Smoothwall Firewall project

Sunday 22 March 2009

Using VMware to move an IT department across London

I have been using virtualization in many forms now for years, and when the job appeared to move my IT department across London, with as little disruption as possible, I thought VMware player and workstation could come to my aid, and they did.

The key tool that really helped me was a free one from VMware called VMware converter, which allows you to virtualize a windows installation on a physical machine to a virtual image. It is not a quick process, and you have to get the timing right with the users data, but machines can be done over night, so no disruption there.

Once all the machines were done, it was just a matter of moving all those images to the new premises along with any other data that had been captured after the image was made. We did this with a NAS server, which was small and compact, but held 2TB of data, as some of these virtual images were quiet large, though you can shrink them when you convert them, which we did.

We deployed all of these images onto machines onot quad core HP machines with Ubuntu Linux 8.04 and VMplayer 2.0. We could have used VMware workstation, but then not all of the users ever need to create new images or change their existing one. We there bought only a handful of workstation licences so that power users could create or manage the images for others.

This allowed all of the staff to turn up on the Monday morning with their machines exactly as they had left them on the Friday evening, no downtime, and no wasted time having to re-install the same applications onto new machines.

If the team had all been using virtual images in the first place , this would have made this whole process even easier, and it is another good reason for people to start using virtualized desktops.

It does also open up the possibility of having a thin Hypervisor layer on the desktop so that all it does is service the needs of the virtual client, very much like they are doing in the server world with Ubuntu JEOS. It also allows the team to use many different virtual images for all sorts of development tasks which is extremely useful, which is a great side affect of this process.

A great feature of all of the components used in this solution is that they are all free , apart from VMware workstation, and it would be possible to do exactly the same thing using open source components , if there were either a good P2V ( physical to virtual) tool, or even one that converts VMware images to Xen or KVM.

It worked perfectly, and has been doing so for over a year now, so I can heartily recommend this process to anyone looking to achieve the same sort of move.

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