How to use VMware Converter for P2V (Physical to Virtual)

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How to use VMware Converter for P2V (Physical to Virtual)

Most organizations are well on their virtual journey in the enterprise data center and we will discover here how VMware Converter for P2V will help complete it. Virtual workloads account for the majority of servers running in most environments today. However, many businesses may still have physical workloads running in their data center due to various reasons.

As the hardware lifecycle reaches its end for physical workloads, most businesses will look to virtualize physical server workloads and run them inside a virtual machine. VMware Converter has long been a solution to allow easily virtualizing physical workloads and transitioning these to virtual machines. So let’s see how to perform the all-important VMware Converter for P2V conversion.

What is P2V?

Intuitively, P2V stands for “physical to virtual” and represents the process of converting and migrating a physical computer image into a virtual machine (VM). Unlike a migration where you take the applications and data from one computer and copy them to an entirely new platform, with VMware Converter for P2V, you take an exact image-level copy of the physical computer and transform it into a virtual machine.

The virtual machine then retains the same state as the physical computer, including the operating system, applications, configuration, data, and even assigned resources. However, after a P2V operation, the assigned resources, such as CPU and memory, can easily be adjusted or changed.

What is the purpose of P2V operations?

The VMware Converter for P2V operation allows organizations to achieve the objective of server consolidation. Since the onset of the server virtualization movement with modern hypervisors, it provides much more efficient use of server hardware resources with the powerful technology and hardware in current enterprise servers.

Modern CPU, memory, and storage resources are generally not used to their fullest potential by a single workload loaded on the bare metal server itself and running multiple workloads on the same hardware instead of just one. Instead, organizations can utilize the underlying resources much more by running a hypervisor on top of the bare metal server.

Instead of having to “lift and shift” physical servers to virtual machines using challenging migration processes, organizations can use the VMware Converter for P2V process to simply take the Server as-is and seamlessly convert it to a virtual machine. It helps organizations realize the objective of their server consolidation projects.

In addition, as physical server hardware ages and nears the end of its lifecycle, organizations can use the VMware Converter for P2V process to move workloads off servers that are no longer supported to virtual machines running in supported hypervisor environments, such as VMware vSphere.

What is VMware Converter for P2V?

VMware Converter (VMware standalone converter), now known as VMware vCenter converter Standalone, is a tool used in VMware vSphere environments to convert physical and virtual machines to VMware virtual machines, using the VMware Converter for P2V process. You can also use VMware Converter to perform V2V (virtual to virtual) conversions to convert virtual machines running in one type of virtual environment to another virtual machine. For the purposes of the post, we will refer to it simply as VMware Converter.

While this is a supported VMware tool, you should note the last build of VMware Converter for P2V was released in 2018. VMware has made no mention as of yet to deprecate the product, and there is no comparable VMware tool used to perform similar conversions.

 

Version Release Date Build Number Installer Build Number
Converter Standalone 6.2.0.1 2018-05-22 8466193 N/A
Converter Standalone 6.2 2017-12-14 7348398 N/A
Converter Standalone 6.1.1 2016-02-16 3533064 N/A

 

Supported Types of Migration

You can use VMware converter to perform a physical to virtual conversion of a powered on:

    • a local machine where VMware Converter is running
    • a remote Windows host
    • a remote Linux host

Using VMware Converter to convert a powered-on machine
Using VMware Converter to convert a powered-on machine

You can also convert machines that are powered off in the following environments:

    • VMware Infrastructure virtual machine (vSphere)
    • VMware Workstation or other VMware virtual machine
    • Hyper-V Server

Using VMware Converter to Converter powered off virtual machines
Using VMware Converter to Converted powered-off virtual machines

Hot vs. Cold cloning

The above options illustrate the difference between what is known as a hot clone vs. a cold clone. Hot denotes the source machine for the VMware Converter for P2V or V2V is powered on, whereas cold refers to a powered-off machine. So when would you want to perform a cold clone vs. a hot clone?

Many server or workstation types may do well with a hot clone process while the machine is in a powered-on state. The hot clone process may work fine if the source does not have dynamically changing data and is relatively static. However, workloads that house database applications are a much better fit for the cold clone process.

It can be problematic with most database applications to have the database still running, servicing the application with data changing while running a hot clone. In addition, the hot clone copy of the database server can have missing or corrupted data. The cold clone with the machine powered off ensures no changes are made to the database, so the new VM copy contains all the data without any chance of corruption.

In the screenshots above, you may note there is no cold or powered-off option for physical Windows or Linux machines. Many versions ago with VMware Converter, VMware made a “Cold-Clone CD” available that allowed booting a Live CD and running the conversion process on the workload.

This CD or ISO is no longer made available in the latest versions of VMware Converter. An alternative to running a Cold-Clone of a server or workstation with database applications is stopping all the database services and ensuring all critical services are quiesced before running a hot migration of the powered-on workload. If you have an old workload, circa Windows Server 2003, you can still find the old VMware Cold-Clone CD floating around the web for download.

Since hot cloning, also called live cloning converts a source machine while the operating system is running and processes continue to run on the source machine during the conversion, the resulting virtual machine is not an exact copy of the source machine.

Data synchronization after hot cloning

As mentioned above, stopping services helps to overcome many of the challenges associated with hot cloning. However, when cloning Windows machines, VMware Converter can perform this operation automatically and synchronize data between the source and destination operating system, using “changed blocks” synchronization to ensure data is an exact match before powering down the source machine.

Copying changed blocks is used in many processes, including storage migration and backups by third-party data protection solutions. You can configure the settings of VMware Converter to stop selected Windows services, so no critical changes occur on the source machine during the data synchronization process. VMware Converter can automatically shut down the source machine and power on the destination machine after completing the data synchronization process.

Using this cloning automation provided by VMware Converter allows seamless conversion with little downtime of the workload. When the cloning process is complete, the newly created virtual machine is booted, taking over the identity of the source machine with the least possible downtime.

Prerequisites to perform P2V & V2V of Powered on Windows Machine and Linux

Several prerequisites need to be met to use the VMware Converter cloning process. First, let’s look at the platforms, data cloning modes, required VMware converter ports, etc. Keep in mind the most recent documentation provided by VMware dates back to May 2018. There are operating systems missing from the list that may likely work just fine with VMware Converter. However, you will need to test your specific environment and use case thoroughly.

Supported source types

The supported source types KB details the following source types that can be used as a VMware Converter conversion source:

Source Type Sources
Powered on machines Remote Windows physical machines
Remote Linux physical machines
Local Windows physical machines
Powered on VMware virtual machines
Powered on Hyper-V Server virtual machines
Powered on virtual machines running under Red Hat KVM or RHEL XEN
Note: VMware standalone converter does not support para-virtualized kernels.
VMware vCenter virtual machines For information about the interoperability between powered-off VMware vCenter virtual machines and vCenter Converter Standalone, see VMware Product Interoperability Matrices.
Note: VMware standalone converter 6.2.x does not support Virtual Hardware versions above 11. For selected hardware versions above 11, features are limited to the features in version 11.
VMware virtual machines For information about the interoperability between vCenter Converter Standalone and powered-off hosted VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion virtual machines, see VMware Product Interoperability Matrices.
Hyper-V Server virtual machines For Hyper-V Server versions distributed with Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 10, and Windows Server 2016, powered off virtual machines with the following guest operating systems:
Windows Vista SP2 (32-bit and 64-bit) (except Home editions)
Windows Server 2008 SP2 (32-bit and 64-bit) (except Home editions)
Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit) (except Home editions)
Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit) (except Home editions)
Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit)
Windows Server 2012 (64-bit)
Windows 8.1 (32-bit and 64-bit)
Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
Windows 10 (32-bit and 64-bit) (except Home editions)
Windows Server 2016 (64-bit)
For other Hyper-V Server sources, perform the procedure for powered-on source machines.

 

Supported destination types

VMware-hosted products can be both conversion destinations.

    • VMware Workstation
    • VMware Fusion™
    • VMware Player
    • Virtual machines running on an ESX or ESXi instance that vCenter Server manages can be conversion destinations.
    • Virtual machines running on unmanaged ESX or ESXi hosts can be conversion destinations.

Supported data cloning modes

Note the following types of data cloning operations supported by VMware Converter:

Data Copy Types Application Overview
Volume-based Copy volumes from the source machine to the destination machine Volume-based cloning can be slow. File-level cloning is slower than block-level cloning. VMware Converter converts Dynamic disks into basic volumes on the target virtual machine
Disk-based Create copies of the powered-off source machines for all types of basic and dynamic disks You cannot select which data to copy. Disk-based cloning is faster than volume-based cloning.
Linked clone Use to check the compatibility of non-VMware images quickly The linked clone is corrupted for specific third-party sources if you power on the source machine after the conversion. Linked cloning is the fastest (but incomplete) cloning mode that VMware standalone converter supports.

 

Ports required for VMware converter p2v

Different VMware converter ports are required for communication, depending on the conversion of a Windows or Linux host. Also, compared to the ports required for vmware converter p2v, V2V operations require fewer ports.

Windows host

Communication Ports Overview
Converter Standalone Server to the powered on source machine TCP – 445, 139,
9089
UDP – 137, 138
If the source computer uses NetBIOS, port 445 is not required. If NetBIOS is not being used, ports 137, 138, and 139 are not required. When in doubt, make sure that none of the ports are blocked.
Converter Standalone server to vCenter Server TCP – 443 It is required only if the conversion destination is a vCenter Server.
Converter Standalone client to vCenter Server TCP – 443 It is required only if the Converter Standalone server and client components are on different machines.
Converter Standalone server to the destination ESX/ESXi TCP – 902 The VMware Converter server always requires access to ESX/ESXi at port 902.
Powered on source machine to ESX/ESXi TCP – 443, 902 If the conversion destination is vCenter Server, only port 902 is required. If the proxy mode feature is on, port 902 is not required.

 

Linux host

Communication Ports Overview
Converter Standalone server to the powered on source machine TCP 22 Used to establish an SSH connection between the Converter Standalone server and the source machine.
Converter Standalone client to Converter Standalone server TCP 443 Required only if the Converter Standalone server and client
components are on different machines.
Converter Standalone server to vCenter Server TCP 443 It is only required if the conversion destination is a vCenter Server.
Converter Standalone server to ESX/ESXi TCP 902 The VMware Converter server requires access to ESX/ESXi at port 902.
Converter Standalone server to helper virtual machine TCP 443, 902 If the conversion destination is vCenter Server, only port 902 is required. Likewise, if the proxy mode feature is on, port 902 is not required.
Helper virtual machine to the powered on source machine TCP 22 It is used to establish an SSH connection between the helper virtual machine and the source machine. By default, the IP address of the helper virtual machine is assigned by DHCP. However, if no DHCP server is available on the destination network, you must manually assign the helper virtual machine an IP address.

 

Ports for V2V operations

Communication Ports Overview
Converter Standalone server to
Fileshare path
TCP – 445, 139 UPD – 137, 138 These are required only for standalone virtual machine sources or destinations. For example, if the computer hosting the source or destination path uses NetBIOS, port 445 is not required. If NetBIOS is not being used, ports 137, 138, and 139 are not required. When in doubt, make sure that none of the ports are blocked.
Converter Standalone client to Converter Standalone server TCP – 443 It is required only if the Converter Standalone server and client components are on different machines.
Converter Standalone server to vCenter Server TCP – 443 It is only required if the conversion destination is a vCenter Server.
Converter Standalone server to ESX/ESXi TCP – 443, 902 If the conversion destination is a vCenter Server, only port 902 is required.

 

Installation Types

When you install VMware Converter, you can choose between two different installation types. These are:

    • Local installation – The local installation of VMware Converter installs Converter on a local machine only. You can use this option to create and manage conversion tasks from the local machine it is installed. For example, you can install VMware Converter for P2V locally to process the local machine itself.
    • Client-Server installation (advanced) – In the Client-Server installation, you can configure a client-server model for Converter to have a centralized approach to using VMware Converter across an environment where there is a centralized VMware Converter server that provides conversion capabilities to IT admins. In addition, it allows local and multiple remote clients to access the Converter server. The Client-Server installation includes three different components for installation:
      • Converter server – Provides centralized management for all conversions. In addition, the Converter server handles communication between clients and the Converter agent.
      • Converter agent – Allows the local machine to be a source for conversion
      • Converter client – Connects to the Converter server and provides a graphical user interface for setting up and managing conversions

VMware Converter – When to use and not use?

VMware Converter is a robust tool for performing standalone conversions from physical hardware to virtual machines or from virtual machines to virtual machines. However, there are typical use cases and those that are non-typical for use with VMware Converter. Let’s highlight some of these.

Typical use cases:

    • Server consolidation
    • Migrating from old server hardware
    • Changing disk sizes
    • Migrating from ESXi VM to VMware Workstation
    • Migrating from VMware Workstation to ESXi VM

Non-typical use cases or ones that will not work

    • Cloning a domain controller – this is something that is frowned upon and can cause major issues, no matter what cloning tool you use.
    • If applications depend on specific underlying hardware (serial numbers, device manufacturers)
    • If applications depend on a specific MAC address
    • Cloning FAT32 volumes

The following are limitations between Windows and Linux hosts.

Source Operating System Limitations
Windows When you convert UEFI sources, Converter Standalone does not copy any UEFI variables to the destination.
Synchronization is supported only for volume-based cloning at the block level.
Linux Only volume-based cloning at the file level is supported.
Only managed destinations are supported.
Converting multiboot virtual machines is only supported if GRUB is installed as the boot loader. LILO is not supported.
 Converter Standalone copies only the current UEFI boot entry option to the destination when you convert UEFI sources.
Simultaneous cloning of multiple disks and volumes is supported only when converting a virtual Linux source.
Installing VMware Tools on Linux guest operating systems is not supported.

 

Cloning Powered-on Windows Physical and Virtual Machines Overview

What does the process look like to clone a powered-on physical or virtual machine? The beauty of the VMware Converter cloning process is it does not modify the source physical or virtual machine, aside from the VMware Converter agent installation (which can be removed).

The VMware Converter clone process involves copying the source disks or volumes to the destination virtual machine. Part of the copy process is transferring the data that exists on the source hard disk to the destination virtual disk. One of the abilities of VMware Converter is to modify the disk layout as part of the conversion process. This capability is actually one of the use cases mentioned above.

You can change the destination virtual disk to have a different size, file layout, and other characteristics. As part of the conversion process, VMware Converter’s system reconfiguration introduces the drivers necessary so the migrated operating system continues to function on the new virtual hardware. One of the important drivers needed is the new storage drive to recognize the VMware storage controller types.

Overview of the VMware Converter conversion workflow

Overview of the VMware Converter conversion workflow

Cloning Powered-on Linux Source Machines Overview

As you can imagine, the process to clone powered-on Linux source machines differs from Windows. Unlike Windows, where you have an agent installed on the source machine, no agent is installed on the Linux source machine. Instead of the installation of the agent, a helper virtual machine is deployed instead.

The helper virtual machine provides the target of the data and system configuration copy of the source Linux machine. All connections and data copies use SSH.

Overview of converting Linux source machines using VMware Converter
Overview of converting Linux source machines using VMware Converter

When the conversion process is complete, the destination Linux virtual machine shuts down and becomes the complete copy of the source. Once powered up, it will represent the source machine.

Installing VMware Converter

The process to install VMware Converter is a “next, next, finish” process. First, you will need to begin by downloading the latest version of VMware Converter, which you can do from here:

The latest version at the time of this writing is version 6.2.0.1. Download the installer and run the .EXE file.

After executing the installer, click Next on the welcome screen.

Beginning the installation of VMware Converter for P2V
Beginning the installation of VMware Converter for P2V

Accept the patent agreement.

VMware Converter patent agreement
VMware Converter patent agreement

Agree to the terms of the EULA.

Agree to the VMware Converter EULA
Agree to the VMware Converter EULA

Select the destination folder for the installation.

Select the destination folder
Select the destination folder

Next, select the Setup Type for the installation. Finally, choose between the local installation and the Client-Server installation for advanced setup. For the demo in the post, we are using the Local installation of VMware Converter to showcase its functionality and features.

Choosing the installation type for VMware Converter
Choosing the installation type for VMware Converter

Opt-in or out for the VMware CEIP program.

VMware CEIP options
VMware CEIP options

Finally, your VMware Converter installation is ready to proceed. Click Install to begin the installation of VMware Converter.

Begin the install of VMware Converter
Begin the install of VMware Converter

After a few moments, VMware Converter installation is completed.

VMware Converter installation completes successfully
VMware Converter installation completes successfully

After clicking Finish, you can choose to launch VMware Converter to begin your first P2V or V2V conversion.

Launching VMware standalone converter
Launching VMware standalone converter

Using VMware Converter for Converting a Windows Host

The following walkthrough demonstrates using VMware Converter to convert a running Windows host to a virtual machine. The source of the following walkthrough is a physical Windows Server machine that will target a VMware vSphere cluster environment.

Below, we are selecting a remote Windows machine and entering the guest OS credentials to install the VMware Converter agent.

Selecting a remote Windows machine for cloning
Selecting a remote Windows machine for cloning

You can select how you want the agent to be uninstalled once the conversion is complete. The default selection is to automatically uninstall the files when import succeeds.

Select how the agent will be uninstalled
Select how the agent will be uninstalled

VMware Converter will begin installing the agent on the remote Windows host.

VMware Converter agent is installed on the remote Windows host
VMware Converter agent is installed on the remote Windows host

Select the destination type of the VMware Converter conversion. The choices are:

    • VMware Infrastructure virtual machine
    • VMware Workstation or other VMware virtual machine

Choose the destination system for the conversion
Choose the destination system for the conversion

Enter the credentials needed to connect to the destination type selected in VMware Converter.

Enter the destination system and credentials for the conversion
Enter the destination system and credentials for the conversion

Choose to ignore the certificate warning for the target vSphere environment
Choose to ignore the certificate warning for the target vSphere environment

The next step is to select the destination VM name and location. This is not a rename of the guest operating system. Rather it is the virtual machine inventory name.

Select the destination VM name and folder
Select the destination VM name and folder

Select from the available storage and select the virtual machine version.

Select the storage and virtual machine version
Select the storage and virtual machine version

On the Options screen, you have the opportunity to configure the parameters for the conversion task. This step allows you to change the resulting virtual machine’s configuration to be different from the source, including data to copy, devices, networks, services, and advanced options. Click the Edit link next to each section to change the configuration.

Configure the conversion options for the conversion process
Configure the conversion options for the conversion process

Click Finish on the summary screen to begin the conversion process using VMware Converter.

Begin the conversion operation for the Windows host
Begin the conversion operation for the Windows host

The conversion progress begins and will display progress in the status column of VMware Converter.

Windows host conversion progressing in VMware Converter
Windows host conversion progressing in VMware Converter

As a note, the first conversion process failed for a Windows Server 2019 host targeting a vSphere 7.0 Update 2 environment when I left the default for the Virtual Machine version set to Version 19. However, when converting the machine the second time, I chose Version 11, and the conversion process completed successfully. So, it would seem with this test, the newest virtual machine versions are too new for VMware Converter targeting the most recent vSphere versions.

The workaround is simple. Choose a lower version such as version 11, as this was successful.

conversion process completed successfully

Using VMware Converter for Converting a Linux Host

The process of converting a running Linux server using VMware Converter is not much different using the VMware Converter UI. Here, we select Remote Linux machine. Enter the connection information for the remote Linux server.

Select the remote Linux server and enter connection information
Select the remote Linux server and enter connection information

Accept the certificate warning coming from the remote Linux server via the SSH connection.

Accept the certificate warning for the remote Linux server
Accept the certificate warning for the remote Linux server

Note using VMware Converter for the remote Linux host, we only have the option to target a VMware infrastructure server. If we select powered off, we can select other targets.

Choose the destination system for the Linux machine
Choose the destination system for the Linux machine

Choose the virtual machine name for the vSphere inventory.

Choose the virtual machine name for the vSphere inventory
Choose the virtual machine name for the vSphere inventory

Choose virtual machine storage for the resulting virtual machine.

Select the storage and virtual machine version
Select the storage and virtual machine version

On the Options page, edit the configuration options if needed for the Linux virtual machine.

Edit the configuration options on the Options screen for the Linux VM
Edit the configuration options on the Options screen for the Linux VM

Begin the conversion process by clicking Finish.

Begin the conversion of the Linux host with VMware Converter
Begin the conversion of the Linux host with VMware Converter

My Thoughts on VMware Converter

VMware Converter is an excellent tool for converting both physical hosts and virtual machines. You can target a wide variety of environments with the tool, and it automates much of the process, making the conversion seamless. As shown, VMware Converter can convert both Windows and Linux hosts that are powered on, and it can also convert virtual machines that are powered off in both VMware and Hyper-V environments.

Take note of the prerequisites and use cases that will not work. Also, as shown by the conversion results, VMware Converter has not been updated in over three years since 2018. Therefore, depending on the virtual machine version and other configuration options selected, it may or may not work without error targeting the newest VMware solutions, such as vSphere 7.0 Update 2 and higher.

Learn more about VMware Converter here: vCenter Converter: P2V Virtual Machine Converter | VMware

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Physical to virtual conversion process can easily be carried out using the VMware Converter tool by installing the conversion agent and running the conversion process to target a VMware solution.
Physical to virtual conversions are carried out by cloning the source operating system disk to a virtual machine. The data copy includes the operating system configuration and other settings along with data.
VMware Converter.
Using VMware Converter, you can convert a virtual machine running in a vSphere environment managed with vCenter Server to a standalone ESXi host that is unmanaged.
P to V or P2V refers to "physical to virtual," which is the conversion process from a physical host to a virtual machine running in the target system.

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