Tuesday, July 24, 2012

VMware vCenter Converter Saves the Day

While VMware vCenter Converter isn't really what I would consider a common Unified Communications (UC) tool, it is a handy tool for anyone that has a lab environment with guest virtual machines (VMs) on different flavors of VMware. I have VMware Workstation, Fusion, Server 2.0, and ESXi hypervisors running in my lab. 

This didn't happen because I am a VMware fanatic (well, I am a big fan, if that counts). It happened because I have been running Cisco UC applications in VMware since CCM 4.1. As anyone with a home lab knows, VMware was king of the lab before it became the ruling monarch of Cloud City!

But that isn't what this blog is about. No, what this blog is about is how VMware vCenter Converter saved me a lot of time by allowing me to move guest VMs from Server 2.0 to ESXi.


While I do run most of my VMs in ESXi on a Cisco UCS C200 I have also been using VMware Server 2.0 to host guest VMs (can we say "lazy"). About a month ago I decided I wanted to rebuild my CCIE-V lab. There were a few guest VMs running on Server 2.0 that I didn't want to rebuild. In particular, I didn't want to rebuild the Windows Server 2003 guest I was using for UCCX. The build process for getting Cisco UC apps running on Windows systems is annoying.  It isn't hard at all, it is just annoying.

Fortunately for me, VMware gave me an option that was anything but annoying. The VMware vCenter Converter is a tool that allows you to automate and simplify conversion between virtual machine formats, as well as convert a physical machine to a guest VM. 

When I bought my Macbook Pro I used VMware Converter to take my old Dell and create an image to load in Fusion. That process worked out well, I created the image, copied the file, loaded in Fusion, activated licenses, and the Dell has been a lab machine since. Now, a couple of years later, I need to use VMware vCenter Converter to move a guest VM from Server 2.0 to ESXi 4.

Loading VMware vCenter Converter

VMware vCenter Converter is a free download from VMware. You can access the jump page here. Installation is very straightforward. In my case, I loaded the Converter on the same host that was running VMware Server.

Converting the Virtual Machine


The first thing I did was convert the hardware version of the guest VM from version 4 to version 7. In hindsight, I probably could have skipped this step. It looks like the Converter will handle this but I wasn't sure, so I went ahead and did it anyway.

The HW conversation steps are simple. First, remove snapshots. Second, take a backup of the VM (just in case). Third, convert the virtual hardware version. Once you are ready to rock, launch vCenter Converter.

The Wizard

After launching the application choose Convert Machine from the tool bar. From here, the application will allow you to select the source machine. You first need to specify the type. There are several options:
  • Powered-on Machine: The local machine or a remote physical machine
  • VMware Infrastructure virtual machine: A VM running on an ESX or ESXi hypervisor
  • VMware Workstation or other VMware virtual machine: A VM running on VMware Workstation or VMware Server (hint: that's us!)
  • Backup image or other third-party virtual machine: A backup image created through an application like Symantec, Acronis, or Storage Craft
  • Hyper-V Server: I think this is obvious.

Once we specify a type of "VMware Workstation or other..." we can then browse the local disk to find the .vmx file for the guest VM we want. You can view the source details before continuing (to verify you can read the image) or you can just click Next

The wizard loads the VM definition. If there are any errors or warnings (like those shown in the following image) then you will want to resolve those issues before proceeding. In my example, I am migrating a Windows 2003 server VM and the Converter is complaining that it is missing a file. 
Warning: Unable to locate the required Sysprep files. Please upload them under ‘c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\VMware vCenter Converter Standalone\sysprep\svr2003′ on the Converter server machine.

If you get this issue then all you need to do is go to the Windows Server 2003 installation CD 1 and extract the DEPLOY.CAB (DEPLOY.CA_) from (yourplatform)\support\tools\. Copy the extracted cabinet file to the directory identified in the warning message and then reload the converter. You select the source VM again and now the warning should be gone.

The next step is to select the Destination. Again, you have options. You can convert the source image to a VMware Infrastructure, Workstation, or VMware Server VM. We are sending this image to an ESXi host, so we pick "VMware Infrastructure virtual machine" and then provide the IP address (or host name) along with the appropriate credentials.

The Converter will attempt to connect to the remote host. If successful, you can then proceed to specifying the virtual machine. You can pick an existing machine or you can create a new one. If you are creating a new machine, enter the appropriate name in the "Name" field.

After you identify the VM machine name, select the storage location for the resulting configuration and vDisk files. Browse your data stores and select the one that is most appropriate given your environment. 

You are almost done -- now the fun part. You need to go through the options and decide if you want to modify any of the parameters and, if so, how you want to modify them. For instance, in my lab I pretty much run thin provisioning on most disks. By default, the Converter is going to create a VM on the destination system that prefers Flat (see screenshot below). Another example of a setting you may want to change is the vmNet you assign to the guest.

When you have finished customizing the options click on Next to view a summary the havoc you are about to unleash on your ESXi host. Just kidding, no havoc here just you and Father Time...watching paint dry. Review your summary, make sure you got everything covered. and click on Finish.

As the Converter does it's thing, you will see a status bar provided where you can monitor progress.
The conversation and migration will take some time. In the example provided we are taking a local VM, converting it, and pushing it to a VM on another network host. So, while you wait you can:
  • Work on some other task
  • Go get some coffee (I mean like, GO OUT and get coffee) OR
  • Go have a beer (preferably a Unibroue)

Thanks for reading. If you have time, post a comment!


  1. Hi Bill, me again, as you see I reviewed a few CCIE-V posts in your blog.
    I'm trying to get courage to attempt the CCIE-V lab in the next february.

    At this time I try to figure out how to build my own lab, and I got a question regarding this post.

    Is there a possibility to clone a physical CUCM (MCS-7835-I3) into a ESXi server?

    thanks again...


    1. Alex,

      You could probably clone a UCCX box since it is running windows and has vmware tools installed. I haven't done that so your mileage may vary. You wouldn't be able to clone the apps running UCOS.



  2. I've got a little bit of downtime, so I'm poking around reading some older posts. :) Just a thought as I haven't tried it, but...

    "Backup image or other third-party virtual machine: A backup image created through an application like Symantec, Acronis, or Storage Craft"

    I don't see any reason why you couldn't boot up an MCS server running UCOS with one of these discs (which are essentially live discs), pull a full disk backup to a usb thumbdrive and then use the above option on the converter. Worth a shot anyways.