VMware Converter 3.0

January 31, 2007

VMware Converter 3.0 was released yesterday. I had played with the tool while it was in Beta – converting VM files from one version to another and a physical machine (just an XP Pro box) to a VM. Everything seemed to work quite well for me during the beta.

The timing for the release was just perfect. I had been planning on converting one of our primary test servers, our ERP test box, to a VM this week. The server in question runs Windows Server 2003, SQL 2000, our ERP software and several other databases. Using the new VMware Converter it took about five and half hours to convert it into a VM. Powering the VM went well, it did some hardware redetection after which I installed the VMware tools and had the server working.

There were several clean-up items I had to do post conversion. First I uninstalled all the HP tools (the physical server was an old DL580). That resolved a couple of start-up errors from the HP stuff looking for devices that were no longer there.

I also noticed the host server was getting hammered processor wise. I suspected this was due from converting from a quad proc server to a single proc, which can cause issues such as this if the OS in the VM is still using a multiprocessor HAL. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like there is a “supported” way to revert back to a Uniprocessor HAL in Windows 2003. Searching the VMware forums a bit I did find this thread:

http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=410987

That has a snippet in there that lets you use devcon to switch back to the Uniprocessor HAL for Windows 2003. I tried it and it worked great! Solved the high processor utilization issue and seemed to run fine. Not sure I would do this on any critical production servers, but should be a handy trick for test systems.

I also needed to resize the disk for the server. I had tried reducing the size of the disk during the conversion and it ended up with only 2GB free on my DB partition. I used vmware-vdiskmanager to add another 12GB to the disk. I could have tried using diskpart in Windows to expand the partition, but from looking at it it didn’t appear that it was going to like doing the system drive. So I used the GParted Live CD to resize the partition which worked very well.

With that done, the server was up and running in a VM. So far everything seems to be working well. A very cool tool!


Virtual Appliances

January 28, 2007

There has been a fair amount of talk about the Internet about Virtual Appliances. Virtual Appliances are ready-to-run virtual machines that are available from VMware’s website. These appliances are possible due to the free VM products VMware provides, such as VM Player and VM Server. This easily allows nearly anyone to download one of the free virtualization products and then download an appliance to use. There are numerous to choose from.

The one that prompted this post is the SugarCRM appliance from rPath. For quite some time now I have been suggesting SugarCRM as a possible replacement for our current CRM system. The appetite for such a replacement varies depending on who you ask and when you ask them. I recently spotted the SugarCRM appliance though and decided to download it. Within five minutes of having it downloaded I was up and running an install of SugarCRM and entering in Accounts for testing purposes. While setting up a demo install for SugarCRM wouldn’t have been too difficult – the ability to download the appliance and work on other things while it downloaded and only spending about five minutes powering the appliance up was a great way to test out some software!

If you haven’t looked at some of the appliances they have it is probably worth browsing and seeing what they have if you haven’t done so already.


Virtualization…

January 26, 2007

I have been doing a fair amount of work with various forms of virtualization. Past blog posts have mentioned some of the stuff I have been doing at home. At work we are getting set to make a big push to virtualization – mainly for server consolidation.

We’ve been using virtual servers in our test environment for about a year. So far all work there has gone well – most of the time the developers don’t even realize they are in a VM unless I make it known. Over the past few months I have been stressing some of the VMs in test a little more than usual. Most of this more intensive testing was due to testing of an Exchange migration. All of that testing was done in a VM and I did numerous Exchange restores, Exchange upgrades, OS upgrades and then reverting back to the original snapshot. This was all done on a VMware GSX server and worked flawlessly.

With that testing leading to a confidence boost in virtualization I started to seriously consider making steps to implement some VMs in production. So far I have two production VMs – using VMware Server on a Windows host. Both serve critical roles to work at the company (shipping and build-to-order and picklist printing). So far both have been great – none of the users know the server was virtualized.

Growing from this success, full bore planning has started for moving to real ESX servers running on good hardware with hot backup solutions in place. Most likely we will get things approved as I can get Phase 1 implemented at budget or less than budget.