Friday, January 18, 2008

The transformation is almost complete - Part 1

Over the Christmas / New Year period I planned to undertake the biggest change to my network structure so far. I decided that I wanted to reduce the total amount of hardware in my shop by using virtualization technology. This basically meant migrating 5 physical machines (4 servers and 1 workstation) onto a single piece of hardware. As they say we have the technology to build it but here is my story of the experience.

Prior

Ok, so the first thing I needed was decent machine to host all these virtual machines on and one with plenty of RAM. So I started with a name brand server, RAID 5 with 4GB of RAM. I install Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Server to allow access to RAM above 4GB (which I don't have initially but I do want to be able to scale up to more virtual machines should I want to). After installing Windows, applying updates and installing the suppliers monitoring software I was ready to do my first my migration.

Now, the plan was to make this as simple as possible and from what I could tell the easiest way was to use Storagecraft Shadowprotect to take an image of the whole server and then simply convert this image into a VMware machine, which it does support. So, in theory, image, convert, run, nothing could be simpler eh? Here's what actually happened next.

Stage 1 - Web Server

After imaging the server using Shadowprotect I attempted to convert the image into VMware. Half way through the process I received an error about a disk driver  (scsiport.sys) but I chose to continue thinking that I could deal with this afterwards. Problem was a little further down the conversion process the whole thing crapped out. Bugger, what's the issue? A little bit of investigation pointed to the fact that I had (stupidly) converted the basic disks to dynamic disks on the original server. Why the hell did I do that all those years ago? Now sure, I could "unconvert" them but I already had an image so I thought I'd try option two. You know onwards and upwards (to infinity and beyond is the catch cry isn't it?).

Option two was to do a hardware independent restore using Storagecraft. So I booted the Storagecraft CD in a clean VMware machine and had issues. Damm. Not being a real Vmware expert I decided it was time for option three - Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, as my failures were beginning to REALLY PISS ME OFF. Storagecraft booted fine in Virtual PC and I did a TCP/IP mapping to my saved server image and commenced the restore. Lesson 1 - Storagecraft restores to Virtual PC are slow! But they do work.

So with the image restored to a new Virtual PC I rebooted the Virtual PC expecting everything to work just fine - WRONG. For starters, for some reason, all the drives were outta whack (ie C: was D: and D: was C: and so on). so the system booted but I couldn't even run Computer Manager in Administrative tools to restore the correct drives letters (the server had a C: which held Windows and D: that held everything else). Damm. After some more fiddling around with the boot record I got C: drive in the right place, after which I could run Computer Manager and get D: correctly assigned.

Finally, the web server was back in operation with no major errors in the logs. (Ahhh, That's better). So I now shut down the actual web server and bring the new virtual web server on line and it works! One of the really good things about virtual technology is that you can redirect the network cards to actual or virtual network cards. Thus, I could work on the web server with the same IP address as the original one but with the virtual network card not actually connected to the real network. When I was ready, all I did was shutdown the real server and change the virtual PC's network card to connect to the actual physical network card so it can now be seen on the network.

As I basked in glow of the first "successful" migration I mulled over the challenge of the next migration, my SBS server. Surely, that won't take as long as now I know what to look for and this server DOESN"T have dynamic disks!

As they say boys and girls, be sure to stay tuned to the next episode to see what actually happened.