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Managing the switch from VMware to Hyper-V

For some time now Microsoft’s Windows Server has offered a viable alternative to VMware for virtualization. For those considering making the switch Dr Konstantin Malkov offers advice on what you need to be thinking about.

If you’re planning to make the switch from VMware to Hyper V, you’re not alone. We’re seeing a large number of people making the move across. And there are a number of reasons that have been prompting this shift. Firstly, for anything after Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V has been very much comparable with VMware, so VMware is no longer the clear-cut choice it may once have been.

On top of this Hyper V is much less expensive than VMware—especially with Microsoft offering incentives on licensing. Equally importantly, though, Windows Server 2016 includes Nano Server, which has the smallest footprint of any Microsoft server operating system, which brings major benefits from a deployment and security perspective—it’s much quicker to roll out and with much less O/S “surface area” there’s much less opportunity for compromise. 

So if you’re going to make the switch what do you need to know and what are some of the key differences you’ll need to be aware of? 

Managing security

Obviously, technology wise you are dealing with two completely different hypervisors, which means a different architecture, with security and network traffic control implemented differently. VMware and VMware Security Partners utilise Vshield API (althoughVMware has ended general support for vShield Manager and VCNS vShield Endpoint to NSX), whereas Microsoft Cloud uses the Hyper-V Virtual Switch—a low-level piece of software that controls traffic between VMs and between virtual machines and the outside network. Microsoft offers an API for this so partners can interface to provide virtual switch extensions, such as filtering, forwarding or capturing. 

Nano server and Powershell

While Nano Server has the smallest footprint for any Microsoft operating system, to achieve this Microsoft has jettisoned any user-friendly GUI. The downside of this is that it requires network admins to have a knowledge of Powershell to maximise its benefits. That is unless you use a third-party tool to help you manage this.

The tool set

From a user experience point of view, one of the biggest difference new Hyper-V users will notice is the management tools. In VCenter, VMware has a very easy to use management platform. Hyper-V offers a very comprehensive toolset managed through System Centre Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM). Free Hyper-V Manager bundled with Hyper-V does not provide many of SCVMM features.

The main thing, however, for many system admins and virtualization mangers is that they need the tools they are used to presented in a way they are used to. Many crossing over say that while Microsoft offers a powerful set of tools, management and control can be complex when you’re moving from VMWare. 

You need to look to make your transition a smooth as possible from a management perspective, which may mean seeking out a third party management platform—like our own 5nine Manager—which provides a similar interface for Hyper-V as network admins will have been used to with VMware.

Making the switch

There are a number of tools that can help you make the transition, but there are always basic questions that we come up against, as well as basic good practice that needs to be done before transitioning your workloads. So here’s three things you’ll need to do if you want a seamless transition.

1. How long will it take 

Before you start a migration, be sure you know how many VMs you need to migrate and therefore how much potential downtime your migration will incur.

If you’re migrating a large set of workloads and VMs you’ll need to make sure you have adequate time set aside to do this and that any core business systems are not interrupted.

Don’t forget that the amount of time a migration takes is directly proportional to the amount of data being transitioned.

2. Start clean

Before you embark on a migration it's good practice to clean up the source VM. This can be broken down into simple steps: Remove all drives that are attached; review the VM for unneeded hardware; clean up the disks; and clean up any snapshots—these can't be utilized or exported.

3. Keep things running

One of the most common questions we get asked is whether you can do the migration while the virtual machines are running. In most cases the answer will be no; you will either have to stop or pause the VMs to do the migration. 

Obviously, if you’re in a high availability environment this won’t be acceptable. So we recommend that you create a snapshot of the VM and then convert that one while the original VM is running. Then once the migration is performed you can complete the full migration to Hyper V making sure all workloads are up to date on the target image.

Combining this best practice with a good V2V migration tool will ensure you effectively manage the transition and are ready to make the most of what Hyper-V has to offer. 

5nine V2V Converter provides fast and easy migration of VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V. The soon to be released version 8.0 of 5nine V2V converter will support conversions of both VMware and Hyper-V VMs into Amazon AWS EC2 VMs along with conversions into Microsoft Azure VMs. 5nine Conversion, Management and Security Solutions are helping organizations expand from Private to Public and Hybrid Clouds.

Dr Konstantin Malkov is a recognized specialist in mathematical modelling applied to network security and machine learning. His current focus is on migration, management, and security/compliance within the Microsoft Virtualization Platform

Since 1992 Dr Malkov has managed and overseen dozens of software projects in cloud computing, virtualization, business analytics, and Messaging/Secure Document delivery across the United States, Europe and Russia. He is currently Chief Technology Officer and Director of 5nine Software. Previously he was a CTO of PWI Inc., and ITS that was acquired in 2007 by ORCC in a multi-million dollar transaction. He is also a co-founder of the Department of Non-linear Dynamic Analysis and the I&C Laboratory at Moscow State University, as well as a former Professor of Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at Moscow State University. 

Dr Malkov has authored more than 50 scientific articles and two books on differential equations, numerical analysis, control theory, seismological inverse problems, mathematical methods in economics, and artificial intelligence.

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