25/10/2016 Comments(0)

    Setting up virtualization

    This is my real experience, as I went down the road of moving all of my servers to a virtual environment. If you want to spend no money and want to accomplish virtualization using free software across the board, even to backup and to create a business contingency and disaster recovery solution for the VM Hosts, this is the plan.

    Remember this is not the step by step process here

    Hardware – Already had servers, so I didn’t have to buy new ones.

    I had 4 HP DL380G5 servers – 3 of them with 2 dual core processors and 1 with 2 quad core processors. I filled them with 2-36gb RAID 1 and 6-146gb RAID 5 hard drives. I also put 32gb of memory in each one. I would have 4-6 servers on each, with at least 4gb or memory each, I had plenty to spare for future growth.
    When I was taught how to install VMWARE, I was taught to use all the hard drives in RAID 5 or 10, 10 being the better route if you can afford the loss of space. With the type of applications and servers, writing to disk wasn’t a priority, so I went with RAID 5 -plus I wanted the diskspace.
    EDIT: The servers RAID config has been changed to RAID 6 and/or 10 for reliability and ESXi boots off of a thumb flash drive on every server.
    I was also lucky I had an older HP DL350G4 – I busted out the SCSI controller and junk drives, put in a SATA II RAID controller, 2-2tb and 2-1tb drives in for backup storage –
    If you can’t dedicate a piece of hardware to this, but need to test:
    ESXi can be installed on a thumb drive:

    Using VMWARE ESXi 4.1 (free version)

    The OS is free – that was a start. Now, as I said ealier, I was taught to install ESX(x) using all of the hard drives in RAID 5 or 10. A couple of years ago, my company bought ESX3 and had 2 servers running using RAID 5 – using all 8 146gb drives. When it came time to upgrade, I had a delima. I had to move the vm servers off because 1)I needed a backup before I upgraded, 2)I was scared if the upgrade failed, what would I be left with?
    So lesson learned, keep the OS separate. I installed 2-36gb drives RAID1 for speed and redundancy.
    6-146gb drives for VM Storage.
    Now, if I need to to updates/upgrades in the future, my VM storage is protected if bad things happen to the OS during an upgrade or change.

    Free VMWARE ESXi 4.1

    UPDATE: I no longer install ESXi on hard drives for any of my hosts. I install it on 4gb thumb drives and boot to the thumb drive. I created to bootable ESXi thumb drives for each hosts. I no longer user RAID 5 in any circumstance – all of my servers are setup using RAID 6 or 10.

    Q: What happens if the thumb drive is lost, stolen or just breaks?
    A: Bring all of the VM’s down, boot to the ESXi cd and install on a new thumb drive. Boot to the thumb drive, add all of the vm’s to the server. This is the short answer – I’m sure each environment may have configuration, storage additions, etc..

    Determining where to put the servers

    I planned this like I plan any other server build: How much space do I need? What does the server do? Based on what resources it uses now, I wanted to improve on that, so I didn’t want two – three resource hogs on the same Host.
    Using my best judgment and based on resources used on the physical server, I planned each host out. After the fact, using Veeam Monitor (another free tool), I discovered I had two servers that had to be moved because they used a lot more resources than I had anticipated. Not bad – 2 out of 18.

    Free Tool: Veeam Monitor

    Edit: I have had to move a couple of the servers due to space restraints – the best way I found to move them (for free) is using Trilead VMX – I simply backed up the VM server (while it was running!) and then put a copy of the backup on the Host I needed to move the VM too. I then shutdown the current server, brought up the copied server and put it into production. I did get a popup when I started the server asking me how I moved the server, I simply check “copied it” and all went well. After I confirmed the server was running as expected, I deleted the old one to reclaim space.

    UPDATE: After a couple years now, I have found the easiest (free) way of moving servers (even some while they are live, in production) is to use VMConverter for my ESXi environment.

    Converting your physical Server – warm or cold?

    I wanted to convert my existing physical servers to VM, not build new VM servers. I will discuss what my favorite options were:
    You have two free choices to convert (that I will discuss) –
    1. Warm conversion: Install the program locally on the server, shutdown the relevant application services, firewall and antivirus – convert.

    Free Tool: Warm converter:

    Free Tool: Cold converter:
    2. Cold – boot from a cd and convert to a VM Host.

    My take on these- I have used both – and had much better success using the warm conversion vs cold. But you will have guys swear by using cold, but my better experience was definitely using warm conversion. Using the warm converter – I converted two of my IIS servers while they were live. It worked flawlessly.

    Backing up your VM’s – Business Contengincy

    I tested and used several applications but will only mention two here that I would recommend for ease of use- all free:Trilead VMX – can get a 10 day license (several times) but a lot of the free features got me by. If you want to clone, you must have a license.

    Veeam FascSCP Backup:
    UPDATE: VEEAM no longer supports free version of ESXi.

    VMWARE Warm Converter – as linked above. I mention this because it is what I use to backup my VM’s to a backup server. A little tedious – but I like the end result. I know I have a good working copy.

    UPDATE: I now use vmconverter to create an updated copy on another Host that is attached to NAS storage. I convert the server and point the files to go to the NAS, not local storage. On my backup server, I attached it to the same NAS storage drive and backup the VMs using Backup Exec – to tape, then send off site.

    Backing up your VM’s – Disaster Recovery

    I needed to figure out a way to get the VM’s offsite for Disaster Recovery purposes. Unfortunately, with 18 Servers, that is going to take up a lot of room (almost 2tb to be exact)Since I am lucky enough to have an older server as a backup server, I am working on moving my HP Storage Works 8 drive tape system to that server and set it up to backup the VM’s. – hopefully without any additional costs.

    Update: I backup the servers weekly using a combination of VMX and Vmware converter (warm). Currently v4.01. For the smaller servers that are under 50gb in size, I use vmconverter and it takes less than a 1/2 an hour in most cases – and a lot of these servers I backup during the day, while in production with no negative effects. The bigger servers I backup over night either using VMX or VMConverter. For the servers that contain a lot of data or datbases (SQL or Exchange). I store the data on a separate drive from the OS, and backup that drive two ways – brick level and once a month offline. If I had to restore an SQL server, it would be as simple as recreating the the virtual drive on a new machine, then restoring the offline backup, and any incrementals. The same with Exchange. BUT… I have yet to test this on other hardware – other than when I moved the servers to a different host (same hardware)- and this process worked.

    Offsite Storage: I’m going to remove the hard drives from my storage server and send them offsite – then have them brought back onsite every 6 months to be updated. This seems like a long time, but really, if a disaster would happen, I would be dealing mostly with the restores from tape backup, after I turned the VM’s back on. My biggest issue would probably be updating the OS with patches, etc…

    UPDATE: I now use vmconverter to create an updated copy on another Host that is attached to NAS storage. I convert the server and point the files to go to the NAS, not local storage. On my backup server, I attached it to the same NAS storage drive and backup the VMs using Backup Exec – to tape, then send off site.


    This is a bare-bones write up of how I created my virtual environment without spending money on any software. This may or may not be the recommended solution for you – it may be a good test environment – but there are a lot of steps not documented here that I took to ensure my environment was stable and able to work in production.

    And the last piece is I use the Veeam monitoring tool to monitor my VM’s and Hosts:

    Free Tool: Veeam Monitor

    This article is taken from here