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Don't Leave Solutions Behind When You Move to ESXi

It's time to think about moving. VMware created a buzz when it finally made public that 4.1 is the last version of ESX, and going forward the company will only provide ESXi. Everyone had a clue that this was going to happen, it was only a matter of when. Now that the news is official, it's time for ESX users to start planning their own moves to ESXi. Here's how to make sure your backup solution and other third-party applications don't get broken during the move.

I've heard customers on ESX 3.5 and ESX 4 say they will move straight to ESXi 4. That's a good move from an upgrade standpoint, because since VMware announced ESX 4.1 is its last version, it is not very likely you'll be able to do an in-place upgrade of ESX 4.1 once ESXi 5 is released. This post isn't about the options or steps for upgrading from ESX to ESXi, but I will say the easiest method is to just VMotion your VMs to an ESXi host, reload your ESX host to ESXi, and VMotion your VMs back.

VMotioning works for the ESX migration, but what about backup and other third-party applications that are part of your virtual environment? Will they still go with your new virtual house, or will you need to redesign with new solutions built for the ESXi environment?

Are your ESX-based solutions worth taking with you?

The first thing to look at before the move is whether your application supports ESXi at all. If it does not, contact your vendor for an idea on when the product will support ESXi. This knowledge can save you from having a dead product, and can enable you to plan your migration to ESXi when ESXi support for your third-party application is available.

Ok, say you get the good news that your third-party applications support ESXi. Should you start packing for the move? There is one more thing you need to look at: will your solution provide performance in ESXi that is consistent and comparable to the results you got with ESX? For example if you use a service console to backup from ESX and it takes a certain duration of  time to complete your backups, will you achieve the  same backup times in ESXi? If the answer is no, you may not be able to complete backups in the available backup window, so your ESX-to-ESXi upgrade will actually downgrade your backup ability.

If you are not going to get the same outcome from ESXi as ESX, you need to ask your vendor two additional questions before you migrate. First, can you get the results you are accustomed to by using the product in a different way? Sometimes you can get the performance you need by changing the process. If the answer to that question is no, ask if and when a version of the product will be available that provides similar performance as with ESX.

Migrating your hosts to ESXi is not enough to get improved performance. Before making any moves, make sure your third-party software can function effectively in the new environment. By doing your homework before moving to a new virtual house, you'll be able to sleep soundly once you're there, knowing that your backups and other systems are running effectively.

Posted by Jason Mattox on 08/06/2010 at 12:49 PM


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