Removing Boundaries Between Physical and Virtual Environments

Virtualization is a current key trend across all IT segments.  The benefits of virtualization are well known and widely leveraged since data can now be stored and managed over diverse virtual environments in large data centers – or simple standalone servers. Even the most populous segment – home users, can now virtualize their existing software or make cross-platform configurations.

This article highlights how Paragon ConnectVD Technology addresses many data management challenges on diverse virtual and physical machines. ConnectVD allows a myriad of tasks to be performed with ease in a virtual environment – such as partitioning, data transferring, imaging, copying and many other complex tasks.

Virtualization Challenges

One of the key benefits of virtualization is that you can run several virtualized environments on one physical computer using currently available hardware.  The number of serviceable systems may widely differ when using a single physical computer/single system approach or when leveraging dozens of virtualized systems. However the capabilities of IT personnel and administrators are not unlimited and expanding number of virtualized systems may cause a significant work backlogs.

Another thing to consider is that there are many different types of virtualization software. The main vendors are VMware, Microsoft, and Oracle, who offer incompatible solutions with many versions: enterprise or home user; bundled to the OS or independent; copyrighted by license or open-sourced. Managing and transferring data between these environments can be highly complex and nerve-wracking if things go awry.

These vendors naturally provide instruments for data management, migration, and conversion on virtual machines, but there are few vendor independent software tools that support all types of virtual machines. Administrators are typically faced with using many different tools simultaneously to perform tasks such as copying files between VM’s or virtual disk conversions.

Additionally, a typical VM is a complex environment that completely copies the physical computer’s partitions, file systems, one or several operating systems, software and data. On each level a special type of management is needed, which may or may not be provided by the VM software. If you recently installed all the necessary utilities, tools and management software to one or several physical machines, now you have to repeat this process with many virtualized clones. Having software that provides tools for the external management of data on dozens of VM’s from an original single copy is quite handy.

In brief, the major virtualized system management issues are the following: efficient management of a large number of virtual machines  using a limited number of physical servers; the need to support data transfer and management between different types of VM’s; and the need for universal data management tools that can service as many VM’s from the outside physical world as possible.

Paragon ConnectVD technology addresses today’s compatibility issues and ensures easy data management and transfer operations between different types of virtual machines

Connect to Virtual Disk

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Paragon ConnectVD technology resolves virtualized system management issues by utilizing software  tools that connect with virtual disk files or snapshots and treats them as if they were physical hard disk drives – for easy data management, backup, virus removal, server optimization and many other tasks.

ConnectVD mounts a virtual disk file or snapshot in a read and read/write state, and depending on the desired outcome and the state of the original virtual machine – allows the user to either read data while it’s running or write data after it stops.

Mounted virtual disks or snapshot are not visible to the OS because special drivers are used to give virtual data a higher level of security that is inaccessible to third-party or malicious applications.

Software developers can enhance their own solutions using Paragon’s ConnectVD technology to give users easy workflows for virtualized systems of many different types. Using VIM SDK – a special version of ConnectVD for embedded software, you can manage data on VMware ESX/Workstation/Fusion, Microsoft Hyper-V/Virtual PC, Oracle VirtualBox machines.

Paragon Software uses ConnectVD technology in many of its products. By merging this technology with partitioning, backup, copying and optimization solutions, these tools have evolved into robust and advanced solutions for virtual data management. Our virtual migration technology combined with ConnectVD-enabled applications are the answer for anyone interested in virtualization, but put-off by the attendant complications for single users and companies alike.

Paragon’s ConnectVD technology can take your virtualized environments to the next level with these easy to implement scenarios:

  • Utilize one universal virtual disk file application from diverse types of VMs. You can easily perform sector and file backup operations over partitions, whole disk and files to resolve data security issues. You can also easily restore data from archives or convert archives directly into virtual machines. In connection with mounting snapshots, you will be able to maintain data version policies of any complexity.
  • You can easily perform different partitioning operations: create, move, resize, merge and split. Reconfigure your partitioning scheme to obtain the perfect volume configuration alongside the file system. Convert file systems of different types and change their properties.
  • Perform rapid volume and data copying: create empty virtual disks and copy volumes to them, clone volumes, transfer volumes between virtual drives of different virtual machines and physical computers. This feature allows you to rapidly move specific partitions from physical disks to virtual and vice versa.
  • Easily copy files and folders between physical and virtual volumes with NTFS, FAT, Ext3, HFS+ file systems. Maintain the required versions of files and preserve any important data. Secure data on file level with sector imaging.

Conclusion

Each solution with Paragon ConnectVD technology is a fully independent solution. There is no need to install it on VMs directly, thus you not need a great number of similar solutions spread across each virtual machine in one company.  Support all of your virtual environments with one simple universal solution.

Not All Physical to Virtual Conversion Tools are Equal

Physical to Virtual (P2V) conversion tools are quickly becoming a necessity in the corporate server environment and data center. When used properly, a P2V tool has the potential to save hours of work when converting a physical server or PC over to a virtual server or PC. P2V conversions are accomplished using native or third party tools from a number of vendors. For the most part, when used properly, P2V tools work as expected.

However the P2V conversion process is a very complex endeavor and there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. The likelihood of problems seems to increase exponentially when performing conversions during an emergency as part of a disaster recovery plan. What’s more, most tools require several manual steps and can introduce hardware compatibility problems. Hardware compatibility issues can stop a migration dead in its tracks.

To overcome hardware issues, it is critical that a P2V conversion tool is able to access and modify the HAL (hardware abstraction layer) of the physical operating system. If the HAL is incompatible with the new hardware and/or virtual environment on the target system, the virtualized version of the OS will fail to work, potentially wasting hours of work and introducing unwanted delays into the conversion process. Paragon Software’s Adaptive Restore is the solution to this and works 100% of the time ensuring that your virtual machines boot the first time without issue. Continue reading Not All Physical to Virtual Conversion Tools are Equal

The Top Five Problems of Virtual Server Migrations.

The top five troubles of migration to virtual environments. How to avoid or successfully solve them.

Migration to virtual environments is not always an easy operation. It includes many implicit issues, manipulations and processes, any of them can be incorrect or cause a failure for the entire server. Moreover the whole operation’s success relies on the initial scenario of the system migration.

Evaluations of virtual systems also demands several new approaches as it is significantly different from working with traditional physical machines. The top five issues you may face before, during and after a system migration are
described in this post. Each of them has a solution, but only Paragon Virtualization Manager unites them all.

#1 Changing target virtualization environment

Today you have a wide range of virtualization software (VS) to choose from. Some of them are free and a little reliable; others carry a price tag but have also been tested in large enterprises. It is always better to determine what functionality, security and support level you want from your virtualization vendor before its implementation. One wrong decision may cause significant expenses of both time and money.

But what if you really decided to change your virtualization software vendor? For example you have been disappointed in Microsoft Virtual PC and bought VMware Workstation. What will you do in this case? Or you

have bought a brand new Windows 7 OS alongside with its embedded virtualization environment and want to transfer all data from your Parallels virtual machines? The answers may be several, let’s describe some of them. The first way is most obvious: you just reinstall OS and software from a scratch. Then copy all data by any means. Of course this is the most time consuming solution. The benefit is that you do not need to use any additional utilities. But this scenario can be initially doomed If you do not have software distributives anymore.

The second way is to somehow store your virtualized system into an image and then restore it inside of another virtual machine (virtual machine). Deployment of the whole system with software and data is much faster than the previous scenario, but you have to use an imaging utility. If you chose this way you will need to adapt the recovered system for the new virtual machine environment because different virtualization software emulate different hardware.  Concerning Windows family OS this issue can be crucial as these systems are very hardware-sensitive.

The better choice would be using one solution, which supports reading data from both source and target virtualization software. It also should be system adaptation aware, that is it should automatically tune OS for the new virtual machine hardware.


Paragon Virtualization Manager
has all the needed functionality to accomplish this.

The solution of the problem with Paragon Virtualization Manager is the following:

  • Create the target virtual machine with an empty virtual drive.
  • Attach both source and target virtual disk files to Paragon
    Virtualization Manager with the ConnectVD tool. Paragon Virtualization
    Manager supports VMware Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC and Sun VirtualBox
    virtual disk formats.
  • Copy all partitions from the source virtual disk to the target one. Thus you will get  the exact clone of your environment in the target virtual machine.
  • Perform target OS adaptation for different hardware with the P2P Adjust tool.

Finally you will get the needed virtual machine with all your software and data.

#2 Repartitioning of a virtualized system

The volumes configuration of your actual physical system before migration may not be appropriate for the virtual environment (VE). For example you may decide to reallocate space between partitions or distribute data to volumes on several virtual disks. Of course you cannot perform all these actions with the source environment itself,  repartitioning should be done inside of virtual machine.

You have several options here, the first one is to install a partitioning utility on the system inside virtual machine and use it for repartitioning. This approach is literally the same as for the physical system with two important moments:
You will have to acquire another license for the program installation (and usage) and set it up on the system, which is not the best choice since this solution is one-time use and will be redundant.

The second approach is to use a bootable media and run the virtual machine from it. You can leverage the utility without its installation but you will be constrained to the limits of the virtual machine. You will not be able to exchange data between disk files of different virtual machines or transfer data directly to the physical one.

Paragon Virtualization Manager is a much more comprehensive solution that is able to perform different repartitioning tasks, and copying and migration scenarios. If you have access to virtual disk files or snapshots you do not need to install the solution or boot the special environment. All you have to do is attach the virtual machine containers (virtual disk files, snapshots) and perform the needed operations. Paragon Virtualization Manager is able to treat data on virtual disks of running virtual machine, but in the read-only mode.

Just attach the needed virtual machine container (or several) with the ConnectVD tool of Paragon Virtualization Manager and you will be able to perform:

  • Create, format, delete volumes;
  • Move/resize partitions;
  • Convert file system;
  • Change cluster size;
  • Change partition ID and other parameters;
  • Merge partitions, redistribute free space;
  • Defragment file system;
  • Copy volumes;
  • Undelete partitions and much more;

Any data operations are easy to perform with Paragon Virtualization Manager. Its broad functional covers nearly all possible data management scenarios and it is all concentrated inside of one handy solution.

#3 Reviving outdated environments as virtual machines

Computer hardware is improving very fast; a high-end computer bought in the past year is a middle-class machine today and become outdated in the next year. So everybody makes upgrades or purchase brand-new systems. But if
you have a well-configured and tuned system with your favorite software you will naturally want to use it after computer upgrade. Unfortunately sometimes differences in the previous hardware and new one make this scenario
impossible.

The better option is to conserve your old environment inside of virtual machine. And again as in the first scenario you will have to deal with manual or utility-assistant migration process. However you probably have some archives
of your system, thus you become able to make virtual machine directly from such archive copy even if you do not have a physical machine anymore.

You may also have some old images of your system which you want to transfer into virtual environments for future use. virtual machine can be a handy substitute for any archived image as it can be run at any time. Combining all these sources as virtual machine is another task for Paragon Virtualization Manager that it successfully solves.

Paragon Virtualization Manager enables you to revive old environments with Windows OS (versions since Win2K) in a virtual machine with the help of the P2V Adjust tool. You can restore the old archive in a virtual machine by any means and then perform OS adaptation.

Moreover if you previously used other Paragon solutions for system imaging, you can simply convert or .PBF archives into virtual disks of the needed format. Just run the P2V Restore tool and Paragon Virtualization Manager will create
the virtual disk with all your software and data.

#4 Transferring data between virtual machines

Exchange of large amounts of data between several types of virtual environments can be a hard labor. You will have to use some kind of media to connect many virtual machines, which could be rather slow, unreliable and inconvenient. Also you probably will not want to download or install a particular tool to perform a single data transfer between your virtual machine and one you got from a remote source.

For example you need to quickly transfer data from a virtual machine to a brand new virtualized system. You may use a network connection, a flash thumb drive or any other mean, but only if both virtual machine can work with these things.

Paragon Virtualization Manager is the best choice for fast data transfer of large amounts of data between different virtual machines and physical computers. Its ConnectVD tool is able to attach as many virtual disks as you want, then you may do whatever you want with data on them.

Connection of snapshots is another great opportunity as you become able to rapidly copy some data from an old snapshot to the actual virtual machine you work with. Even if you make wrong actions or delete some files – you may simply copy them from the previously created snapshot or the archived image.

#5 Returning back to the physical machine

Deployments to a physical machine from a virtual one is even more difficult than initial migration to virtual (P2V). This is caused by a lack of appropriate solutions for this task on the market as there are only several typical virtual machine hardware configurations for each virtual vendor and the endless number of physical hardware configurations that the software will have to adjust to.

Despite that the issues of deploying to physical machines is not related with migration to virtual environments directly, this is kind of a backward process. You can face it if you made a mistake when chose the virtual vendor or decided to give up virtual implementations. It is also possible that you run a development server in virtual space and then need to transfer the data to a physical server.

The solution depends on what you exactly need to do with the data. It is not very difficult to copy some data from virtual machines to your computer, but a whole environment deployment is a rather complicated task.

As in the first scenario you can reinstall all from a scratch and copy data. The limitations are the same: absence of distributives and time expenses. As in the first scenario you can restore an image of the system, but you will face hardware incompatibility issues and get a non-functional system.

Paragon Virtualization Manager can significantly speed up the whole deployment process. Its tools can help you copy all data from the source virtual machine to a physical HDD and tune up the system.

The solution with Paragon Virtualization Manager is the following:

  • Boot the physical machine with Paragon Virtualization Manager WinPE media. Thus you will be able to use Paragon Virtualization Manager without any actual system installed on the computer.
  • Mount a network share or get access to the source virtual disk drive by any other way.
  • Attach the source virtual disk drive to Paragon Virtualization Manager with the ConnectVD function.
  • Copy all partitions from the virtual disk to physical one.
  • Perform target OS adaptation for the different hardware with P2P Adjust tool.

In the end you will get the physical machine with the needed software environment and data. Process speed depends on the amount of data that needs to be copied.

Paragon Virtualization Manager is able to help you successfully solve many tasks related to migration into virtual environments and virtualized data management. The key opportunity of Paragon Virtualization Manager is that it has comprehensive and diverse functionality inside of one application. Thus you do not need to search and buy different utilities to perform any task.

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A Tale About Adaptive Restore

For several years the company has been constantly improving the Adaptive Restore Technology which is intended to solve all issues with dissimilar hardware restore and migration. Its goal is to help you make an operating system functional again after any complex hardware replacement like installing a new motherboard or RAID controller.

The first version of Adaptive Restore supported only Vista and Windows 2008 operating systems due to use of a very simple adaptation algorithm. In short: because of the fact that these OS’s have many hardware drivers on board but in the inactive state the program just only activated them during adaptation assuming that it will make an OS bootable. There was not any possibility to add third-party drivers. The lack of this approach was obvious: some important drivers may not be found or adaptation should affect deep system layers. So the next version of Adaptive Restore was able to change OS core settings and install any additional drivers.

After several revisions Adaptive Restore become what it is now, a complicated technology with many background manipulations.

What makes Adaptive Restore Tick

Basically there are two main operations. First of all the program adjusts the OS kernel including proper HAL selection. Secondly the program installs any additional drivers. Now Adaptive Restore supports modern Vista, Windows 2008, Windows 7 operating systems alongside with deprecated Windows 2000 and going out of date Windows XP/Windows 2003.

Adaptive Restore is intended to be both simple and comprehensive. It usually doesn’t demand special attention or manual actions during the operation set up, but informs you about any hardware without properly installed drivers. Inexperienced users can completely rely on the internal Adaptive Restore algorithm during the operation when others, who feels themselves skilled enough, are able to change Adaptive Restore behavior.

If you choose a simple scenario you will need only to pass a path to the drivers’ repository in the program. There is no limit to amount of these repositories; the program will scan them all while searching for appropriate drivers. If the program fails it will ask you to provide a path to another repository. The lack of this scenario is that you cannot control which driver will be actually installed.

A long but detailed and interesting way to bring your system back on rails is to use the advanced Adaptive Restore scenario. In this case the program will provide you with additional Adaptive Restore parameters and tuning. First of all in this scenario you can see all the information about the hardware which drivers have to be installed for in an easy to understand manner with device names. Continue reading A Tale About Adaptive Restore

Best Practices on Virtual Server Backup Strategy – White Paper

Are you looking for the best practices in implementing and maintaining a virtual server environment?

Download the latest white paper explaining the best practices in virtual server implementation and maintenance.

IT systems have become such an integral part of the business process that down-time must be avoided at all costs. Those responsible for enterprise systems, both large and small are asking tough questions when it comes to business continuity and disaster recovery, questions such as:

  • How can we keep down time to a minimum?
  • How can I future proof my business continuity solutions?
  • What new technologies deliver improved 24×7 access?
  • How can I demonstrate the Return on Investment (ROI) of a disaster recovery solution?
  • Is there a way to reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) with new technologies?
  • How can I build synergy into a backup solution that delivers future value?
  • How can I avoid dead-end technologies?
  • What criteria should I use to select and integrate recovery products?

Simply put, businesses large and small needing to maintain 24×7 access to IT resources are looking for a better way to deliver 24×7 access, prevent disasters and recover quickly from unpreventable events, all without breaking the bank and still maintain scalability with products that are future proofed. Continue reading Best Practices on Virtual Server Backup Strategy – White Paper

Virtualization and Server Recovery

Paragon Software is putting together a special webinar for IT Professionals, our customers and partners that are looking for more information about virtualization. The number of Virtual Servers and use of Virtual Storage is a growing at a fast pace. Are you looking into virtual infrastructures for your company?

This webinar will be great for IT Professionals of all sizes to get a better understanding of virtualization, how to manage it effectively and what Paragon Software offers as solutions to common pain points.

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Here are the details on how you can register for the free webinar by Paragon Software:

Date: May 3rd 2010 11:00 am PST

Agenda:

  • Explain virtualization as a storage and instant recovery option.

  • Drive Backup overview

  • Adaptive Restore overview

  • P2V operations for backup

  • P2V Copy for instant recovery

In addition to attending the webinar you will be gain access to two special white papers by Paragon that explain the best practices in virtualization, storage and disaster recovery.

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Disaster Recovery in Minutes Using Virtualization

We have been seeing a trend lately with our customers regarding disaster recovery for businesses. Disk imaging is a quicker way to restore than regular file backups. The next trend of backups for businesses are being used along with virtualization technology. With servers being consolidated and migrated into virtual machines, disaster recovery is a very realistic solution and Paragon Software Drive Backup makes this a quick process.

Virtualization is no longer about consolidation. It’s about 24 by 7 by 365 application availability. It’s about simplification. It’s about massively reducing manually intensive tasks. http://storagedecisions.techtarget.com/seminars/storage_virtualization.html

Migrate Windows XP to a Win7 Virtual Machine

Upgrading your computers from Windows XP or Windows Vista to the latest Windows 7 operating system was not something Microsoft made very easy to accomplish.

Network World wrote an article about the Seven tips to migrate and manage Windows 7 and make the point that there will be software application issues and migrating to a virtual machine may be a better option.

5. Consider client virtualization.

The release of Windows 7 has companies considering another new technology: virtual desktops. The promise of ease of management and increased security that virtual desktop technology offers could drive customers to consider the technology when they have budget dollars for a PC refresh.

For its part, Microsoft offers two products that take advantage of virtualization and could be considered a means to managing a migration to or ongoing deployment of Windows 7. Microsoft Application Virtualization, the company says, helps reduce downtime for customers by turning Windows applications into “centrally managing virtual services that are delivered to any licensed Windows desktop or laptop.” And Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization allows desktop administrators to create, deliver and centrally manage a virtual Windows XP or 2000 environment (based on Microsoft Virtual PC 2007) and run legacy applications on Windows Vista desktops, the vendor says.

But Microsoft isn’t the only vendor touting virtualization as an option. VMware and Citrix also boast virtual desktop infrastructure and could provide viable alternatives to a full-blown Windows 7 migration, industry watchers say.

“IT managers would be able to go with a virtualization solution as well. If you are doing desktop virtualization, you can deploy your virtual container for the new desktop environment down to each one of the client endpoints. It would be as simple as setting one up and deploying it out to many,” Brasen says. “Microsoft, VMware and Citrix would all have options for customers here.”

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Two of the more useful features are the ability to convert a Paragon image to the .vhd format (which you can mount or run under Windows 7 natively), and the boot manager (which allows you to boot to both your old operating system and Windows 7). Microsoft does provide a free downloadable utility–Disk2vhd–that can copy a partition to .vhd. If you install Window 7 to partition other than the one your current OS resides on, Disk2vhd creates a dual-boot menu for you automatically. Paragon’s versions, however, are a bit slicker.

Paragon Software also has a Virtual Migration software that can simplify the process of moving a server or desktop into a virtual drive on your Windows 7 PC.

From the feedback from our partners, this is the best option when having to migrate applications and data. The alternative of starting from scratch and reinstalling all of your applications.