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physical disks to virtuals

I would like to convert my physical disks to virtuals.  Some of these could reach 80 to 100 GB of size.  Is there any issues with this or recommendations?  Just want to make sure before proceeding.
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jcs1977
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jcs1977
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jhyieslaCommented:
If you're talking about converting a physical box to a VM, the VMWare converter does a really good job. I'm getting ready to do a server that has 400 GB on it and I expect that it will go well.
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jcs1977Author Commented:
Cool, good to know, wasn't sure if there was a limit or anything.  
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JasonSTL739Commented:
There is effectly no realistic limit.  I have built server with 2TB .vmdk's before, so 80GB or 100GB is not an issue even under the hosted (VMware workstation or VMware Server) virtualization platforms.

Be sure to get the latest version of VMware Convertor.
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HeinoSkovCommented:
a P2V process can be complicated and result in dangerous situations if you dont know the key features.

VMware Converter have several features.

Cold Cloning - Boot of a CD Image to WinPE and load converter in this. The most safe approach
Hot Cloning - If drivers is not available on the CD Image for the hardware that your running, this could be your solution. However be carefull.. Cloning a server with transactional databases, such as Exchange, SQL, AD etc could result in data loss. Especially AD could be very dangerous resulting in USN Rollback of the Active Directory.

General advise regarding AD servers is to run DCPROMO and remove AD from that server. P2V it and rerun DCPROMO to make it a DC again. Remember DNS; DHCP, FSMO Roles and GC roles as well. They need to be transfered to a different DC. I would instead prefer to manually install DCs on the virtual environment and move AD the tradiontional way.

Regarding sizes, as mentioned above theres no teoretical counter on how large they could be. It will work - however just take longer time. So it depends on how long your server can be offline for users.

General advise on hot cloning is to Disable all non-windows services, such as SQL, Exchange, Antivirus, Firewall etc. Run the convert process and enable the services again.

Also another big show stopper would be access between networks which is protected with firewalls. If possible use the CD Image and do a cold clone and move the network cable to the same network during conversion, to avoid firewall issues. After conversion change the nic settings on the new virtual server.

Also P2V is heavily depended on name services is available such as DNS servers.

Regards
Heino
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jcs1977Author Commented:
Thank you for the responses.  I  have 3 servers that are 3 separate domain controllers for a small company.  Why you ask, I didn't set it up.

 I can take my servers down nightly without a problem.  I would like to turn services off, run a hot clone and fire back up when complete.  Network is not an issue.  Do you recommend this?  How do I start/stop Active Directory.  I also don't see a way where I could export my users and group policies.  As you can probably tell I am a beginner on AD but learning fast.
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JasonSTL739Commented:
If they are only running as a domain controller(s), you really don't need to shutdown services.  A hot clone will work fine.  Just try to keep changes in the environment to AD to a minimum during that time.

Be sure you do NOT resize the root volume of the server as you migrate it to virtual or it will corrupt the cloned copy.  This is a very common mistake when P2V'ing a domain controller.

Overall, you should literally be able to install VMware convertor on the actual DC, run the import, shutdown the physcial, and turn on the virtual.  Convertor makes it pretty easy!
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HeinoSkovCommented:
I would NOT recommend a Hot clone of a Domain Controller.

The reason is that changes to the DC could happen, after the ntds.dit (active directory database) is copied across. When you then shot down your physical server and start the virtual server. Then AD will detect that some changes is not correct and it will think that it was restored using an unsupported restore procedure.

I think the risk is not worth it.

Heres some other usefull links:

Virutalization of Active Directory - http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=352424¨
Considerations when hosting Active Directory domain controller in virtual hosting environments - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/888794
Virtualizing a Windows Active Directory Domain Infrastructure - http://download3.vmware.com/vmworld/2006/tac9710.pdf
How to detect and recover from a USN rollback in Windows 2003 Server: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/885875/
How to detect and recover from a USN rollback in Windows 2000 Server: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/875495/
P2Ving Domain Controllers - http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=390630
Virtualize Domain Controllers or not? - http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=81928&messageID=630985#630985
What machines should not be converted - http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=73357 

If you read through those links, you will find that a lot of people ran into problems P2Ving Active Directory.

Solution - build new servers and run dcpromo or remove AD from the physical servers before P2Ving.
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JasonSTL739Commented:
Regardless what you are reading from 2006 posts on a forum, and even the slidedeck from VMworld 2006, the latest versions of Convertor are able to P2V a DC pretty well; provided the system disk is not resized.   It is fact, and reflected by dozens and dozens of P2V's I've guided in the field over the last 12 months.

It is certainly best to rebuild a DC moving to virtual, there is no arguement there.  However, as this poster mentioned around AD knowledge, not everyone is familiar with AD to be able to rebuild it.  It is often a better, easier option to simply migrate the existing server... or at least attempt it.  The risks around changes to a domain afterhours is very minimal.  
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HeinoSkovCommented:
I agree that it is possible.

I just had customers doing hot migrations without knowing what they were doing which resulted in USN rollback. We had to restore the AD 2 month back - because objects got tombstombed after 60 days, and they didnt check their eventlogs for errors...

It was 2 weeks ago that i had to recover their AD - so this is not from 2006.. It happens.
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jcs1977Author Commented:
uh oh my main reason to virtualize was the root drive was about filled up and I can't patch.
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jcs1977Author Commented:
so I guess my total situation is I have 3 servers that are each a domain controller, 2 of which only have maybe 20 users each.  The disk space is down to 2 gb and 1.5 on another and they have not been patched for a while.  The servers are also very old and not in a good environment.  What a mess...
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HeinoSkovCommented:
Well - if you want do solve this - two options...

1. Run DCPROMO to remove AD from a server then use P2V tool and make the disk larger. When P2V is done - run DCPROMO again to make it a domain controller again.

2. Build new servers in the virtual environment and use traditional ways of move Active Directory to a new platform.

I would pick solution 2 - without a doubt. Your mentioning that your servers isnt patched. Clean the whole thing up by installing new virtual machines would probably be the fastest approach.

But it depends on what these servers also is hosting of features and applications.
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jcs1977Author Commented:
Thanks HeinoSkov, I wish you lived in Ohio :)
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JasonSTL739Commented:
Ah yes.... in the case you have a filled up root drive.... it is game over for P2V for a DC!

I also would pick solution 2 from HeinoSkov's list there.... especially since you have three DC and obviously have some flexibility.
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