I am curious to know what options I have to convert a very old RedHat8 machine to a virtual one on ESXi.

Looking at VMware Converter it seems there's an option to login to the RH8 using SSH, and from there it will convert to the ESXi-server.

That makes me a bit nervous though, exactly what is happening there? The RH8 machine is slightly critical, and if anything messes up it'll likely result in many hours extra work. :(

Another option I thought of was to boot a LiveCD on RH8-system and create a raw "dd dump" of the disk. The similar method is used to restore the image, I boot a LiveCD on the VM in ESXi and use "dd" to write it to disk.

Is there any other option I could use?
I'm using the cheap version of ESXi, hence I have no access to the Converter BootCD so these rather cumbersome methods is the only I can think of. :)

  • I've done Debian Sarge and a few Ubuntu servers using the Standalone Physical-to-Virtual (with SSH) method. No issues at all, had to reconfig the VM's NICs on Ubuntu, that's about it. Took hours though. – gravyface Apr 26 '10 at 14:55

The conversion process can always go wrong; if the server is somewhat critical, as you say, the first thing to do is double check that you can recover if it goes south. You should have a backup ready to go no matter what. On the plus side, the conversion shouldn't do anything to the original hardware, so push comes to shove you can put the system back online. But you're going to want the ability to recover the system in case something blows up anyway (this is a critical server...you already have backups in place, right?)

That said, once you have a backup available and your ducks in a row should the server have something happen, you should be able to run the converter as you originally mentioned and it'll stick it right onto the ESXi server. From there you'll probably need to tweak network settings. I find it best to rely on the command line interface as sometimes video goes freaky with the virtualized systems and the older your implementation, the greater the chance something can go nutty. I also would have pre-copied some recovery/testing ISO images to your VMWare system to boot the virtual machine from in the event that something needs to be troubleshot.

You don't want to do a straight-image from your physical to virtual server. Your virtual server will use a different set of drivers for the disk subsystem, display, network, etc...it's part of what the converter is supposed to try fixing in the conversion process.

  • Thank you for your input. The RH8 is inherited and backups exist but in the shape of TGZ-archives and restoring is a pain in the *. I'll try with VMware Converter and if it goes south, well, at least I have something to do during the night (insomnia sucks). – donatello Apr 26 '10 at 15:06
  • You could make a DD backup of the server while it's taken offline first, so you can in theory restore it if necessary. – Bart Silverstrim Apr 26 '10 at 15:39

There is also a Vmware Converter ISO. Burn to CD and boot on the RedHat Machine. Now you can dump the machine into you virtual infrastructure. either into a esx or virtual center.

I prefer this methode since you don´t need to install anything (even if vmware promises that they leave no trace ;)

  • Unfortunately this bootcd is only available for the edition which has a price tag. :( – donatello Apr 26 '10 at 14:58
  • I would strongly suggest the CD converter as well -- much less chance of wrecking your source machine, and it usually works. – voretaq7 Apr 26 '10 at 14:58
  • only two words: 60 day demo ;) – lepole Apr 26 '10 at 15:00

Depending on what type of apps are on the server, you might be better off installing an OS fresh (even if it's an old one) and just moving over the apps.

Certainly if it's something like a webserver this would be easier, but with many apps this would be better/easier, but it's up to you to figure out if it's possible.


I've had marginal success with this method - which is similar to what you're talking about but provides some additional input.

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