I have an Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) host machine which is running a whole slew of virtual machines in VMWare Server 1.0.8. Among other guest OSes, there is every release version of Ubuntu since 6.06, OpenSolaris 2009.06, and Windows XP. Right now I access these VMs from a variety of client OSes as well; Linux and Windows via the VMWare server console, and MacOS via X-forwarding the host machine's server console.

I'd like to upgrade the host to Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx), but from what I can tell, getting VMWare Server 1.x to work on a more recent version of Linux is a real pain. While VMware Server 2.x is a bit easier, it's still not packaged as Debian packages, so installing security updates is a big chore. As long as I'm upgrading anyway, I'd like to move to a virtualization solution that will allow me to automate applying updates.

The options that I'm aware of right now are KVM (managed via virt-manager) and VirtualBox (as managed by its own tools or via its own libvirt bindings), but I'm open to other suggestions.

For each option, I'd like to know

  • how do I convert my guest images to the new format?
  • am I going to have to re-activate my Windows guests (alternatively, "If the virtual hardware is different by default, can I avoid re-activation by changing some virtualization configuration to provide me with more similar virtual hardware")
  • what are the management options like for each client OS (mac, linux, windows)?


  • 2
    Glyph - I'm just curious about the motivation to update the host OS - you're opening the door to a bunch of pain (risk). – Jeff Hengesbach May 26 '10 at 1:48
  • The question about risk is a valid one, so here's why I'd like to upgrade: Every time I install security updates right now, it breaks the VMWare installation and I need to reconfigure it and re-apply a couple of hand tweaks to work around bugs in this version of VMWare Server. Upgrading to 2.0 on this particular version of ubuntu is supposedly unpleasant. I also want to make use of new filesystems and new management tools in Lucid. This is a server that gets put to a lot of different uses, and there are just newer versions of software packaged in Lucid that I'd rather be using. – Glyph May 26 '10 at 19:52
  • Does your hardware support ESXi? Have you considered migrating to that? – Zoredache Jun 28 '10 at 4:36
  • I don't know if my hardware supports ESXi; I suspect not. However, my understanding is that ESXi is just a hypervisor, and the host machine here has several responsibilities beyond just running the VMs, so I'd like to just dump VMWare entirely for this host. – Glyph Oct 17 '11 at 18:41

As far as conversion goes, I would use qemu-img, a part of the QEMU emulator. The tool qemu-img appears to convert to and from most formats, including VirtualBox, VMware, QEMU, raw, and others. Specific details can be found via Google.

I would say that the chances are you'll have to re-validate all your Windows installations; even if the hardware was identical the IDs that the CPUs are tagged with are almost certainly going to be different.

I don't know what you mean by management options in particular. If you are talking about managing virtual machines (whether from inside the host like VMware Tools or from outside the host like vSphere) there are tools for some operating systems from the virtual machine emulator. As for something like vSphere there are open source versions of this but they would have to work with the particular VM emulator you went with.

The virt-manager from Red Hat that you mentioned not only manages KVM hosts, but also QEMU and Xen hosts as well. I know there are other open source products like it, but I can't find them right now.

  • Thanks. I was kinda leaning towards something KVM-based, but it's nice to hear someone else confirm my suspicions about the migration process :). – Glyph Jan 9 '12 at 12:29

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