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Moving ESXi virtual machines to new host

Posted on 2014-10-02
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Last Modified: 2014-10-10
I've come into a setup with two physical servers.  One server is an ESXi host and the second acts as datastore location, which contains the storage for all the VMs.  I'm going to be adding additional hard drives to the ESXi host so that I can move all the VM to the datastore on the host.  Currently there is not enough storage space on the ESXi host to house all of the VMs.

Because of the current setup, I have to reconfigure the RAID array on the ESXi host to add the storage space for the new hard drives.  So the plan is to add the new hard drives, reconfigure the RAID array and reinstall ESXi.  I then need to transfer the 3 VMs (600GB, 200GB, 200GB) to the datastore on the ESXi host.

My question is, what is the most efficient way to transfer those VMs?  Downtime is not an issue here, but I would like to do this as quickly as possible.

Thoughts?  Thanks very much!
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Question by:SupermanTB
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Expert Comment

by:bluedan
ID: 40357820
I would recommend perform V2V using VMware vCenter Converter Standalone.

You can refer to this great How to Article written by Andrew Hancock
http://www.experts-exchange.com/Software/VMWare/A_13923-HOW-TO-P2V-V2V-for-FREE-VMware-vCenter-Converter-Standalone-5-5-2-OpenSSL-HeartBleed-Fix-included-in-this-version.html

VMware vCenter Converter Standalone Product Download Center
https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/evalcenter?p=converter


Hope this helps
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Expert Comment

by:Uni Kitty
ID: 40357856
My first suggestion would be to use SvMotion (Storage vMotion) if you have that available to you.  You could use NFC (Network File Copy) to transfer the VMs. The VMs must be powered off, and this may take a long time.

Storage vMotion uses the vmKernel datamove which is faster.
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Expert Comment

by:Uni Kitty
ID: 40357882
Bluedan's suggestion of using P2V is great and will also work on running VMs. This has saved VMs in the past for my customers.  For example after we lost access to the ESX host console and found out the underlying datastore was damaged! Worked like a charm to create a whole new VM structure and save the VM.

Great suggestion!
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LVL 119
ID: 40358028
If you are going to P2V or V2V, read my FAQ.....

HOW TO: FAQ VMware P2V Troubleshooting

(sometimes it's not plug and play!)

I think it's easier to export your VMs to an OVF, and then Import the VMs later.

See my EE Article, Step by Step Tutorial with instructions

Part 10: HOW TO: Backup (Export) and Restore (Import) virtual machines to VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.1 for FREE

If you have a Licensed version of VMware vSphere, you could also use one of the many free trials of Third Party Backup software offered by Veeam Backup and Replication, VM Explorer by Trilead, of the up and coming Nakivo Backup, the guys here love it!

http://www.nakivo.com/

But if you want something quick with no installation, Export to OVF, Import from OVF (included with vSphere!)

Do you have two ESXi Servers ?

Do they share a datastore ?

you could also Migrate as follows ?

HOW TO: "Live Migrate" VMware Virtual Machines between ESX/ESXi hosts and/or datastores for FREE without licenses for vMotion or Storage vMotion
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40358049
Thanks for the solutions guys.  Unfortunately I don't have vMotion, so that is out.  Aside from that, it looks like my two choices are to use Converter to do a V2V conversion or either export and then import via OVA, Veeam, etc.  FYI, I will have Veeam at my disposal.

The question is, which do you think will be faster given the size the VMs?
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LVL 119
ID: 40358122
Export to OVF!

Import from OVF!

(make sure you also dismount and remove and ISO connected or floppy!)

You'll then have an exact "copy", not a conversion! which "can" change your OS.

Also remember it's a lot of data to shunt, so patience is always required.

Do you have Access to an NFS datastore, you could use some "swing kit", Move the VMs to NFS datastore attached to ESXi, re-build your ESXi server, and then re-attach the NFS datastore and move back!

This is quicker!

What is the server? It does not support HOT RAID rebuild ?
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40359277
For the OVF import/export, wouldn't that take longer?  I would have to export the VM to an OVF, transfer it somehow to the new datastore and then import it.

Unfortunately the RAID controller does not support HOT RAID rebuild.  

Regarding your "swing kit" scenario, I would still have the problem of moving the VMs from the NFS datastore to the datastore on the ESXi host?

Thanks very much for your assistance!
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LVL 119
ID: 40359383
Export/Import when we've tested is quicker than a V2V conversion.

Just just Export to a workstation, and then Import back.

V2V Conversion is a Conversion to a Windows Share, and then Convert Back, and more to go wrong!


Regarding your "swing kit" scenario, I would still have the problem of moving the VMs from the NFS datastore to the datastore on the ESXi host?

You would just use the Migrate option, or Copy/Paste between datastores, or copy from the ESXi server connected to NFS and Local Datastore (quick!)
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Expert Comment

by:Uni Kitty
ID: 40359804
If you can share both datastores with the ESX host, you could do a cold migration. I'm not sure what version you're on but the details can be found in VMware's documentation guide, search for Migrating Virtual Machines."

This KB may be useful too:
http://kb.vmware.com/kb/900

Try to use existing features of ESX.

I hope all our info helps ya!
Melly
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40359836
As a test, I tried exporting to OVF and then importing.  I have a 40GB Windows Server 2008 R2 machine that I created.  I literally just created it just for this test.  It has the server OS installed, a few files and that's it.  I exported machine per your instructions as an OVF to my local machine.  I then deleted that VM from the host and restored the OVF from my local machine.  When I did that, the VM powered up and everything looked as expected.

I was surprised at how quickly everything happened.  The export to OVF probably took about 4-5 minutes.  It got about 50% of the way through the export and then the last 50% finished in an instant.  I also noticed the OVF file on my local machine was only ~3GB.  The import process was also very quick.

Again, everything looked exactly as expected when I restored the VM.  I'm just a little skeptical given how fast this was.

Thoughts?
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LVL 119
ID: 40360086
It only copies the "used" blocks in the virtual machine disk.

the virtual disk file size, (vmdk) size is stored in the OVF file.

If you tested that's proof of the pudding!

Andy's Tip
 I would add, if you are dependant on these Virtual Machines, as you are destroying them, because rebuilding your ESXi server, I would make sure you have at least THREE Backups.

We have a motto in our Company, "a backup is not a backup, unless it's stored in three places"

So many Organisations and VMware Admins have gambled with one backup, and when trying to restore it was corrupted!
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40360587
Interesting.  I'm going to give the OVF file a go.  My tests went much quicker than expected and the proof is indeed in the pudding.  Everything worked great.
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LVL 119
ID: 40360679
Good Stuff, just make sure you got good backups!
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40364521
I just ran a test on a larger VM just for giggles.  After about 30 minutes, I got an error message in the VMware  Client saying the export failed due to a timeout.  Thoughts?
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LVL 119
ID: 40364548
Network or Workstation. ESXi server is outputting faster, than workstation can respond

Workstation failed to respond...to network request, it can happen.
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40364569
I don't recall seeing a difference in the error message.  Where can I check?
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LVL 119
ID: 40364576
You will have to look through the vmkernel.logs on the host, and check the client logs.

but the usual error is network, workstation disk.

Check you do have space!
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Author Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40364628
I have tons of space on the workstation disk.  I actually sat there and watched the export...pretty much.  I didn't notice anything funny going on with the network at the time.  

I haven't reviewed the vmkernel logs yet, but I'm doing this export tonight.  it seems the export to OVF is a little sensitive.  I can't afford for a much larger VM transfer to timeout.

I think I'm going to have to use Veeam to backup/restore.  I know that will work.
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LVL 119

Accepted Solution

by:
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2) earned 500 total points
ID: 40364667
There are many methods, as I posted....

There is not a "quick magic way to do this, it's a data move."

If you have Veeam use it! (again, make sure you have good backups!)

and backups to different locations!
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Expert Comment

by:Uni Kitty
ID: 40364710
Andy is right, I wanted to ensure that you reviewed VMware's recommendations too, which are what Andy has recommended. If you can use VMware products that's usually the best bet. Andy already gave you a lot of info there. I'll add this KB - See "Migrating Virtual Machines" from the docs of the version of ESX you're running.

http://kb.vmware.com/kb/900

Good Luck!
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Author Closing Comment

by:SupermanTB
ID: 40373750
Veeam proved to be my best solution.
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