Did you know in vSphere 5.1, the new vSphere Web Client now provides a lossless OVF export feature for virtual machines? Previous to this, when you exported a virtual machine only the basic configurations were captured to ensure the virtual machine could be re-imported into another environment that supports OVF. The virtual machine's "virtual hardware personality" such as the BIOS UUID, MAC addresses, VMware specific advanced settings (Extra Configurations), boot order, PCI slot numbers, etc. were not captured as part of the export.

One of the main reasons for doing this is to ensure greater portability of the virtual machine across different environments. By having some of these specific properties tied to the virtual machine, it could limit where a virtual machine could be imported to. However, if you wish to preserve some of these settings during an export, you now have a new advanced option in vSphere 5.1 to specify additional configurations to capture for an OVF export.

When you select the "Enable advanced options" box, you will be provided with a list of configurations that you can preserve and export with the virtual machine.

Note: As the warning message states, only enable the configurations that you absolutely need, else you should stick to the defaults to ensure you have the best portability for your virtual machine export.

There is also a similar feature in vCloud Director 5.1 for vAppTemplates. When you initiate a download of a vAppTemplate, you now have an additional check box to "Preserve identity information" of the vAppTemplate prior to export. This is just a single check box for vCloud Director, you can not specify which configurations you want to preserve.

All these new OVF features can also be accessed with the latest ovftool 3.0.1 release which includes several new enhancements as well as support for both vSphere 5.1 and vCloud Director 5.1. You can find more details in the ovftool 3.0.1 user guide, but here is a summary of what's new in this release.

What Is New in OVF Tool 3.0.1

  • Support for vSphere 5.1 and 5.0.  
  • Support for vCloud Director 5.1, 1.5, and partial support for vCloud Director 1.0
  •    The following new ovftool options: --annotation, --exportFlags, --shaAlgorithm, --sourcePEM, --targetPEM, --vCloudTemplate, --sourceSSLThumbprint, --targetSSLThumbprint, --fencedMode, --noSSLVerify, --vService.

Feature Highlights

  • Full support for vCloud Director 1.5 and 5.1
  • Includes full OVF 1.0, and 1.1 support and backward-compatible mode for importing existing OVF 0.9 packages
  • Supports both import and generation of OVA packages (OVA is part of the OVF standard, and contains all the files of a virtual machine or vApp in a single file.)
  • Directly converts between any vSphere, vCloud Director, VMX, or OVF source format to any vSphere, vCloud Director, VMX, or OVF target format
  • Accesses OVF sources using HTTP, HTTPS, or FTP, or from a local file 
  • Deploys and exports vApp configurations on vSphere 4.0 targets and later and on vCloud Director 1.5 targets and later
  • Provides options to power on a VM or vApp after deployment, and to power off a virtual machine or vApp before exporting (caution advised)
  • Show information about the content of any source in probe mode
  • Provides context sensitive error messages for vSphere and vCloud Director sources andtargets, showing possible completions for common errors, such as an incomplete vCenter inventory path or missing datastore and network mappings
  • Provides an optional output format to support scripting when another program calls OVFTool
  • Uses new optimized upload and download API (optimized for vSphere 4.0 and later)
  • Signs OVF packages and validates OVF package signatures
  • Validates XML Schema of OVF 1.0 and OVF 1.1 descriptors
  • Import and export of OVF packages into a vApprun1.0 workspace. For more information about vApprun, see http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vapprun.

5 thoughts on “Lossless OVF Export in vSphere 5.1 & vCloud Director 5.1

  1. Hi William,
    very interesting post. Did you get the export of a particular boot order (ethernet, hdd, floppy) working? I have a VM configured with a specific boot order in the BIOS, but I don’t see any related entries in the OVF descriptor.


    • This functionality is in the vSphere API, so it’s available to all clients (including PowerCLI). However, I don’t see this “option” exposed in the default Export-VApp cmdlet, so you’ll need to use the API w/PowerCLI to access these advanced options

    • Hi Shyam, what is the command you are using to export the OVF template from a VM? I am trying vi://@@/path-to-VM

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