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Converting SBS2011 to VM

Posted on 2014-03-12
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Last Modified: 2014-03-17
Good Day-
I inherited a customer with SBS2011 and I need to get him onto Server 2012.  What's the possibility of virtualizing his existing machine and installing it on the same box under VMware? The intention is to better utilize his existing equipment and migrate him to separate SQL server.  Outsource his exchange server.

Your input both positive and negative are most welcome.
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Question by:OnsiteSupport
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by:Zephyr ICT
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It's possible ...

You can do a P2V for the SBS2011 using VMware converter standalone, then after you've set up the server with VMware you can do a V2V from the SBS (from Workstation format to vSphere format so to speak).

Just make sure when doing the conversion that you disable all services and make sure no traffic is coming in anymore. Then when booting up the converted machine the first time, remove the old network cards and all other services not needed anymore (e.g monitoring software from HP or DELL or something).
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by:Steve
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Hi OnsiteSupport,

It is possible to virtualise SBS but it's a bit messy as SBS doesn't really like being a VM in the first place. P2Ving it is even messier.

As long as you take care you can certainly do it.
*DO NOT JUST DISABLE SERVICES*

Firstly ensure you P2V in DS restore mode. this is critical to ensure that you do not corrupt your Active Directory database.

Secondly, when you boot up the newly created VM, ensure you boot into DS Restore Mode again and NOT into a normal bootup.

This is so you can fix the VM before SBS starts everything up and goes mental.

In DS restore mode:
> amend the NIC so the new VM NIC has the SAME IP address as the original NIC.
> Remove any hardware specific software (RAID stuff, dell/HP management stuff etc)
> ensure all disks are available and happy.

Once you are happy it's all good, go ahead and reboot into a normal startup.

Once its running you often find a few unrecognised devices, as SBS doesn't recognise a few drivers/devices that are used in VMware & hyper-v. There isn't much you can do about this, but it should mostly work OK.

In general, SBS is a very busy/resource hungry system and it doesn't play well with other VMs. Ensure you are planning sufficient resources for the VM or you will badly affect SBS. Disk access & memory are the two big hitters. Make sure you provision enough memory and try to keep SBS stuff on separate disks to other VMs if practical.
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by:OnsiteSupport
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totallyonto. thanks for your input.  I'm not surprised at all.

thinking an intermediate physical machine to restore to. then migrate the domain to 2012 on the good box, if thats at all possible.

hands are tied no matter what we do.
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by:Steve
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you could certainly move SBS to another machine temporarily if you plan to re-use the current hardware, but its one hell of a process to follow.
Using the P2V method is probably the least messy, as restoring SBS to new hardware directly is even harder.
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Lee W, MVP earned 167 total points
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I would ask totallytonto to be more specific because I very much disagree with the comments made.

P2Ving (which I concede I haven't done all that much - I tend to install cleanly) has never that I've heard of corrupted AD unless someone has done something really bad like P2V and boot the V while the P is still powered on.

Further, all my SBS 2011 deployments are done in VMs and the only thing SBS 2011 doesn't like about being in a VM is if you need to use Fax services.  Otherwise, there is no issue I can think of.

In general, SBS is a very busy/resource hungry system and it doesn't play well with other VMs. Ensure you are planning sufficient resources for the VM or you will badly affect SBS. Disk access & memory are the two big hitters. Make sure you provision enough memory and try to keep SBS stuff on separate disks to other VMs if practical.

As for being resource hungry, yes.  Busy, not really... in my opinion.  CPU utilization on my busiest 4 core or more system is 20% during peak times (that doesn't mean I don't spike to 100, but that over a period of time it averages 20%).  And I disagree about "playing well with other VMs" - like ANY VM, you need appropriate hardware to support the VM.  Disk for ANY serious of VMs is an important factor.  And RAM issues are in part due to Exchange and the SQL instances. This is why (on Hyper-V - I don't use VMWare) you do NOT use Dynamic RAM with an Exchange or SQL server (or SBS Server).
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by:OnsiteSupport
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Thank you all for your input.  It's crippling to have a 10 person office using heavy SQL and Exchange on SBS 2011.  Hoping a complete domain rebuild will not be necessary.  They are trying to minimize costs.
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by:Steve
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Hi Lee,

With regard to P2Ving a DC, I have always believed you should always do P2V in DS restore mode as P2Ving any live database can cause corruption if the P2V software cannot request the application to clean the DB before it is copied. Many P2V apps are known to have this issue with AD.

DS restore mode is the only situation where a DC (in this case SBS) can be running without having the NTDS.dit files open and in use.
Otherwise an OFFLINE P2V is best ensure corruption is kept to a minimum. AD can fix itself in many cases so I acknowledge it is often fine, but its best to avoid the corruption in the first place.

While some versions of ESX & Hyper-v don't officially support SBS (and can result in a few unrecognised drivers) the primary reason for not P2Ving it would be performance in my opinion.
SBS is a very busy server, with a mix of various bits of software that shouldn't really ever run on the same box, according to many best practices (exchange shouldn't really be on a DC to start with, for example)

The primary idea of virtualising is to share resources between multiple VMs to make the best use of the resources available.
As SBS is a very busy server (SBS is well known for causing heavy disk access) the resources being shared should be carefully considered to ensure the SBS isn't going to affect any other VMs in use.
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by:OnsiteSupport
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if the only intention of P2V is to free up the existing hardware to create a virtual environment then perhaps the argument regarding resources doesn't apply?
if building a dedicated DC immediately after P2V AND migrating off of sql and exchange were doable in 3 days time?
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by:Steve
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You're quite right. The advice given above is a general consideration for virtualising SBS servers, but it is only a temporary step so it's certainly possible as advised in my original post.
If you intend to run only the SBS server on a dedicated host, the resources are not going to be shared with other VMs so it's not such a big deal, assuming the additional overhead of running a VM system isn't an issue as this does need to be considered.

If you intend to run any other VMs it definitely applies though.
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