Migrating from VMware ESXi to QEMU/KVM

For a myriad of reasons, I have been looking at alternatives to VMware ESXi for a few months. Virtualizing a few machines here and there has proven educational. Learning the ropes of working with qemu/kvm, libvirt, and virsh has been challenging at times, but overall a pleasure to work with. Working with kvm is great although it takes some getting use to coming from a VMware/ESXi centric environment.

Up to this point all of the virtual machines that I had worked with were new systems. After some research and a few backups of my current VMs running on one of my ESXi hosts, I decided to migrate a few production VMs. Here are the steps that I used to move virtual machines over from a licensed vSphere 4.1 installation to a Linux host running qemu/kvm.

For starters, be sure that you have full backups of any VMs that you plan on working with. With that out of the way, you are ready to start:

1. Remove all snapshots from the virtual machine across all virtual disks.

2. Uninstall VMware Tools and then perform a clean shutdown of the guest operating system.

3. Copy the virtual hard disk(s) over to the qemu/kvm host. The virtual disk is typically the largest file within a VM’s directory and will usually be named something like ‘guestname-flat.vmdk’

4. On the qemu/kvm host, change to the directory containing the .vmdk file. Assuming you are using qcow2 disk images, run the following command to convert the .vmdk: kvm-img convert -O qcow2 guestname-flat.vmdk newguestname.qcow2

5. Create a new VM on the qemu/kvm host and choose the recently converted disk image as your existing drive/image. It is important that you create your new guest with the same or similar settings as it had before. I recommend cloning the MAC address over to the new guest for added simplicity with NIC detection, assignment, and third party software licensing.

6. Attempt to boot the system. Depending upon your guests virtual disk settings and other factors, the system may hang during boot. Edit your virtual machine and set the controller type to SCSI assuming that was the controller type back on ESXi.

At this point your system should be up and running on the new host. I did find notes and suggestions that qemu/kvm can run vmdk files/disk images, but there seemed to be a handful of caveats so I decided to convert the vmdk’s over to a native format.

–himuraken

HP ProLiant MicroServer Flexibility

I’ve been meaning to put some of my thoughts on the HP MicroServer N40L for quite some time and just haven’t made the time to do it, so here goes.

Long ago I was searching for a reason to purchase and play with HP’s MicroServers and got my chance when a client asked for an affordable backup device. I jumped at the chance and ordered one of the N40L’s. These units are listed as part of the ProLiant family of servers which sounded promising, but being the skeptic that I am, I didn’t expect much for the seemingly measly $350 price tag.

The unit comes with an AMD dual core CPU, 2GB of RAM, 250GB HDD, and a 1Gbps NIC. The system has a mini-PCIe slot for a remote access/iLO/DRAC type card, and a second standard PCIe slot. Although the system ships with only a single drive, all four bays have “hot swap” trays/carriers, making adding additional disks no problem. I say “hot swap” because I am pretty sure that the backplane/controller do not allow actual hot swapping in its true sense, YMMV. Another note on the hardware; the motherboard can be easily removed from the system by disconnecting a few cables and backing out two thumb screws. The board is on a simple and quite brilliant tray assembly which makes removal, upgrade, and insertion simple. Do yourself a favor when you purchase the system by maxing out the RAM at 8GB(DDR3/ECC) and adding the optional iLO/remote access card. For basic NAS and low end Linux server duties the 2GB will work fine and you will have no regrets, but going to 8GB really opens the doors, more on that next.

Before I jump into exactly what it can do, it is worth mentioning what YOU should not do with it. For instance, don’t try and be a hero to your clients by touting this as an ultra affordable server solution. I have read of several people putting SBS on this box and then using it as the primary file and mail server for 20+ users. Don’t be a dummy, if you’re trying to service your clients properly get them a truly redundant system with hardware RAID, dual PSU’s and things of that nature. You are providing a disservice to your clients if you use this in a place it should not be used. Responsibility rant over…

With the remote access card, 8GB of RAM, and a couple of SATA drives, you are ready to play. This is the little server that could and it shows. The thing runs VMware ESXi5, Linux, Windows, FreeBSD(FreeNAS) and many other things. An important thing to remember is that the included disk controller uses fake RAID/driver assisted RAID so don’t expect RAID support outside of Windows. With that limitation in mind, this makes the ideal small business backup device, home virtualization lab, or any other number of roles you can through at it.

Fast forward to today and the device has served me and many others quite nicely. Although not a comprehensive list of installs, I can confirm successful installation on the following operating systems:

  • Debian Lenny (i386/AMD64)
  • Debian Squeeze (i386/AMD64) Currently Debian stable release
  • Debian Wheezy (i386/AMD64) Currently Debian testing release
  • Ubuntu 10.04 (i386/AMD64)
  • FreeNAS 0.7 (i386)
  • FreeNAS 8 (i386/AMD64)
  • VMware ESXi 4.1
  • VMware ESXi 5.0
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Windows Small Business Server 2001
  • Whew! What a list and that just touches the surface of what you can run. Those just happen to be the configurations that I have tested with success. My current configuration consists of the base system running 8GB of RAM, iLO card, 1x64GB SSD and 4x1TB RAID edition drives. I’ve got Debian stable AMD64 running on / and have 4x1TB RE drives using Linux md RAID in level 5 mounted on /home. This acts as my internal NFS server and virtualization lab. The system runs vm guests well through KVM although you will have to watch the CPU. Being a dual core 1.5GHz, the system will usually run out of CPU before you hit any other bottlenecks.

    In conclusion, if you need a flexible and affordable storage device for most small business or home needs, a cheap virtualization lab in a box, or similar configuration, you will not be disappointed by this device.

    –himuraken

    Debian Squeeze & Broadcom b43 etc

    So you like Debian, and why wouldn’t you, it is great after all. Unfortunately, many laptops come from the factory sporting Broadcom-based chipsets. So inevitably I complete a Debian install and Broadcom takes the wind out of my sales. I then trudge over to http://wiki.debian.org/wl#Squeeze and go through the paces. Why? I do it over and over. Well enough is enough, I mean this isn’t a tricky script to write. So for your enjoyment, I have put it all together into a small bash script to simplify things for future installs. First, be sure to add the non-free repo to your /etc/apt/sources.list file.
    Then create and run a .sh file containting:

    #!/bin/bash
    aptitude update
    aptitude install module-assistant wireless-tools
    m-a a-i broadcom-sta
    echo blacklist brcm80211 >> /etc/modprobe.d/broadcom-sta-common.conf
    update-initramfs -u -k $(uname -r)
    modprobe -r b44 b43 b43legacy ssb brcm80211
    modprobe wl
    iwconfig

    Enjoy!

    –himuraken

    How To Leave GoDaddy

    Whether you are participating in MoveYourDomainDay or just want to get away from the terrible user interface that GoDaddy uses, there are a few good things to know.

    1. Make sure your whois info has a proper email address listed. DO NOT change anything else or you risk locking up that domain for an additional 30-60 days.

    2. Unlock your domains with the GoDaddy DomainManager.

    3. Send authorization codes via email to the administrative contact by choosing Send By Email under the Domain Info area of the DomainManager.

    If you are switching over to NameCheap, they offer great instructions on their site here. Currently, to entice additional business and to fight SOPA, NameCheap and Gandi.net are donating a portion of each domain transfer to the EFF.

    –himuraken

    How To Test Inbound & Outbound Faxes

    Ever needed to test your ability to send or receive faxes? Usually, no one is around to send you a test, or you’d prefer not to bother a client with testing your equipment. HP has a little known service that you can use to test faxing in both directions for free. Simply send a one page text only fax to 1-888-hpfaxme (1-888-473-2963) and wait a few minutes. After a short while, you should receive a fax back from HP.

    The official HP page for this service can be found by clicking this link.

    Got old-buntu? Ubuntu EOL 9.10 to 10.04 Upgrade Mini HowTo

    So several months ago, I like the rest of the world, was notified that end of life (EOL) for Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala would happening. In the news blurb/mailing list, wherever I found it, I walked away thinking that security updates would cease to exist.

    In preparation for the upgrade, I went ahead and cloned the 9.10 server and proceeded to upgrade the server to Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. This went off without a hitch from what I could tell and I scheduled the upgrade of the production server with my last client running 9.10.

    Without fail, life happens, clients have things come up, and the upgrade never happened. Fast forward to present day and time, and my client tried installing a package using apt-get and received a slew of errors. Looking into the issue a bit further and I found the repositories gone. Interestingly enough, when EOL occurs for an Ubuntu release, it really ends, and not just for the security patches.

    So one is left wondering, “how can I sudo apt-get install update-manager-core & sudo do-release-upgrade when I can’t even do a simple sudo apt-get update?” Solution: EOL upgrade. There are several different ways to go about this, the best are detailed here. At the time of this writing, the link is a little unclear about how to get 9.10 to 10.04 so here is the quick and easy way:

    1. Backup your current sources.list:
    sudo mv /etc/apt/sources.list ~/sources.list

    2. Create a new sources.list:
    sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list

    3. Add/paste in archive release repositories substituting CODENAME for release jaunty, karmic, etc:

    ## EOL upgrade sources.list
    # Required
    deb http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ CODENAME main restricted universe multiverse
    deb http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ CODENAME-updates main restricted universe multiverse
    deb http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ CODENAME-security main restricted universe multiverse

    # Optional
    #deb http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/ CODENAME-backports main restricted universe multiverse

    4. Update repositories and install update manager
    sudo apt-get update
    sudo apt-get install update-manager-core

    5. Initiate the upgrade
    sudo do-release-upgrade

    6. Enjoy!

    –Himuraken

    Windows Server Licensing for Virtual Environments

    I prefer Linux to Windows for a handful of reasons. One of the obvious benefits is licensing, and with all of the virtualizing I do in production and testing, its nice to never have to think about licensing.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, most of my clients use Windows based servers for their day to day tasks. The Windows OS license is generally licensed per install/server; the notable exception being Data Center Edition which is licensed per CPU.

    With consolidation ratios ever increasing, we are always on the lookout for bottlenecks in systems. What about licensing? If you are running numerous Windows guests, are there ways to make smarter licensing moves? In a nutshell, yes.

    Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I will steer you to a well written and very informative article detailing some of things you can do. This is well worth the read.

    –himuraken