From test to production: Copying VMs from VMware Workstation 8 to ESXi

With VMware Workstation 8, it’s easy to copy a virtual machine from to an ESXi host. In just a few steps, you’ll create a VM copy ready for production.

In past versions of VMware Workstation, there was no connection between Workstation and the vSphere infrastructure. With VMware Workstation 8, however, you can connect to ESXi hosts and copy a virtual machine you’ve created in Workstation to the production environment. This makes VMware Workstation 8 a valuable tool for creating and testing VMs, and allows administrators to better isolate test and production environments.

Connecting to the ESXi host
It’s easy for ESXi hosts to fill up with test virtual machines (VMs). Now that VMware Workstation 8 supports the ability to copy a virtual machine to ESXi, you can upload only those VMs that you want to put into production.

Exporting VMs to ESXi is easy with VMware Workstation 8. When you’re ready to upload a VM, select Connect to Server from Workstation’s File menu. This opens a window where you enter the name of the server to which you want to connect. This process in VMware Workstation 8 supports three types of target servers for the VM copy: an ESXi host, VMware vCenter Server, and also any other workstation that runs VMware Workstation 8. From this window, enter the user name and password you need to connect.

Figure 1
Enter the name of the server and user credentials.
Creating the VM copy
After making the connection, the target server will appear in the left pane of the VMware Workstation 8 menu. You’re now ready to copy the virtual machine. Simply drag and drop the VM from the Workstation interface to the ESXi host that you see in that interface. This action will open the Upload Virtual Machine Wizard. In this wizard, you can choose the target server from a dropdown list, and if multiple data stores are available, you can also select the data store where you want to store the virtual disk file for the VM copy. Click Finish, and VMware Workstation 8 will start copying the VM to the ESXi production host. Depending on the amount of disk space the VM copy uses, this can take a while.

Figure 2
A simple wizard lets you select the target host for the VM.
You'll notice that this interface doesn't offer all the features you find in the vSphere Client. That’s because you still need to perform all management tasks from the vSphere Client. Once you copy a virtual machine to your ESXi host, the only management capability you can do through the VMware Workstation 8 interface is start and stop servers on that host.

Figure 3
From the VMware Workstation interface, you can start and stop VMs easily. (Click image for an enlarged view.)
VMware Workstation 8 settings
Once the VM copy appears on the target server, you can finalize your settings. First, you need to decide whether you want to keep the original VM in the VMware Workstation 8 environment. You also may need to tune the settings of the VM copy such as its virtual networking and connected devices. If there are any differences between the configuration of the original host and the new production host, you might need to modify network settings from the vSphere Client.

That’s it! With VMware Workstation 8, you can see how easy it is to copy a virtual machine directly to your production ESXi environment.

This was first published in November 2011
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