Friday, March 30, 2007

VMWare Converter

Two days ago my notebook hard disk drive started failing... or at least the system seems to have stopped the disk (while I was away) and after I reset the system S.M.A.R.T. message appeared warning me of imminent disk failure and urging me to backup the data immediately. I have all my correspondence on that notebook but that's not the problem - the problem is that I have Office there and IM there and Skype and that I didn't (and still don't) want to pollute my development PCs with all those applications. While I was researching my options I stumbled upon VMWare Converter which turned out to be just what the doctor ordered: I used the application to convert the physical PC to a virtual OS image on my main development PC. The conversion process took almost 48 hours to finish (I had to restart the conversion process at one point due to network router reset) but it was worth it - I now have my notebook's image running on the development PC and it's working really great.

So VMWare Converter is pretty cool product as it is but here's my wish list for it:
1. Allow virtual machine to physical machine conversions! This is crucial. With this the circle would be complete allowing in my case for example to transfer back my notebook OS image to new hard disk drive once it's installed. It can be done (google for "VMWare V2P" without the quotes or see here) but not directly from the software and using 3rd party tools only (for hard disk image transfer)
2. Extend the software so that it can used as an incremental backup tool. Instead of backing up parts of hard disk, one would backup the entire system as a virtual OS image and VMWare would in future backups correctly recognize and backup just the changed parts. Then if the original PC say gets broken, lost, stolen, whatever one could be up and running the same image (as it was backed up) immediately.
3. Allow selection of parts of hard disks to be backed up. There are folders that contain huge amounts of data that doesn't really matter or is backed up somewhere else and which takes precious time during the conversion process.
4. In the case of network failure, conversion process is not reset but resumed once network comes up again (this was the only major annoyance but it was really *major* and it could have been avoided rather easily I think)
5. Allow VMWare Converter to be licensed on its own. Right now there is the free version and the Enterprise version which cannot be licensed on its own but one has to licenses who-knows-what to get it.

Once I get my notebook back I may dare and try Virtual 2 Physical (V2P) conversion. If I do, I'll post the results here. Somehow I have a feeling that it won't be as nearly as smooth as Physical 2 Virtual (P2V) conversion.


ggasp said...

Wow! I'd like VMWare products were open-source. I know Of a couple open-sourced virtual machine software but is VMWare who, apparently, is making all the innovation in this area. I'd wish were open-source primary to liberate the product fate from company fate. I'd really like to start my actual PC in my 101 birthday, just like a photo album Of my currents interests.

ggasp said...

Your backup functionality has been acomplished already by Norton Ghost.

Ivan Erceg said...

The problem is that there is no conversion from Norton Ghost backup to VMWare virtual OS (as far as I can tell.) So while Norton Ghost backup would back up my data I wouldn't have any way of running the OS image on its own.

Ivan Erceg said...

Or you mean I should run Ghost on my virtual machine and then just restore that on my physical machine?? Duh!! That could work!

But instead of Norton Ghost I was thinking of buying Acronis True Image ( It has bare metal restore as well with different hardware configurations.

K. Brian Kelley said...

To #2:

VMware virtual machines can be set up in log mode and you can "double log" so you can get a backup of the VM and then commit one of the logs. This allows backup of a running VM. We use it all the time in the server environment.

Ivan Erceg said...

Brian, thanks for the tip! I've checked VMWare Workstation though and it doesn't have logging. This is probably something featured only in high end server products.