VMWare Free Converter - First Thoughts

While we’re a Xen shop I’ve always been a VMWare fan and I had the chance to take a look at the free (as in beer) VMWare Converter Starter today. We’ve got a couple of old Windows machines with no installation documents or run books so when working towards making them reproducible grabbing a whole system image is a great first step.

The first machine I tried it on has a very unhappy hard drive (yes, it’s my work laptop) and the converter refused to play past 5% of the disk; me thinks it’s time to verify my backups. The second machine was a Windows 2000 server (amusingly running VMWare server). The converter required a reboot (which it didn’t on the laptop running Windows XP) after installation but made an image afterwards without any complaints and with the machine up and running.

I’ve not had the time to fully dig in to how well this’ll work on the more awkward machines (boxes with more than 2 CPUs, apps that expect hardware access, VMWare tools not installed etc.) but the image of my trial machine (which was written out to a UNC path) came up quite quickly and all the settings I checked were correct.

I like the tool, it provides a nice revertable image for me to dissect so I can work out what’s on the machines with out being a resource drain on the live servers. It’s simple to use, has a nice GUI, a great price tag and will make a painful task a lot simpler. In a worst case scenario the images can also be pushed in to service as a stop gap in order to reduce the MTTR of the original servers. Oh, you can also use it to help bootstrap server consolidation, but that’ll never take off… ;)