Exporting Virtual Machines to Another Computer

A potential client (hopefully will be a major client in the future) came to me with a requirement to consider ESX3i as their next platform for a stand-alone lab (x30). The major setback at the moment was the ability to easily export VM’s from one Lab to another. They needed to exprt the image off of host relatively often. Now why they were not using ESX in the first place and why they are continuing not to do so, and why they would not go for an enterprise solution, that is a whole different story, which I will not get into. And neither why ESX does not really compare to Xensource.

They are using Citrix Xensource 3.2 - which is a quick Right-click -> Export … Choose your location -> Save.

Since each VM is something like 40gb in size, this can be a very time consuming process.

So they started out by trying with thick disks (40GB) and to transfer that kind of a disk over the network can take mmmmm…. quite a while..

Not acceptable!

They went for Thin-disks (yes - I know that it sucks performance-wise..). Well when we created the disks it showed the size of 40GB on the VM’s settings, when ls -la on the Console (yeah yeah not supported - I know..) but when looking at it through the Datastore Browser - lo and behold - 8GB in size, exactly what we were expecting.

So we tried to move the VM off of the Host, with the Virtual Infrastructure Client GUI, with WinSCP, with ssh, with FastSCP, we all go the same results (as was expected), as soon as the files was exported off, it grew to 40GB in size, and therefore took too long to export the VM.

Again Not acceptable!

So what was left, and I have Edward again here to thank for reminding me, the export feature.


In the VIC, when the machine is powered off, when you select your VM and then from the top Menu, File -> Virtual Appliance -> Export, you have the option to Export the VM out to any location accessible from your computer. Me be the skeptic I am, I thought that it would not make much of a difference in size and time, but I was wrong.

Test 1: Export VM with 40GB Thin disk to local C: drive
Time to completion: 12 minutes
Size of OVF: 1.2 GB

Test 1: Export VM with 40GB Default Thick disk to local C: drive
Time to completion: 15 minutes
Size of OVF: 1.7 GB

So not only do they have their export feature, not only are the VM image sizes manageable, not only is the timeframe more than acceptable, the disks will stay Thick by default which I am sure will improve the performance, and also make Edward happy.

So, perhaps I have convinced the client that ESX3i is more than a suitable and worthy candidate that will match and even improve on that feature from Xensource any day (not to mention almost any other feature as well). And if all goes as I hope, we will have another happy client that will benefit from using ESX, and in the future they will go with the product they are supposed to be using the first place - VMware Lab Manager.