There were some discussions earlier this week about copying Virtual Machines from one ESXi host to another ESXi host that reminded me of a very cool feature in the ovftool that could help with this task(which I thought I had written about already). As you probably have guessed by now, I am a big fan of the ovftool and have written several articles here, here and here. It still surprises me with the amount of features this little utility contains and this particular one is definitely a cool one!
If you have ever needed to copy a Virtual Machine from one host to another, it can be a challenge sometimes, especially if you do not have shared storage. You can of course leverage tools like VMware Converter or exporting the VM to a "middle man" system and then re-importing that VM into the destination host but it could take awhile or you have to run a Windows system. Well, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to copy a VM from one host to another, try using the ovftool.
In this example, I have two ESXi hosts called vESXi-03 and vESXi-04 and they both contain a single local datastore (no shared storage). I have a VM called vMA5 that is located on vESXi-03 and I would like to copy that directly to vESXi-04 without needing any additional storage.
Here is an example of using ovftool to probe the ESXi host to see the list of available VMs:
Note: A VM must be powered off for ovftool to transfered or exported.
Now that we have identified our VM, we just need to specify the source ESXi host and the destination ESXi host as well as the datastore using the -ds option. Here is an example of using ovftool to export the VM from one ESXi host to another ESXi host:
There are also other options that you can specify such as the network configuration and power options, please refer to the ovftool documentation for more details.
If you open up a vSphere Client connection to each of your ESXi hosts, you will see that the source host will have an export task and the destination host will have an import task as shown in the screenshot below:
Pretty nifty huh? 🙂
If anyone is interested in how this works, the system that is running ovftool acts as a proxy between your source and destination. The system running ovftool IS in the data path during the transfer but its only for the data to stream from source->client->destination. Nothing is stored on the client system and you do not need to have the storage capacity of what you are transferring. This is very nifty little feature that many people are not aware of with ovftool.