Going Virtual, Part 4 – Performing a P2V Server Migration

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It’s time to take the Physical to Virtual (P2V) plunge with your servers. Here’s a tick-list of things you should make sure to do when virtualizing your business systems and data. 

If you haven’t already, read our articles on what hardware you need and what to expect to avoid P2V pitfalls. Remember; preparation is half the battle!

Going Virtual (P2V) Series

  1. What Is a Virtual Server?
  2. Physical VS Virtual Servers
  3. What Hardware Do I Need for P2V?
  4. Performing a P2V Server Migration

Identify Your Server Workload

Businesses, especially large ones, tend to have a set mentality to hardware—plug it in and use it until it breaks. Unfortunately, because people don’t think much about their machines, that means IT inventory can be missed.

Make doubly sure everything that needs to be transferred over to a virtual server is identified. You don’t want to get halfway through the process only to find out some employee hasn’t told you about the machine they’re using that isn’t on the list.

Remember that a P2V migration isn’t a 1-to-1 transition. If you haven’t already, identify exactly how much resources each of these machines is using. The whole reason to perform a P2V is to stop people from only using 10% of their IT infrastructure, leaving rest totally wasted. You want to make sure the virtual machines (VMs) you’re making better suit their processing requirements.

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Not all users use the same. Check for hotspots!

Transfer By Priority

Don’t start with your biggest, most intensive and vital servers. Start with the smallest, least essential ones first. If you’ve identified your server workload as mentioned above, go with the ‘cold’ and barely used machines first, then do your vital infrastructure last.

Make sure you’ve got permissions for everything you’ll need to transfer. Leave the ones that require the most permissions to last. When performing a P2V transition, you want to start the Admin process early for this very reason.

P2V: Manual vs Semi-Auto vs Automated

You’ve got a few options for your physical to virtual migration. The most arduous is manually creating a virtual machine in a virtual host environment and copying ALL the files from the OS, applications and data from the source machine.

Yeah. That one isn’t ideal. Thankfully, there’s quite a few semi-automated and fully-automated P2V tools available.

If you’re running a smaller business or organization, Microsoft’s Hyper-V Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) has decent features for moving your workloads. That means you don’t have to pay for a third-party P2V tool. It’s not fully automated, but it will assist you in moving your servers across.

However, there are times when it’s actually worth investing in automated third-party P2V tools. If you’re moving a couple of hundred or thousand workloads, with hundreds of gigabytes or terabytes of data, VMM isn’t going to cut it. This is particularly true if you want to minimize your downtime or if the P2V migration fails, and you have to roll it back.

Just imagine having to roll back that many machines, one by one. Does the thought make you want to rip your hair out? Then it’s probably work investing in a third-party tool.

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Automated 3rd Party P2V tools can be a real time saver if you’re running a large business.

Clean Up Your Server Environments

Before you migrate your servers and data, you want to make sure you’re really transferring everything you need. Unhide those system files, empty those recycle bins, etc. I mean, do you really want to virtualize several GB of semi-deleted data?

To speed things up, use a directory-sizing tool and check out excessive storage hotspots. Desktop and profile areas, and internet cache files are great places to start looking. Also, get rid of software you know isn’t being used or going to be used.

This especially applies to any preconfigured software and drivers your physical server manufacturer might have installed. Any vendor related software needs to be removed. The reason is because it can cause CPU spikes as the software gets caught in a loop looking for specific hardware. Make sure you’re working with a clean state.

Back Up Your Data

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Before a P2V migration, backing up your data is vital.

At its heart, P2V is basically just physical backup and relocation, which is pretty much what you do with backup and recovery software. Since there’s inherent risk in performing a P2V switch and you’ve just cleaned up all your unneeded data, it’s the perfect time to perform full-scale backups.

In fact, performing a P2V transition is so similar to backup and recovery that you can use your backup software to do it. We’ve written an article in the past explaining about P2V Recovery with Backupassist and the steps to do it.

Having great backup software that supports your virtual infrastructure is a must before you move your physical servers to a virtual platform.

Final Checklist

Before you start, check that you’ve done the following things:

  • Determined if what you’re transferring is a valid candidate for migration (Hardware, software support, etc)
  • Made a failover strategy for the VM.
  • Backed up all the data before you transfer it.
  • Schedule downtime in support of the migration.
  • Prepared a testing plan for the new VM.
  • Prepared a go-live for the VM once it passes all tests.

Finding a Backup Solution for Your P2V Migration

You probably know this, but finding great backup and recovery software for your P2V migration is vital. You’ll need it before, during, and after the process. BackupAssist is a backup and recovery tool that supports physical, virtual and hybrid server environments.It also has several features which are very appealing for anyone looking to go virtual. For instance, you can spin up any lost or damaged VM guests in seconds. That means zero downtime after you go virtual.

BackupAssist is offering a 30-day fully featured trial, so you can try it and put it through the paces before or after your P2V migration.

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