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Technical Q&A > creating a test environment from a live esx4 cluster.


At my work place we use ESX4 in a 3 host cluster. We have a number of different VM's spread evenly across the cluster.

We have had ESX installed for about 6 months and I am relucantant to roll the new ESX4 U1 update on the production system whilst everything is working fine.

From a long time even before the ESX cluster I have struggled to create a test environment from the live system using tools like virtual box or VMware workstation. I am keen to give it another try though.

Due to constraints I wasn't able to create a test environment at install, I now have a bit of time to do this so I wanted to create a mini test environment on my laptop. I have workstation 7 installed with the latest updates and my processor is VT enabled which has allowed me to install ESX as a VM in workstation 7.

I now want to take a copy of one of our windows 2008 DC's which is a VM in our ESX cluster for me to do some tests in the isolated environment as well as some other servers to test integration, AD, exchange etc.

Using vcenter I clicked on a production VM which I wanted to take a copy of and created a clone of this.

I have now done this and as its a clone and its not powered on I assumed I would be able to take all the VM files (vmdk etc) from the datastore and copy it to a local hard disk but it wont allow me to do this. I get errors when I try to copy. I also noticed the clone VM i am trying to copy has a white icon which looks different to the online VM's. I assume this is correct because its a clone VM.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how best I could do this? If anyone has created a replica of their live systems in a test environment I am keen to see how you have done this. I am also aware that I should never plug this test laptop into the production network unless I have ensured the network is completely separate from the main network. If there are any other pointers I should be aware of please let me know.

Your advice is appreciated.

March 7, 2010 | Registered CommenterRanj Bassi

I only have basic knowledge of VMware workstation 7 and have only ever cloned a machine when it was off. I have had the odd issue pop up where it moaned about ownership, this might be the issue, you may need to take ownership of the VM. Not sure how you do it manually, it just pops up the message when I try to run the clone.

Also as you took a clone when the system was live it maybe that causing the problem. Try running the clone and then shutting it down properly maybe?

March 7, 2010 | Registered Commenterjoey pesci
I use the convertor, the way I do it is run from my workstation machine and it will install a service on the target VM (assuming the account you use has admin priv.), sometimes you have to install the convertor manually on the target for some reason. That should let you drop the vm on to your workstation. You have to trick it though, if you say that the source is a vm it will complain and state that it needs to be down, but if you state it is a physical machine it will let you do it on the fly.
There is a license that you have to get for the product I don't remember what it costs but I think it comes with your ESX purchase if you have Ent license which it sounds like you have. You can download it using your account on VMWares website.
July 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterJason Weems