What is VMware Guided Consolidation?

by [Published on 19 Aug. 2010 / Last Updated on 19 Aug. 2010]

Taking a deep dive into VMware’s Guided Consolidation.

Introduction

Recently I was talking with a systems admin who was new to virtualizaiton. He had about 10 physical servers and wanted to consolidate them with VMware vSphere. He was curious if there was a product that would help him to analyze his current physical servers, make recommendations for virtualization, and perform the actual P2V consolidation. It seemed like a staged question for me as I immediately spouted out "use VMware Guided Consolidation!" That is because that is exactly what Guided Consolidation does and it is part of every level of VMware vSphere. Let me tell you what it does, how to install it, and how to use it.

What is VMware Guided Consolidation?

VMware says that the process of consolidating the datacenter involves 3 steps: Find, Analyze, and Consolidate. VMware's Guided Consolidation (GC) does all 3 of these for you. In the Find process, GC searches for physical servers. In the Analyze process, GC will collect performance data on those physical servers for a period of time. The longer the duration of time you can collect data, the higher "confidence" score you can achieve in the GC application. In the Consolidate step, the resources needed for these physical machines are compared to the virtual resources available on your ESX servers. With your approval, the recommendations can be used to convert the physical servers to virtual and place them on the ESX servers in the virtual infrastructure.

Guided Consolidation is free and included with every level of vSphere (not included with Free ESXi). Let's find out how to install it.

How do I install Guided Consolidation?

Before you start the installation process for Guided Consolidation, you must first have an ESX Server up and running, vCenter installed, a datacenter created in vCenter, and the ESX Server added to vCenter. From there, you can start the Guided Consolidation installation process.

Guided Consolidation is typically installed on the vCenter server. The installation files are on the vCenter installation DVD. So, insert your vCenter install DVD and the autorun will bring up the install menu, as you see in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1

From here, the installation process is very straightforward. You'll have to enter the name and admin credentials for the vCenter server.

Once the server side is installed on the vCenter server, you need to checkout your vSphere Client plug-ins.

To do this, open your vSphere client and click on the Plug-ins drop-down menu. In the new window that opens, look for the Installed vs Available Plug-ins. Ensure that the vCenter Guided Consolidation plug-in is installed.

Go ahead and install the vCenter Converter plug-in as well as we will assume that you will be converting physical machines to virtual machines.

Once installed, in the vSphere Client, click on the Home menu then on the Guided Consolidation application (or go up to View, to Solutions and Applications, and to Guided Consolidation).


Figure 2

Using Guided Consolidation

Before you start using it, you should go to the Configuration tab. Check the Health Status of Guided Consolidation to ensure that the Collector Service, Converter Service, and vCenter Server are all running.

Enter the Default System Credentials and the Active Domains. These will be used to find the physical servers (active domains) and login to the physical servers to collect hardware and performance stats. Here is what it looks like:


Figure 3

From here, go to the Analysis tab and click Start Analysis. You'll be asked what physical computers you want to add to the analysis. You can specify these by computer name, IP address range, using a text file, or by using all computers in the domain.

Here I am analyzing one server from my list of domain computers:


Figure 4

Immediately when you add a computer to be analyzed, GC will start collecting information. Be patient as the analysis will take some time (minimum, a few hours). To be honest, this analysis area of GC is the only negative I have seen. There is no log, in the GUI, where you can see the immediate status of what is happening with the analysis. I recommend that they add some kind of immediate feedback and real-time status.

Once some time has passed, your screen might look similar to this:


Figure 5

Here you can see that one server has been found and basic info about it has been discovered (the SHUTTLE server has 2x2.5Ghz CPU, 4096MB RAM, CPU usage is about 100Mhz on average, and RAM utilization is about 3081MB) but the analysis continues. Still, the "confidence" level is low simply because GC hasn't had much time analyzing this server (I just gave it about 8 hours).

The SUPERQUAD server, on the other hand, was unable to be analyzed because of "bad credentials or insufficient privileges". That means that, very likely, the username, password, or domains I entered were wrong for that server.

So what's the next step? To virtualize! (of course) If I click on the SHUTTLE server that has had some minimal level of analysis and click the Plan Consolidation button, the Consolidation Wizard appears. It's from here that I can specify my destination (Figure 6).


Figure 6

The destination is the list of possible ESX Servers that I am considering moving this physical server to with virtualization.

Next, it tells me that this server, SHUTTLE, is an excellent candidate for virtualization and would work well on the servers at this destination. I know this because of the destination rating that is shown (in Figure 7) with the "golden stars".


Figure 7

When I click Next, I'm asked to confirm that I really want to start the P2V consolidation for this server, to this destination.


Figure 8

When I click Finish a new task will be created to convert this physical server to a virtual server. Note that the P2V conversion won't always work perfectly but that is a topic for another article. Still, once the physical server is consolidated into your virtual infrastructure, the benefits will be worth it and I believe that you will be happy the results.

Conclusion

Guided Consolidation is included with vCenter and is the ideal option to analyze your physical infrastructure, plan your server consolidation, and then convert it with VMware Converter. In this article you not only learned how it can help you but also how to install it, configure it, and use it to guide you in your P2V consolidation.

You can read more about VMware Guided Consolidation in the vSphere 4 Administration Guide.

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