Ok, You’ve researched and spent the money and now you are the proud owner of a hyperconverged system. Or any truly virtualized system, really. If not, why not? So how do I get all those physical servers into virtual servers, or what is commonly referred to as P2V conversion.
Well friend, pull up a chair and let’s discuss how to convert your systems.
There are three ways to get those physical boxes that now crowd your data closet and make it a hot noisy mess into a virtualized state. Which method you chose will depend on several factors. The three are not mutually exclusive, so feel free to use several of these P2V conversion methods in your environment depending on what the specific requirements are for each of your physical servers.
Rebuilding the Server
Rebuild the Server. Over the course of time, and after around 4 dozen service pack updates, there is a lot of trash in a system. Sometimes it is better just to start off fresh. Using this method is best if you would like to update the underlying operating system, or if you are starting to have strange system behaviors. This method is best for standard services like DNS, domain controllers, or application servers that you have clear ways to transfer just the data and configuration files. A clean underlying install of the operating system and application services are a great way to breathe fresh life into an old, tired workhorse of a physical server.
- That clean fresh feeling of a new OS install
- Existing physical servers are up and functional while new server installation occurs
- General installation and configuration issues
- Time restraints – depending on how many servers you are building, well you are building new servers
Utilities. There are as many utilities out there to manage P2V conversions as there are stars in the sky. Everyone has their particular favorite. In essence, these utilities make a disk image copy of your system and convert it to an ISO image, or even into virtual server disk formats. It is the same concept as bare-metal restores. These utilities make an exact copy of your application servers, so all the data and application files stay the same, but so do any strange behaviors that may exist within your Operating System. If your server is operating well, this may be the choice for you.
Unfortunately, these utilities require that your server is off while making this copy. So, plan for a long weekend while this gets done, and make sure that your users are aware that the IT department is closed for business while this happens. So – this if probably not for those highly available services that NEED to be up all of the time. Like your 911 systems or the servers that control ATMs.
- Easy, guided conversion of disk images
- Often converted directly to ISO image
- Conversion often possible between virtual disk formats
- Server MUST be offline to perform conversion operation
- Time consuming
- Application downtime
- Freeware or inexpensive utilities may not have support contracts available
Dedicated High Availability or Replication Software
Dedicated software exists for those servers that need to be virtualized, but can’t be down for the hours that it may take to use the disk utilities that are discussed in the section above. These utilities are pay-for, but fill a need not addressed by the disk image utilities. These utilities often operate like a highly available failover pair. What that means is agents are loaded on two servers, one that is physical and has the information you wish to virtualize – the “source”. The other server is a virtual server with only an OS and the agent that will act as the “target”.
In this scenario, the utility makes a full “backup” from the source server to the target server. Then changes propagate from the source to the target on a regularly scheduled basis. When the cut-over occurs, the physical server goes down, and the virtual server comes up as an exact copy, often down to the same IP addressing. This cutover can often happen in only minutes.
- Less downtime for those critical servers
- Exact copies of functional servers down to the minute
- Support contracts are available
- Often a pay for utility or service. While this may not be an obstacle for IT shops, large numbers of servers mean large licensing fees
- Often takes more time and better scheduling than other conversion utilities
- Small period of time that services are unavailable while cutover occurs
- Invasive – new agent software loaded on source and target servers
We have discussed the three ways that new hyperconvergence or virtualization shops can convert their physical servers to virtual servers. Building new servers, using disk imaging utilities, and highly available utility agents all have pros and cons to address. These three conversions move your physical servers to virtual servers and get you the benefits from virtualization.