How to escape VMware's pricey clutches with Virt-v2v

Or any other hypervisors that might hypothetically be acquired or suddenly get more costly Moving a VM from one host machine to another is easy. Moving VMs from one hypervisor to another is less trivial – but help is at hand.

The Reg FOSS desk spent the weekend in sunny Brno at the European installment of Red Hat's annual developers' conference, One of the Lightning Talks we especially enjoyed was Richard Jones's "Virt-v2v – take out your VMware VMs to Linux" – not least because he called out not one, not just two, but three Register articles on Broadcom's takeover of the industry's favorite hypervisor vendor. (Thanks, Richard!)

With some customers reporting that licensing costs under the new ownership are rising by a factor of ten or more, there's considerable interest in migrating VMs from VMware's not-free-anymore server hypervisors over onto something less expensive. The core hypervisor functionality is quite commoditized these days. Even if the free edition is dead, Windows has Hyper-V built in, FreeBSD has bhyve, macOS has had one since 10.10 "Yosemite," and Linux of course offers a choice, including several dedicated distros, most based around KVM.

Twelve years back, this slightly less wrinkly vulture reported on the launch of Windows Server 2012 in which one of the main new features was Hyper-V. Back in 2012, virtualization was new enough that The Reg also covered a nifty feature in RHEL 6 called Virt-P2V, which we described as:

A program in an ISO image that you load up to grab the code running on bare-metal Windows or RHEL servers, sends it to a conversion host system, which then wraps it up to run in a KVM virtual machine.

Well, it was a dozen years ago. Times have moved on, and today, most places with in-house servers probably have established estates of carefully built and managed server VMs. Moving them to a different hypervisor isn't trivial. There's more to it than just exporting virtual drives to an interchange format and then re-importing them. Jones's talk introduced that tool's more contemporary sibling, Virt-v2v:

Virt-v2v converts a single guest from a foreign hypervisor to run on KVM. It can read Linux and Windows guests running on VMware, Xen, Hyper-V and some other hypervisors, and convert them to KVM managed by libvirt, OpenStack, oVirt, Red Hat Virtualization (RHV) or several other targets.

That's nifty enough, but as he explained, it has a couple of other neat tricks:

It can modify the guest to make it bootable on KVM and install virtio drivers so it will run quickly.

It was the last talk of the day, starting seven hours and five minutes into the recorded stream, and it comes in at under ten minutes including the Q&A at the end.

The Big Purple Hat renamed what used to be called Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV for short) as just Red Hat Virtualization, and then it was subsumed. Now it's just a feature in OpenShift. The handy thing about KVM, though, is that its formats and configs work on any distro. It's on our ever-growing list of distros to test, but we hear good things about Proxmox. ®

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