P2V Conversion of an SBS 2003 Server – Part One

Part One – Creating the VHD

This will be a 5 part post about my experience doing a P2V conversion of my SBS 2003 server to Hyper-V. 

Here are links to the other parts:

 Part Two – Creating the VM

 Part Three – The First Run Tweaking the Server VM

 Part Four – The Second Run Tweaking the Server VM

 Part Five – Last Tweaks and We’re Running

The Background

I recently decided to virtualize my aging and somewhat ailing SBS 2003 server. There were a number of factors behind this decision. One was that I just wanted to see what the process would be like. Having gone through and documented the process would certainly help if I had to do it for a client someday. Another reason was that once the server was virtualized, it would be relatively easy to copy the VHD file and start up a “copy” of the server in order to do a practice migration from SBS 2003 to SBS 2011.

However, the over-riding reason that pushed me into action was my December Hydro bill (Electricity bill for you non-Canadians). It was substantially higher than the same time the year before. Part of that could be attributed to the Ontario government’s move to so called “smart meters” with the accompanying higher rates for prime time use and negligible discounts for off-peak use. But that didn’t account for all of it and the only thing I could had identify that had changed was that I had more computers running longer hours than I did last year.

A watt meter confirmed that my single core SBS server and it’s UPS was consuming roughly twice as many kilowatts than my new six-core Hyper-V server. 250 Watts vs. 125 for the Hyper-V box.The newer technology really is much more energy efficient! Since I had the Hyper-V server running all the time, it seemed silly to continue running my SBS 2003 server on physical hardware. Plus, the SBS box had been having some hardware related quirks, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make the switch.

Now SBS 2003 isn’t officially supported under Hyper-V. It works just fine – it’s just not a configuration Microsoft will give you support for. But since that particular server only has one client (me), a good backup strategy would be more than enough for me to recover the server from any issue that might develop. So there was no way I was going to be calling Microsoft CSS for support.

The Physical Server

My SBS 2003 server was a box that I had put together myself – 3.2 GHz Single core Pentium 4 with Hyper threading, 3 Gigs of ram and a 320GB Raid one array. (More than enough for my one-man business.) The raid array was partitioned in 3 – O/S, Data and Apps. It was connected to an oversized 2200VA UPS that would run the server for quite a while in the event of a power failure. As it turned out, the UPS was part of the power consumption problem. It was drawing about 30-40 Watts even with the server turned off and unplugged.

Getting Ready to Virtualize the Server

There are a number of ways to do a P2V conversion. For example, Acronis and Shadow Protect both have hardware-independent restore options for their backup tools. System Center Virtual Machine Manager has a wizard that will do most of the work for you. Even the 2010 version of System Center Essentials has a P2V wizard. I don’t use any of those tools, so I decided to use SysInternals free Disk2VHD utility. I had used it quite successfully before, and given the price, it was a natural choice for the Frugal Admin.

One of the decisions I had to make was where to save the VHD file that Disk2VHD generated. I had a choice of direct attached storage, or a network share. I chose to store the file locally, since that would result in the fastest transfer time. I could have saved it directly to the Hyper-V server which would have saved the time to copy the file over later. But I wanted to keep the original capture intact on the source server – just in case. This particular server didn’t have an esata connection, so I opted for an extra Hard drive installed in the original box.

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Stopping Services before the Conversion

Since this was an SBS 2003 box, it had Exchange 2003 and Windows SharePoint services running on it. I chose to stop the various Exchange services before running Disk2VHD. I used Charlie Russell’s stopexch script to do this.

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I did this for 2 reasons. First, with Exchange stopped, no email would be flowing into the server. Secondly, I figured that with the Information store unmounted, it would be in a more consistent state when Disk2VHD did a VSS snapshot of the Data volume where the Exchange store was located. I don’t use SharePoint on my server, but if I did, I would have stopped the SharePoint services as well.

Disk2VHD – 1st Attempt

So I opened up Disk2VHD on the SBS 2003 server and prepared to run the conversion. Initially, I decided that instead of converting the 320GB Raid One array to a single VHD, I would save each partition to a separate VHD file to allow for future expansion and flexibility. So I selected each partition individually and ran the conversion 3 times.

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This turned out to be a mistake. I discovered that Disk2VHD converted the whole 320GB disk to a dynamically expanding VHD, but only copied the data for the selected partition. So the first VHD had the O/S partition and 2 raw partitions, the Second VHD had a raw partition, the DATA partition and then another raw partition and the 3rd VHD had 2 raw partitions before the Apps partition. Not what I wanted at all, and something to keep in mind the next time I run the program. So I started over.

Disk2VHD – the Conversion

I hadn’t yet shut down the Physical server so I opened up Disk2VHD again. I made sure the O/S, DATA and APPS partitions were selected but not the New Volume where I was storing the new VHD file. Then I clicked the “Create” button.

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Disk2VHD will use Volume Shadow copy Services to snapshot the volumes that it will be copying.

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It then copies the data from the selected volumes:

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The Disk Export to VHD completed successfully.

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Shut Down the Physical Server

With the physical hard drive contents successfully converted to a VHD file, all that remained was to copy the file over to the Hyper-V Server:

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and then shut down the Physical Server.

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Obviously, the Physical server needed to be shut down before the Virtual Machine came online, since both machines have the same name.

In Part Two, I’ll cover creating the Virtual Machine in Hyper-V.

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