Ghetto VMOTION on free ESXi

I have been a fan of Vmware for about 3 years now and I learned a lot from using their free ESXi hypervisor.  I really think that for a small to medium size network where you don’t see yourself running more than 3 ESXi host then you can’t beat the free ESXi installed on an SD card or thumb drive (more on this in a bit).  Hyper V has its pros but the only bad thing is, it is Microsoft (yukk).  The best thing that Microsoft ever created was Active Directory, that was the smart idea that they copied from Novell and and made it way better, kudos to them.  Another one is Microsoft Exchange, well the beginning years of Exchange.  I say that because nowadays email is better on the cloud (like GMAIL), where the browser is your client.  They are trying to catch Gmail’s fame with Exchange 2010 with a revamped OWA (Outlook WebApp), but there still some things to consider like outlook addons will not appear on OWA like email classification.  DoD use email classification outlook add-on to classify email whether it is class or unclass etc..  They need to watch out for Zimbra appliance which Yahoo bought in 2007 and now the Palo Alto folks owns them.

Anyways I could go on and on with the difference but that is not my topic for right now, I might need to change the title now..  I wanted to let everyone know about a hidden gem that I discovered.  I didn’t see anything on the web regarding this topic so I thought if it was cool enough for me, then I am sure someone might find this info great as well.

I like free stuffs and ESXi and I seems like a perfect fit.  I was disappointed to discover that the free ESXi does not come with vmotion.  I search and search to see if there is a way to go around this limitation but I found nothing.  At that point I put on my thinking cap and I was thinking if I have a VMDK on a shared storage and I point two of my ESXi host to that same VMDK what would happen..  So I did, I created a Windows 2003 server guest on ESXi1 locating the vmdk on a shared NFS storage.  I then hop on ESXi2 and browse to the shared NFS storage, locate the vmx and add it to the ESXi2 inventory.  The ESXi locks the the VMDK when in use so you can only boot it one at a time.  It will not corrupt that vmdk if you accidentally try to boot it while it is running on another host, you will just get a busy error (no big deal).  But here’s the Ghetto Vmotion that I want everyone to know.  If you have the guest turned on on ESXi1 and you “suspend” the guest vm, you can then turn-it-on on ESXi2.  The ESXi will ask you whether you “copy” or “move” the vmdk, the default is “copy” but make sure you choose “move”, otherwise it will change some settings like mac-address and you don’t want that.  If you have a continous ping running on the guest vm you will loose about 4 pings  during this process but other than that everything will appear like the real bonafide Vmotion.  If you are working on a word document, once the vm is moved that same word document will still be open.

There it is Ghetto Vmotion, I hope  this information can benefit someone..

Oh another thing on ESXi, SDHC card boots-up faster than regular thumbdrive.  That is why I prefer SDHC card.  But if you are running an ESXi whitebox at home then thumb drives are okay, in fact mine is running on a smallest 4gb maxell thumbdrive at home.

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4 responses to “Ghetto VMOTION on free ESXi

  1. Very good tip to simulate a vmotion house-made.
    The thing to know first is that the time the host take to suspend the VM is proportionnaly as long as the virtual machine disk size.
    Good to know before suspending a 300Go disk host like I did 😉
    Don’t know what is doing the Hypervisor during this step because the space disk on the shared space is not decreasing, and not increasing.

    Sorry if there’s typo in my post. Cheers from france.

  2. There’s a process that I call ghetto vmotion as well, it’s more like ghetto storage vmotion. If you create a snapshot, copy the base VMDK (Should be the larger one) (SCP from the hypervisor if on iscsi, or rsync from the storage system if on NFS), you can do this while the system is running btw. Then suspend your VM, and copy the active (snapshot) VMDK (should be relatively small). Make sure you get everything else from that directory, especially the suspend file. Add your copied vmx file from the destination to the host. Turn it on, say moved, it should resume. When everything looks good, consolidate the snapshot.

    This is effectively a VM clone, however, saying “moved” instead of “copied”, makes the difference between a clone and a “vmotioned” host 😉

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