problem, but they didn't quite have an answer. They recommended upgrading to 2003 then P2V. Unfortunately, I couldnt do that until I got it into VM stages, due to remnant software that won't upgrade and won't uninstall on that hardware. (Yikes, thank you NT4.)" The P2V project has now been back-burnered; but the experience hasn't soured Gallwas on VMware. He's "evangelical" about VMWare Server and excited that purchasing VMware VI3 is on his team's agenda.
Claudio Gutierrez did a P2V migration in a big copper production company in Chile. He wrote to me about that server consolidation project. His company needed to consolidate and standardize servers to decrease operating costs. He writes" "The physical servers had low utilization, were prone to failures and from different brands." While Gutierrez virtualized on VMWare ESX, he didn't choose a VMware P2V product. Instead, he used the P2V capabilities included with HP Systems Insight Manager. Everything went smoothly, he said: "The end result is three servers with a consolidation of 1:2; i.e., six physical servers were consolidated in three servers." He's taking a wait-and-see approach to future P2V projects. If the virtualized servers work well over the next few months, he said, more consolidation via virtualization will be done.
I have noticed that most P2V issues are related to VMWare's ESX. We are fully deployed using Virtuozzo, and P2V / V2V servers on a regular basis. It's important to remember there are better solutions that just the most expensive product avaliable.
I am the IT Manager in a large pharmaceutical group in Lebanon. I'm using VMWare Server and VMWare Converter 3 to simulate an upgrage from Windows / Exchange 2000 to Windows / Exchange 2003. The P2V conversion was cruitial to simulate an exact environment for the migration, especially that I doubted I had some issues with my AD since our Exchange server crashed and I had to recover it... I had our physical Windows 2000 servers P2Ved using VMWare Converter 3, and I created new Windows 2003 VMs with Exchange and proceeded with many simulation scenarios to pick up the best... I had very minimal problems with P2V, one thing to mention was that one should disable any custom system partitions (like the ones found on HP and IBM servers...). Otherwise, all went fine. The simulation had us discover some of the issues that would occur if we went for the "clean environment" simulation... It left me wondering where we would be without virtualization and P2V, imagining that we had to do it all using physical mahcines few years earlier...