An easy way to quickly migrate a VMware VM to Synology VMM

When it comes to virtualization, I’m working with VMware products in my homelab, alongside (hardware) products from other manufacturers. But some special circumstances made a special solution to a problem necessary. Due to a month of military duty, when I was at home only for the weekend, I shut down my homelab. Not also due to this fact, but also because I’m currently building my own customized rack, where I will install my homelab hardware. Be sure to check my blog frequently to get more information about the rack, as I will blog about it soon!

What’s the reason for this migration?

I’m using Ubiquiti hardware for my networking (lab switches, home networking, including wireless), and also a Pi-Hole as my ad-blocker. These are the only “business-critical” services in my home network. And they were running on my homelab. But what should I do when I shut down everything? Well, VMware Workstation to the rescue! I’m (actually, I was) running an ESXi on VMware Workstation on my gaming computer. This ESXi server was managed with vCenter as a replication target for Veeam Backup and Replication. Quickly migrate the VMs to that virtual ESXi host, and that’s it. But what when I accidentally shut down this PC? Or I want to shut it down? I need another solution which is more like 24/7!

What’s the solution?

That made me think about Synology. I knew that at least some Synology NAS systems can run virtual workloads directly, either as a virtual machine or within Docker. I didn’t want to go with Docker because of the lack of knowledge, and I have only limited system resources on that NAS box. So it will be two VMs running on my Synology box! But how?

You can’t just vmotion your VMware VM to Synology VMM (Virtual Machine Manager). You can export the VMDK files or create an OVF, which you then import into Synology VMM. But that took to long, somehow (in certain circumstances I can be impatient …).

This blog post will show you how you can easily backup your VMware VMs to a Synology box, with their own toolset, and restore it directly into Synology VMM. It might come in handy, in case you’re searching also for a nifty solution to run a Pi-Hole or a Ubiquiti controller. Or some other small VMs.

To be honest, the Synology box isn’t a Ferrari, or a Fright Liner in terms of performance and / or capacity. Such a NAS is always somehow limited in CPU resources and memory. In my case, I was happy that I maxed-out the memory when I initially bought the NAS box. My current NAS looks like this:

You can see, there are not many resources, but it should be fine for some tiny Linux VM. A domain controller can even run on it if the resources are used sparingly. But don’t expect too much… And let’s dive into the topic now.

Read moreAn easy way to quickly migrate a VMware VM to Synology VMM

Working with templates in vSphere 7

One new great feature in vSphere 7 is template versioning. You heard that maybe already somewhere, or read it on various blog posts shortly after the announcement of vSphere 7.

I recently had to restore some of my Windows templates because something went wrong. Then I said, why not try out the new template versioning? Well, it’s easier said than done. I’ve found out that working with templates in vSphere 7 isn’t much of a difference than it is in vSphere 6.x. It’s also not a big difference when working with content libraries. But there are still some differences and maybe even limitations. I’ll update this post when I find out more about this. Maybe I’m just doing it wrong, or it is a bug like the one where VMs and Templates view doesn’t show folders after two levels in vSphere client (KB 78693).

What is vSphere template versioning?

First, it’s a great feature! With vSphere 7, you can now have multiple versions of a template. For example, you create your base template, then there’s the next version when you install patches and updates, and so on. If there’s something wrong, you can revert to the previous version of your template. Also, if you’ve got a huge template chain already, you can delete the oldest versions of your template. In my humble opinion, there is some space for improvement when working with templates and versioning. But I’ll show you later what that means.

How to work with the new versioning?

As far as I have tested it, you can’t convert existing templates to a template with versioning enabled. I mean there is no button like “convert that template”. It’s a manual task. That counts for templates that are stored somewhere on a datastore connected to your ESXi host as well as for templates that are stored in the content library. But as I already mentioned, maybe I’m just doing it wrong (hopefully not). And in case this should work, I’ll find it out and update this post.

How to work with template versioning then? It’s pretty easy. You set up your virtual machine and do everything you need to prepare it as your VM template. Michael White has some great posts about creating VM templates. Let’s assume that you’ve got your VM ready for the next steps.

Read moreWorking with templates in vSphere 7

Bulletproof tip on how to find the right Windows VMDK

I did this so many times already, and I never thought that I could document it, or put it somehow into a blog post. And maybe you already know how that works, how you can find the right Windows VMDK to resize it.

It’s not that complicated if you know what to search or look for. And it’s easy as pie when the VM has only one disk, or maybe two. But imagine a SQL server, which has like eight disks or more, depending on its setup or software recommendation? Then it might get tricky to catch the right VMDK at the first shot.

But this bulletproof guide should help you out! Maybe that gets a new category, bulletproof. We’ll see. But let’s get back to the main topic here.

How do I find the right Windows VMDK?

I deliberately write Windows because I only work on Windows machines for that blog post here and not Linux VMs. It might get another blog post for that sometime in the future. But that depends on the Linux distribution or flavor because Linux is not Linux (don’t hate me please). But there are Debians, RPMs, Unixes, and so many other derivates. Not always the same tools available, not the same commands or syntax. You’ll get the point. Let’s focus on Windows VMs for now.

So, you’ve got that huge VM with several disks, and you have to resize one of them. Lucky you if it’s the C: drive because usually, that’s the first VMDK. Usually. But this guide shows you how to find the right VMDK. And always, making the disk bigger is easier than shrinking it. So it’s better to find the right candidate in the first shot, isn’t it?

Read moreBulletproof tip on how to find the right Windows VMDK

Backup and Restore vCenter Server Appliance

Just a few weeks ago, vSphere 7 saw the light of day. And people went crazy! New ESXi servers with vSphere 7 have sprung up like mushrooms. So many people directly upgraded their homelabs, or maybe even their production systems.

This blog post, I know the last post is some time ago, will show you how you can backup your vCenter Server Appliance with their integrated backup functionality, and also how you can restore it, in case something went wrong. Except for two ways, I went through all options for backup targets and tried to find out how to configure it. So there should be at least one way how you can back up your vCenter data to a proper location in your data center.

Why is it a good idea to back up your vCenter

vCenter is your management central in terms of virtualization. You manage all your ESXi server with it, your clusters, your data center networking maybe (with NSX), you’ve got some automation running, got your host profiles, storage policies, etc. in place there. Why lose all the stuff you’ve configured over a longer period, with maybe much tinkering, try and error? Backing up vCenter is not so hard. You need a backup target, a user and a password. In vCenter 6.7 you can even schedule the backup, which makes things even easier than before, where it wasn’t possible to configure a schedule.

Supported protocols for backup

vCenter supports the following protocols for backup:

  • FTP
  • NFS
  • SMB
  • FTPS
  • SCP
  • HTTP
  • HTTPS

This guide will show you how to configure all of the above protocols, except HTTP and HTTPS. I didn’t see a sense in setting up such a configuration in my lab, because it doesn’t seem to me as such backup targets would exist in a company either. I also think that these two protocols might be the slowest, compared to all the other protocols available. In data centers, no matter if on-premises or cloud, the often-used protocols are NFS and SMB. So chances are high that there might be already a suitable backup target for vCenter. Or it can be easily created. Also, FTP is still commonly used, and we’ve got also secure options with FTPS and SCP.

Backup performance

To be honest, the backup performance was not my top priority. I wanted to configure and test all supported protocols except HTTP and HTTPS. It’s clear that performance matters, at least to a certain degree. Backup windows might be small, or systems should not be impacted with a heavy load. Before we move on, I’d like to show you how the performance was during my tests.

I’ve set up a new vCenter server appliance for this backup and restore test. It is a tiny deployment with 2 CPU, 10GB memory and default disk size (thin). There is nothing configured within vCenter, no hosts, no clusters, nothing except backup. You can see that the amount of data transferred is the same in all tests. In regards to the duration, we’ve got the SMB protocol on the first place, followed by FTPS on the second, and NFS on the third place. Yes, I’m aware of “but there’s ftp:// and not ftps://”. I’ve configured FTPS as you can see later on the screenshots, but when I executed the backup job, it was logged as “ftp”. You can spot the difference at the port used for FTPS.

Read moreBackup and Restore vCenter Server Appliance

New homelab hardware arrived!

Some weeks and months ago the gathering started. I did some long research, read blog posts and found very much helpful stuff. As you can read on my homelab page here, my lab evolved. It all started with VMware Workstation, then I recycled my old gaming rig, I’ve added some real servers and storage, and now, today, I’m announcing the arrival of totally brand-new and shiny homelab hardware!

With this blog post, I’m starting a small series featuring my new homelab. In this very first post, you’ll get the BOM (Bill of Material), so you know exactly what happened. In the next posts, I’ll show you how I’ve set it all up and for what I’m using it.

Basic idea

Instead of having huge servers to heat the basement, I’ve planned to reduce my own data center footprint as much as possible. Ideally, everything related to my homelab should fit into a small 19-inch rack. A really small rack. This rack will be placed in my home office. Also, I want to run an all-flash VMware vSAN cluster with three nodes. I don’t want only two hosts and a witness appliance, even if it works and it is a fully supported concept for small- or branch offices. I want real beef. Each server should have one cache device and at least one SSD for the capacity tier. I went all-in and decided to go with two SSDs for capacity. All servers have to be connected with 10Gig SFP+ for vSAN and vMotion because I already own a 10Gig SFP+ switch (which wasn’t much used until yet). And all three servers should run as silent as possible. Sure, I’ve got headphones for gaming. But when the fans are constantly buzzing around and making noise, it’s not nice. And I’m

To conclude this:

  • Small data center footprint
  • Three node all-flash vSAN cluster
  • 10Gig SFP+ connectivity
  • Small form factor 19-inch rack
  • Silent operations because of home office placement

That’s pretty much it.

For what I’m going to use it?

First, I love hardware! But I’m not buying hardware just for the sake of buying it. I learn new stuff because I didn’t have much to do with Supermicro except reading about it. I’ll install all the vSphere stuff I currently have running, and maybe something more. All that for learning how things work and for my exam preparations. Yes, I don’t have a VCP yet. I tried it several times but failed miserably. But not the next time, for sure! Maybe I’m gonna put also some “production” stuff onto it, like my Pi-Hole (reverse DNS add filter) or my Ubiquiti controller. We will see.

Read moreNew homelab hardware arrived!