Migrations to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud Made Easy with Xtract for VMs & DBs

October 10, 2017 – At the Nutanix .NEXT 2017 conference (North America), Nutanix announced a tool that would simplify Virtual Machine (VM) and database migrations to a Nutanix private cloud.

Today, Nutanix has publicly released those tools Рknown as Nutanix Xtract for VMs & Nutanix for DBs.

Up until today, cross-hypervisor VM migrations were possible via a multi-step approach such as:

  1. File-system whitelisting of Nutanix Storage
  2. Mount the AHV container as an NFS datastore to vSphere
  3. Storage vMotioning VM(s)
  4. Convert VM disks to AHV by importing into the Image Configuration Service
  5. Create new AHV VM and attach imported Windows disk to the VM

Today, Nutanix Xtract for VMs allows for agentless live-migration of Virtual Machines from VMware ESXi to Acropolis AHV – with minimal downtime.

  • Streamlined migrations with one-click simplicity
  • Near-zero downtime with full cutover control
  • Simple test migrations and roll-back capabilities
  • Cost efficient – included with all Nutanix software editions

In keeping with the Nutanix release cycle, today is another day of¬†innovation — for you, the customer, at no additional cost.

blog_xtract-01

Translated:

  • More efficient
  • Less impactful
  • Automated
  • And, no cost! ūü§Ď

Nutanix Xtract for VMs has the following functionality upon the v1.0 GA release:

  • Migrate powered on or powered off VMs
  • Pause and resume migration
  • Schedule migration
  • Schedule data-seeding for the virtual machines in advance and cut over to a new AHV cluster
  • Manage VM migration between multiple clusters from a single management interface
  • Sort and group VMs for easy migration
  • Monitor details of migration plan execution even at the individual VM level
  • Cancel in-progress migration for individual VMs
  • Migrate all AHV certified OSes

So… starting today – you, the customer, can now migrate your Guest OSes supported by AHV¬†from vCenter and ESXi 5.5, 6.0, and 6.5 to Acropolis AOS 5.0.x and 5.1.x.

There are a few Unsupported Features that you should note, but otherwise — in so few words…

  1. Select your VMs
    – Map ESXi port group to AHV target network
    – Schedule time for migration to complete
    step1
  2. Grab your beverage of choice and wait for a periodic sync to destination
    step2
  3. Perform final cutover/migration of VM
    easybutton

Upon final cutover, the source VM is shutdown and the target VM is brought up live on Nutanix AHV.

Nutanix Xtract Software can be downloaded within the Nutanix portal site:
https://portal.nutanix.com/#/page/xtract 

Stay tuned for a video showing the entire conversion process.

Say goodbye to your #vTax!
1xcnf9

 

Removing Nutanix AHV Acropolis HotPlug Devices

Virtualizing servers and applications is nothing new, and is often considered common practice these days. More and more Tier 1 applications РDomain Controllers, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, and VDI Desktops Рare provisioned as Virtual Machines, due to their ability to be agile and highly available. With continued advancements at the hypervisor and storage levels Рincluding VM high availability, distributed/dynamic scheduling, and scale-out, shared-nothing architectures, infrastructure is much more resilient than ever. However, human error is still a VERY common factor in many unplanned outages. Out of the box, Microsoft Windows desktop and server OSes allow any user the ability to eject various HotPlug devices, which could lead to a server or desktop being immediately disconnected and unavailable.

The Windows feature to ‘Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media’ sounds good in theory, say to eject a USB drive from the operating system. Thanks to Windows Search Index, the OS will often prevent you doing something really bad, such as¬†ejecting a virtualized SCSI attached disk. Nonetheless, ejecting a virtualized network adapter of a production VM seems like a great way to ruin your day.

Now, yes, you can set a Microsoft Group Policy Object to limit the users and groups who are allowed to eject removable devices. https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj852171(v=ws.11).aspx

GPO_Name\Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Options

Screen Shot 2016-08-12 at 10.06.46 AM

This STILL does not prevent an administrator (you know, the ones often working on servers) from accidentally clicking the wrong icon.

Well-respect consultant and developer Helge Klein released a great (and frequently referenced!) post in 2012, detailing the ability to disable HotPlug functionality in VMware ESX Рboth at the hypervisor level, along within the Windows Guest OS.

Nutanix

Since the publishing of Helge’s article, additional hypervisors have been released and adopted in the marketplace. Nutanix may have started¬†the¬†explosion on the scene as a storage disruptor, while making traditional three-tier architecture obsolete. In doing so, Nutanix still allowed a choice of industry standard hypervisors, VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-V, to run on top of their commodity hardware. But Nutanix did not stop at simply disrupting the storage market, they wanted to ensure a practice known as ‘Invisible Infrastructure for Enterprise Computing.’ In theory – the storage shouldn’t matter, the hypervisor shouldn’t matter – IT should be a transparent and turnkey solution that focuses on applications and on the business. At .NEXT, Nutanix’s first user conference in June 2015, another disruptive announcement was dropped – Nutanix would release their own hypervisor entitled Acropolis (AHV), based on Linux KVM. Only 1 year later at .NEXT 2016, Nutanix is now reporting 15% of all deployed clusters are running AHV for client workloads.

Placing key infrastructure workloads on Acropolis, such as Microsoft Exchange, SQL, and Citrix XenDesktop, and VMware View are vendor supported (and recommended, if I must say so myself) AND yield an incredible ROI to the business. However, proper precautions need to be addressed to ensure users or administrators cannot accidentally eject virtualized hardware.

Windows VMs running on AHV will have 3 HotPlug devices within the guest OS

  • Nutanix VirtIO Ethernet Adapter
  • Nutanix VirtIO Balloon Driver
  • Nutanix VirtIO SCSI pass-through controller
    Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 11.41.36 AM

 

Currently on Nutanix Acropolis, there is no supported way to disable HotPlug functionality at the hypervisor level. I have confirmed with Nutanix support and engineering that this is not something that is currently publicly exposed.

Currently, the best approach to disabling HotPlug¬†devices within the guest OS would be to disable functionality from within the registry by changing flags on the ‘Capabilities’ key, based on each device within HKLM\SYSTEM\CCS\Enum\PCI.

A few notes regarding these changes:

  • Security permissions for all keys under ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI’ are protected¬†so that only the SYSTEM account has Full Control.
    PCI Permissions
  • You¬†could create¬†a workaround by launching Regedit.exe as the SYSTEM account, leveraging¬†a tool like Systernals PSExec (Owned by Microsoft)
    • Command Prompt – cmd.exe – Run as Administrator
      > psexec -i -d -s c:\windows\regedit.exe

However, due to these keys being reverted upon machine restart, the best way to achieve this functionality is either via a computer startup script or Group Policy Preference registry keys Рboth which run under the SYSTEM account Рand applied at computer boot.

Deployment –¬†GPP

The simple and repeatable way to deploy these registry is using Group Policy Preference registry itemsScreen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.10.03 AM

Update the REG_DWORD value of the Capabilities key to decimal value of (2) for the following keys:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1000&SUBSYS_00011AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&18
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1002&SUBSYS_00051AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&28
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1004&SUBSYS_00081AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&20

Deployment – Startup Script

Alternatively, the following script can be saved as a batch file and dropped into a GPO applied to your VMs.
GPO-Startup

 :: Disable Eject Nutanix VirtIO Ethernet Adapter (Win 10)
 :: Disable Eject Midfin Systems eFabric Network Adapter (W2K12 R2)
 :: Original value: 6
 reg.exe add "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1000&SUBSYS_00011AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&18" /v Capabilities /t REG_DWORD /d 2 /f

 :: Disable Eject Nutanix VirtIO Balloon Driver (Win 10)
 :: Disable Eject PCI Device (W2K12 R2)
 :: Original value: 6
 reg.exe add "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1002&SUBSYS_00051AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&28" /v Capabilities /t REG_DWORD /d 2 /f

 :: Disable Eject Nutanix VirtIO SCSI pass-through controller (Win 10 & W2K12 R2)
 :: Original value: 6
 reg.exe add "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_1AF4&DEV_1004&SUBSYS_00081AF4&REV_00\3&13c0b0c5&0&20" /v Capabilities /t REG_DWORD /d 2 /f

Whichever methodology you choose Рfollowing this change, the HotPlug functionality of the Nutanix VirtIO devices should be removed Рmaking users and admins sleep a little easier at night!