What's the best way to migrate a Debian installation to ESXi? I have a Debian web server running on software RAID1 and ideally, I'd like to keep the raid config, provided that it would still make sense to have a raid1 config for a VM. I have seen lot's suggest using vCenter converter, but from my understanding, you cannot use it to install and migrate to ESXi on the same machine. I do have another machine running ESXi, however, it doesn't have the storage to support the data for the webserver, nor would it have the memory required to support it and a heavily used windows domain controller.

The only options I see available is to:

  1. go get another hard drive, transfer the content of the webserver to it then format the original drives, install ESXi, reinstall Debian onto a VM, reinstall and reconfigure the webserver, and then transfer the data to the newly created VM.

  2. connect a 3rd drive; install the hypervisor onto it and create the VM to boot off the other two drives (but I am not sure it can work).

I don't have a problem with the first option, provided there's no other way, and it seems like there should be an easier way to do this, plus I have a lot of modified configuration files in here, and finding all of them to back them up would take more time than I have.

The second option seems the easiest, but I have a gut feeling it won't work.

Is there any other way to achieve this? using another system to temporarily hold the data really isn't an option for me.

  • The second option is possible, but you lose all benefits of the Vms. If you do it that way you can just keep it the way it is now. I would go with option 1. – Gerald Schneider Jan 29 '17 at 12:10
  • vconvert is the way to go as it will inject driver to be sure your vm boot after the conversion, add storage to your server #2.. for the raid 1 question, you dont need that, as it's at your esxi level that your raid is important. as when the vm will be run the datapart is simply a .vhdx file for each partition. – yagmoth555 Jan 30 '17 at 3:27

Adding an addition harddrive (or just an USB thumb drive), installing ESXi on it and using the existing hard disks in a VM is basically possible with "Raw Device Mapping". I'm not going to explain this in detail, it is well documented.

That being said, if you use Raw Device Mapping you lose certain benefits from virtualization, for example:

  • No Snapshots
  • You can't share the disks with other VMs
  • You can't migrate your VM easily to a different host when hardware fails

Using software RAID on the VM level doesn't make much sense, usually you want to do this on the hypervisor, so all VMs benefit from it. But you mention that you are using software RAID. You can't configure software RAID on an ESXi server. Either you add a hardware RAID controller to your host, or you use the existing disks as individual datastores.

To migrate your existing system you have basically two choices:

  1. Move the data to a spare disk, install ESXi, create a new VM, move the data back to the VM
  2. Use VMware Converter to convert your physical system into a temporary VM in the format used by VMware Workstation or VMware Player. Then, after installing ESXi on the host, use the converter again to convert it into the ESXi VM format.

In both cases you need a spare disk with sufficient size.

Personally, I'd recommend the first option. It gives you the chance to upgrade old systems, get rid of legacy configurations etc.

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