Converting SBS 2011 to ESXi on same hardware


at a customer I have single SBS 2011, utilizing DC, Exchange and File share as the only server and only DC in domain. Customer wants me to convert this SBS 2011 to virtual machine on ESXi 5.5 u3 on the same physical server which it currently runs on.

How will SBS as a Domain Controller act when it comes up after being shut down few hours due to all conversion tasks? Wouldn't it be lost after awakening, because it does not have and other DC as a reference? I guess I would need to do Authoritative Restore on SBS box when it powers up in virtual environment....or not?

So, taking my concerns into account, I made a hell of a PLAN:
1. ) Setup a temporary ESXi 5.1 with 2 VMs:
- one VM would be Regular Server 2008R2, which I would DCPROMO to SBS domain to act as a secondary DC
- the other VM would be the converted SBS
2.) Then I'd use VMWare Converter, install it into SBS 2011 physical box, shut down some services (like Exchange, Backup etc...temporarily) and run conversion to that above mentioned 2nd VM on temporary ESXi
3.) Then I'd do fresh install ESXi on the phisycal server, overwriting SBS server
4.) Finally, copy over converted SBS 2011 from temporary ESXi to this fresh ESXi

5.) When virtualized SBS comes up, it would have a "reference" DC up and running, so it should just naturally sync all domain services with this temporary DC and no restore would be needed.

Is this a good scenario?
...or should I go some other path? For example by employing SBS 2011 native BACKUP and thereafter RESTORE into virtual hardware, without this temporary DC?
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Andrej PirmanAsked:
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
You can do this P2V conversion very safely....BUT before you do the conversion, and to do it safely with NO Corruption to Active Directory, Exchange, you *MUST* shutdown ALL the Live Services, which means.

1. no AD whilst conversion is taking place.
2. no Exchange or email whilst conversion is taking place.

Is your Customer going to be happoy, waiting for you to

1. Convert the physical server to a VM, somewhere to store it.....
2. Build and Test the ESXi Server.
3. Convert and Transfer it back....

and I would recommend, you have many backup copies, before you do it... so you can rollback in an emergency!

Personally, there are lots of risks here.....

Also is your physical server, on the Hardware Compatibiliy List, what is the hardware, what is the CPU and Memory, is it suitable as a host.

How are you going to backup in the future, and please do not say USB external hard disks!

I'm not sure how experienced you are at doing P2V's, if we were asked, we would tred very carefully, and we do P2V's every day of the week, and we would ensure we had good hardware, tested, and in Production many weeks, before P2V-ing an SBS 2011 server.

Question WHY ? Now ?
Andrej PirmanAuthor Commented:
Well, thank you for comments.

Server is on HCL, I've checked all through, as is RAID controller, that's not an issue. Also ESXi install is OEM build, so 100% fit is guaranteed.

Regarding BACKUP, we have dual backups at all locations, FULL server daily (windows native) backup to local iSCSI NAS, and BUSINESS data + DB BACKUPS to remote Amazon S3 cloud. And I tend to do another backup just prior to any operation.

The process is to be started in SATURDAY morning, so we have 2 full days to finish without anyone complains.

Which method would you recommend:
- multiple conversions as in my plan, WITH temporary Domain Controller?
- or windows backup and restore to virtual environment, WITHOUT temporary DC?
- or something else?
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
It doesn't sound like you're very familiar with Active Directory based on your concerns.  If you're doing this for a client then I would strongly recommend you partner with a consultant who is experienced in it.

Bottom line, in a single domain / domain controller environment, the FSMO master DC doesn't need to see another DC.  IT IS the DC - whether the machine reboots for patching or is shutdown for a week because a hurricane has knocked out power to large area and it takes that long to restore, the DC doesn't matter.  PERIOD.  Active Directory doesn't need to have a DC running at all times.

As for your virtualization platform, I prefer keeping things with one vendor - I'd say use Hyper-V instead.  But aside from preference, it doesn't really matter - any performance differences between platforms are FAR from likely to make a difference - this is one MAYBE two or three eventual servers on this physical server.  You're not trying to run 10, 20, 50 VMs on one physical box where every ounce of power and performance can be vital.  And even then you'll have people argue which is better (no one can legally publish statistics so you can't find them beyond broad VMWare and Microsoft claims).

As for converting your existing VM, if you use the VMWare tools or an appropriate MS tool, you can remain in a supported state.  Your NUMBER ONE GOAL should be to keep your customer's server in a supported configuration.  EVEN IF SUPPORTED, I would suggest a cleaner way would be to do a migration to a new server in a VM. So you'd setup a temporary virtualization server and migrate to a new install on that... once done, you reload the original server with your virtualization platform and move the VM to it.  One catch, your server name must change.  On the other hand, if it's setup properly, that really shouldn't matter.  And you end up with a clean install.

If you P2V and DON'T migrate, once you power up the VM on the production network, the physical server MUST, MUST be off and NEVER EVER COME ON AGAIN (while connected to the production network).
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Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
I would recommend the something else.

1. Shutdown ALL services, as many as possible, AD, Exchange, set to Manual.

2. Install latest version of Converter, Convert, and then spend some time doing all the Post Conversion stuff (at least 1 hour), enter TCP/IP info, install VMware Tools, use the VMXNET3 interface nic. Clear all phantom drivers.

3. Finally set all services to Automatic

4. Reboot.

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Andrej PirmanAuthor Commented:
Well, thank you very much for explanation.

you must know, however, that all this, including my expertise, learning curve etc, is, has been and will be done with as low budget as possible, customer with 40 employees and 1 server is considered BIG customer here, and to accomplish such a job for more than 300 US$/EUR is considered success. Training for "experts" is done in our free time, as we manage to read a document or two after dinner, and I actually do not know anyone in private IT outsourcing world, who could allocate $$$ for proper trainings.  Most of "engineers" train on their 7 yrs old home computers, having VMWare Workstation hacked to play with it at home.
Unfortunately we are very small country with small companies, low budget, low prices and we still need to do our jobs. To earn and learn something.

Regarding standalone FSMO holder, as in SBS, I thought just as you said, but was convinced into my current skepticism just after reading one internet blog. The author was telling about kerberos keys going tombstone and clients being "lost" after few months, if you try to do standalone SBS P2V migration without secondary DC.
But is a learning curve and can adopt what seems to be more true :)

ESXi is a MUST because in near future there will be another Linux VM installed.
Additional server is beyond budget.

But your suggestion about FRESH install vs. P2V MIGRATION makes sense. Although I am not quite sure to be able to do it in 48 hours, since there are Exchange mailboxes, shares, printers etc, which are bound to server name or IP. 40 clients for 300, I'll probably go P2V migration, as I can do it remotely.

But still, suggestions for conversion path:
- temporary DC is now out of equation
- question is, to use Windows SBS Backup/restore
- ...or VMWare Conversion

thank you both!
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
ESXi is a MUST because in near future there will be another Linux VM installed.
So?  Hyper-V supports linux VMs.

Yes, there's a tombstone life, but by default it's 60 days.  If you're network is off HALF that long, it's probably not coming back.  And if it does, you MIGHT just need to rejoin the machines to the domain.  GENERALLY the tombstone problem is greatest for additional DCs that might go offline.

SBS Backup and Restore isn't, I don't believe a supported P2V conversion method.

As for learning, if you can't partner with someone then the wise thing to do is learn it.  You're familiar with the concept of virtualization so that's GREAT.  Start by setting up a test network and doing this there.  If you have never done something like this, the wise thing is to do it!  A few times! to get experience and be able to ask questions when your problems won't impact the rest of the business.  If you can't partner, then learn it and THEN be the guy other guys partner with!
Andrew Hancock (VMware vExpert / EE MVE^2)VMware and Virtualization ConsultantCommented:
VMware vCenter Standalone Conversion with ALL services stopped.

I would be concerned with the physical server, you eventually you want to use as an ESXi server, and if it's suitable to support VMs. Because ultimately, virtualisation is a compromise, and hence this new VM will run slower, than when it was physical!!!! especially disk I/O which is virtualised, if you have a poor storage setup, when you state that budgets are tight.

Are these licensed ESXi servers ? or the free versions ?

and I would practice this! If you've not done it before...

Have a read of my EE Articles, I've written lots on the subject...

HOW TO: FAQ VMware P2V Troubleshooting

HOW TO: Shrink or Reduce a VMware Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) using VMware vCenter Converter Standalone v5.5.2

HOW TO:  Synchronize changes when completing a P2V or V2V with VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 5.1
David Johnson, CD, MVPOwnerCommented:
Asker has stated will be using the OEM version of ESXI.  
Microsoft has free trial versions of almost all of their software. So building a lab / playroom other than some minimal hardware requirements is something you should do to familiarize yourself with different scenarios.

Doing a P2V on different hardware and then wiping the main computer and then installing and setting up ESXI and then importing the P2V media and then configuring it seems to be the approach you want to take..

Taking this approach seems to be in my mind unless things go smoothly a very risky experiment.  I am not comfortable with ESXI but Andy is as that is his bread and butter and he deals with it on a daily basis.

It may go smoothly but what if it doesn't?  You're going to have to have *TESTED* image backups ready to reinstall to set things back to the original installation.  The entire timeline is perhaps less than 1/2 day.  The less experience you have the longer it will take..   You have 2 days to setup a lab with SBS2011 and set it up and do a P2V of it and install it onto ESXI this way you will have some familiarity with the procedure.

Take Andy's advice and start with stopping those services.. WRITE down what you have changed i.e. stopped service and set startup to manual.. Document everything that you do.. This way you won't forget something.. also document your ip addresses (if not already set to static ip addresses) i.e. your network settings.

Do an offline image backup of the original computer FIRST and verify that this backup can be restored onto another computer.. We don't want you stuck in the middle when the customer wants his 'bread and butter' server online.. and everything failed or just doesn't want to work right.. and a roll back fails.
Andrej PirmanAuthor Commented:
Thank you all for your valued inputs. I graded Andrew's answer as a most valuable because he always hit exactly what I was asking, not pointing around.
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