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VMWare ESXi Virtualized Hardware Differences

Posted on 2010-08-30
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I work for a small company that recently started to work with VMWare ESXi.  We currently have a single ESXi box that we've been running 4 guests on for a few months now with great results.  We're thinking of buying a second server for ESXi, and I'd like to be able to restore guests between ESXi host servers in case of a hardware failure (the second server would run testing/demo servers, which would be shut down if we need to restore guests from the primary server).  

Since we don't have access to shared storage, I know my options are limited.  I've read about using vConverter and FastSCP to transfer a guest from one machine to another over a network, but I've also heard that the transfer rates can be painfully slow.  I'm thinking we could just restore from windows backup (.bkf) files instead.  I've restored a .bkf to a fresh Windows 2003 install on the same VMWare host successfully.  My concern is that we might run into problems if the physical server hardware isn't identical.

Will the same version of ESXi always present identical hardware to guests, assuming the guest configurations match, regardless of the physical hardware the ESXi host is installed on?  Or can there be differences?

Thanks
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Question by:Eric_PSU
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 400 total points
ID: 33560817
Yes, ESXi will always present identical hardware to guests, regardless of physical hardware in the host. But remember AMD and Intel processors in the host will also be different in the guests.

This is why it's such a great infrasturture for Disaster Recovery to Bare Metal because the Guest VMs are always the same.

The transfer rate will be dependant on how fast your network is. You could use Veeam Backup and Replication or vizioncore Vranger Pro to backup to CIFS (Windows share), and restore to different ESXi host.

I've down this on small sites, an averahe VM (12GB) takes about 30 mins to backup, and 30 mins to restore, I think that's a good DR window. If you backup the whole VM, backup and restore is easier, and less to go wrong.

with your example, backing up using Windows Backup, and resoring to a Windows 2003 machine is not exaclty the same as backup and restoring the VM.
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ID: 33560824
but whatever works for your organisation....
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by:bill_lynch
ID: 33560907
If you have big enough storage on the new server to store the vms locally, you can copy them via scp.

http://www.virtualizationadmin.com/articles-tutorials/vmware-esx-articles/general/how-to-access-the-vmware-esxi-hidden-console.html

VMware is basically stripped down Linux.  You can use the instructions above to get to a console.  Then you can change to the directory of the vms /vmfs/storage  then you can use the scp command to copy to the IP Address of the other server.

This can be scripted to run on a daily basis.  
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by:rvivek_2002
rvivek_2002 earned 100 total points
ID: 33561121
I would like to add few points.

1. Yes VMs totally hardware independent (that is virtualization)
2. If your first esx hardware fails, you may not be able to copy the files using any tools (if the hard disk is intact you can try mounting that on a different server), hence just having two server is not a a bckup plan.
3. If you back up the entire virtual machine folder, it is good. However you will have to stop(shutdown) your VM during backup window.  (unless you are using a VMware aware backup software)

4. Restoring from Windows backup is fine. If you uitilize your ESX host more (if you have many VMs and the resource utilization is high), then you should configure your VM back up at different times, to avoid the ESX server getting loaded because all the VMS run backup at the same time.
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Author Closing Comment

by:Eric_PSU
ID: 33561556
Thanks all for the feedback.  It's reassuring to know that .bkf restores should work fine between ESXi servers, in case I end up going with that method for backup and restore.
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