Virtual machine (VM) technology is one of the hottest trends in IT today—and for good reason. It facilitates testing and training and enables server consolidation and support for legacy OSs and applications. Although using VMware or Microsoft VM products to create new VMs is easy, moving VM images is a real challenge because each product uses different on-disk formats. The tools that these vendors provide tend to be inflexible and offer only one-way functionality (i.e., they convert to the target platform). Also, these tools don't address other popular imaging formats commonly used for deployment.
PlateSpin PowerConvert 5.2 solves this problem by providing anywhere-to-anywhere system image conversion, performing physical-to-virtual, virtual-to-physical, and physical-to-physical conversions. It supports all the most widely used system image formats, including VMware ESX Server 2.1 and later and Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and 2005 R2, as well as many disk imaging formats, including Symantec LiveState, Acronis True Image, and PlateSpin's own Flexible Image format. PowerConvert can create images from the following OSs: Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Win2K Server, Windows NT Server Service Pack 4 (SP4) and SP6a, and many Red Hat Linux versions, including Red Hat Linux 7 and 8. The Windows source systems require Windows Imaging Format (WIM).
PowerConvert uses both server and client components. The server handles source system discovery and image capture and conversion. It also hosts a database that stores source system information. The server requires Windows 2003 or Win2K Server SP4, with 512MB of RAM and 1.5GB of free disk space. The client provides a management interface to the server and requires Windows 2003, Windows XP, or Win2K Server SP4. You need to install Microsoft IIS, ASP.NET, and Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 SP1 before you install the PowerConvert server or client components.
I experienced several problems while installing the PowerConvert server. After a hefty 427MB download, the program insisted on installing MSDE, even though SQL Server was present. Then, the PowerConvert installation failed, leaving the MSDE installation orphaned. The program seemed to dislike .NET Framework 2.0. After I created a fresh Windows 2003 image with .NET Framework 1.1 and SP1, the server installation succeeded and the PlateSpin service was running in the background.
I installed the management client by starting Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), entering http://localhost/powerconvert, and selecting the Install client link. Installation took only a couple seconds. The management client uses the network browser to automatically detect networked systems. The management console lists source and target servers ( target servers are virtual servers or image servers). From the console, you can customize the conversion options as well as run the conversion job immediately or schedule it for another time. Figure 1 shows a physical-to-virtual conversion job with scheduling, source and target server, and configuration information.
In my tests, PowerConvert captured server images remotely without requiring any physical contact with source or target machines. It required no agents, no special boot disks, and no software to be installed on the imaged server.
After I got past the installation problems, I found the PowerConvert client easy to use. PowerConvert 5.2 is a useful utility for organizations dealing with multiple VM technologies or needing to convert existing physical machine images to VM images and vice versa.
PROS: Easy-to-use interface; automatic management-client installation