High availability migration

Posted on 2009-05-06
Last Modified: 2012-05-06
Hi Folks,

I'm about to embark on a project to virtualise an existing system that consists of 5 independent systems, and seeking some advice on migration paths.

I intend to build the individual virtual machines using VMWare server, and then copy them to the production server on ESX server or appropriate platform.

My questions are two:

1.  are there any significant barriers to migrate from VMWare Server ('free' version) to a production system with ESX or other VMware product?
2.  what should I be considering now if I expect to improve availability by upgrading to a dual server platform with VMWare virtualcentre for automated fail-over etc?

Thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions,

cheers,  Mike.
Question by:meverest
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 24321047
Not sure why migrate to vmware server when you could just migrate straight to ESX. I think this would be most prudent for your production servers.

For high availabilty(HA) do you have shared storage; such as a SAN or NAS?  This is a must have.
LVL 37

Author Comment

ID: 24321095

thanks for your comments!

The intent to start with VMWare server is because we have an existing production system that we want to virtualise the existing system as an in-house project using our existing infrastructure.  This work will probably be completed before our first customer sign-off, at which stage we will commit to building the production platform.

Thanks for the advice regarding SAN/NAS - is this something that we MUST have even with a single server solution if we want to upgrade to a high availability system?  And what happens when the NAS fails - is it better (or even possible) to use two identical servers with storage replicated in some manner?

Regards,  Mike.
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 24321169
Internal storage is not a recommend solution for HA between ESX servers.  A SAN/NAS is a MUST have to really perform HA.  WHen you talk about HA I think of having more than one system running in conjuction with another in the even that A fails, B can take over within minutes.

Do yo have server that will become the ESX host immediately?
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LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:vmwarun - Arun
ID: 24321813
I would also like to add that, when considering Networking, choose Gigabit Ethernet for effective performance.

What is the Server Model which would host the VMware Server 2.0 ?
LVL 37

Author Comment

ID: 24322680
Hi Guys,

thanks for the comments.  in response to those specific questions, and some additional comments:

1.  we do not have the production system host yet.  that is why we intend to use VMWare server to build the guest systems.
2.  the hardware platform for the VMWare Server development build guest/s is a DELL poweredge 6850.
3.  Yes, definately Gigabit network.  If there is mirroring between servers, we would use a dedicated interface to connect them together.
4.  note that I did not mean to suggest that we want HA 'up front' - the idea is "can we start with a single ESX host with multiple guests, and then UPGRADE to a high availability platform at a later stage - assuming that this CAN be done, then what should we be thinking about now to leave this opportunity open to us"

regards,  Mike.
LVL 19

Assisted Solution

by:vmwarun - Arun
vmwarun - Arun earned 50 total points
ID: 24323616
When buying your ESX Licenses, be sure to buy the Enterprise Edition of VMware ESX since you will not get vMotion, HA and other distributed Services if you are intending to buy Foundation, Standard License.
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 24324071
Actually, foundations DOES give you HA. It also gives you upto 3 servers along with VCB. Every other module is an add-on the Virtual Center Founsations such as VMotion.

For starters, I would recomment you start with VMWare Workstation rather than server. Workstation gives you mothan one snapshot for troubleshooting, 30 days installation support by VMWare rather than comunity support. Also, if something really goes wrong, their techs are available 24/7 for live support.

Other things to consider when you move to ESX, plan for a SAN or NAS for your guest and other shared data storage.
Plan to have 3 servers, 2 as the hosts and the third becomes your Virtual Center and backup server. Although it can be fone to virtualize your Virtual Center server, I would not recommend it.

Assisted Solution

raj27962 earned 100 total points
ID: 24324698
dont use vmware server, use esxi (free standalone version)
since its production make sure the servers you spec up can handel all the vms i.e. if one server fails and ha kicks in and migrates to the other server will the other server have enough ram etc? you can set resource levels however it sounds like these are all prod servers, you might be better of getting 3 esx servers at lower specs than 2 huge ones.
If your planning to upgrade the sys later you need to decide between a fiber chanel san and an iscsi one, the cheaper option is iscsi and will work over gig networking you allready have, i'd get a cheap £100 procurve switch from hp for the vmotioning
if possible keep the database of the vc server
getting a san is a danger in the sense all your eggs are in one basket, the san goes, you lose all servers, it happens more often than people like to admit, one department at work even wiped their san when adding a new server to it which for some reason had been zoned with full access to all luns on the san.....
if your worried about the data then you could do a virtual san, where the data is spread out over multiple servers/sans etc and presented virtually to the esx as one lun, left hand networks virtual san app can do this very cheap and mirror all your data
what i personally do is keep a second san ( cheap sata disks) that i mirror all the data onto so in case of a disaster i can switch to the other san
you prob want to consider backup software in advance and also check out how your ups ties into esx
LVL 19

Expert Comment

by:vmwarun - Arun
ID: 24325104
nappy_d, as per this page HA is unavailable in ESX Foundation Edition -
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 24325366
I am talking about Virtual Center Foundations not ESX foundation. Total cost is/was $2500USD including 1yr gold support.

Expert Comment

ID: 24328339
There's a great deal of good info here but raj27962: I don't agree with your comment about SAN's failing.
Well I guess if you buy cheap SAN's you get what you pay for hey!
Here's the point I think raj27962: was trying to make.
Your SAN is the centre of the universe for your ESX Servers. Don't go cheap with your SAN.
There's always plenty who are prepared to use OpenFiler or the like installed on an old server. Yep it's probably going to fail at some stage. If you bys a SAN from HP, EMC, NetApp ensureing it has redundancy from all facets you'll be fine.
Even the small EMC and Netapp filers have 2 SP's (or heads) redundant pathing etc.
When looking at your conectivity methods you really have Fiber (FC), NFS and iSCSI. ISCSI is generally considered the worst performer of the 3.
NFS is a good tradeoff for most small shops, most SAN's that support IP Storage will support both NFS and iSCSI. FC is a significant investment in switching etc.
Always dedicate 2 NIC ports on each host to your IP Storage network, 2 ports for the service console and 2 or more for your Guest sessions..
Anyway I guess we're getting a bit ahead of our selves here..
When it comes time to budget the new ESX farm it won't be cheap but it will save you $ in the long term and therefore if budgeted over a 3 year term will be cost positive over buying physical servers.  

Assisted Solution

davismisbehavis earned 50 total points
ID: 24345505
Get your licences sorted out ASAP,  VI3 licences will soon not be purchasable as soon as vSphere goes to general release.  I've been speaking to Vmware about this recently trying to buy DRS on it's own and I'm being told it's not going to be possible.  Get onto it it quickly or it's going to cost you more very shortly.

I would definately agree with going for ESXi as opposed to Vmware server,  I'd also recommend looking at some of the Virtual SAN Appliances out there,  that way you can use the local storage on your two servers for the vmotion and HA capability.
LVL 37

Author Comment

ID: 24346799
Thanks for all comments - there is useful detail here for me, but a definitive answer to my question is not quite clear to me.

This is what I can extract from the comments - please correct me if I am mistaken:

1. can I easily copy VMs built on VS to other VMware platforms?
a. YES - but use ESXi instead of VS

2. what should I look out for when upgrading to a high availability system?
a. your concern is NOT VMware - worry about hardware instead (and take haraware comments on board)

If I have not misunderstood the details provided, then that is good enough for me to go ahead with this project with at least some confidence that I won't hit a brick wall down the track! ;-)

Cheers,  Mike.
LVL 32

Accepted Solution

nappy_d earned 300 total points
ID: 24348254
You can move between different VMWare platforms. This is done with the vmware converter.

For hardware that is best suited, please refer to the VMWare Hardware Compatability List.

Bottom line with hardware don't cheap out. Not to say the best hardware won't fail but it reduces your risk. Also get a good on site warranty such as 2hour response 24/7.
LVL 32

Expert Comment

ID: 24348417
LVL 37

Author Closing Comment

ID: 31578777
Thanks everyone for your input!

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