Migrating Legacy and Non-vSphere Workloads to VMware Cloud Director


Many organizations still run at least a piece of their infrastructure on old physical servers or legacy/non-VMware virtualization in their data centers. The maintenance and day-to-day operations become a more significant challenge every day because of the old hardware and hypervisors being out of support.

Because of that, these organizations look for possible solutions to deal with it by investing minimal time and money. One of the many options is to migrate these workloads to a modern and up-to-date virtualization platform.

It makes such migrations an essential part of the Cloud Providers’ offerings so they can be competitive and deliver a valuable service to their tenants.

VMware Cloud Director Availability already offers a migration option for legacy vSphere workloads running on vSphere 5.5U3, 6.0U2, and 6.0U3. []

Several other tools provide migration capabilities from legacy or non-vSphere sources, but they are usually expensive or have quite a few limitations when it comes to VMware Cloud Director clouds being the destination. 

Note: VCPP partners are charged 0 points per migrated workload using VMware Cloud Director Availability.

VMware Products in Scope

Product Purpose
vCenter Converter Standalone Convert and migrate the VMs from the source non-vSphere or Legacy vSphere to an intermediate vSphere
vSphere Intermediate for the migration process. Destination for the vCenter Converter Standalone conversions and a source for the VMware Cloud Director Availability migrations to VMware Cloud Director
VMware Cloud Director Availability Migrations from the intermediate vSphere to the destination VMware Cloud Director cloud under the desired organization
VMware Cloud Director The destination cloud

Please note that the following products need to run interoperable versions:

  • vCenter Converter Standalone with Intermediate site vSphere
  • VMware Cloud Director Availability with Intermediate site vSphere and Destination site VMware Cloud Director

To understand more about the supported versions, please refer to the VMware Interoperability Matrix.


There are several possibilities when offering a workload migration service from non-vSphere or legacy vSphere sources:

  • As a self-service fully operated by the tenant
  • As a fully managed service by the provider
  • As a mixed service – part of the operations are handled by the tenant and the rest by the Cloud Provider


With Converter Standalone, you can convert physical machines, legacy VMware, and Hyper-V virtual machines. Since there are several specifics about each machine type, you can find more information about each of the supported sources here.

You can install Converter Standalone components only on Windows operating systems. Converter Standalone supports Windows and Linux operating systems as sources for powered-on-machine conversions and virtual-machine conversions. You cannot reconfigure Linux distributions.

You can find more about the supported Operating Systems here.

For any conversion limitations, please check here.


To apply any Guest Customization properties on the migrated VM at the destination site, VMware tools need to be installed before the migration to the tenant organization is initiated. It can be done prior to starting the process while the VM is running at the source or after it is converted at the intermediate site. 


Migrating Legacy and non-vSphere Workloads to VMware Cloud Director - Flow

The steps are as follows:

  1. Prepare the destination cloud if it doesn’t have VMware Cloud Director Availability running.
  2. Deploy and configure the intermediate site.
  3. Deploy vCenter Converter Standalone and its components accordingly at the source site.
  4. Convert a VM/physical machine to the intermediate site. 
  5. Verify all the properties (GuestOS type, version, SCSI controller, etc.) are correctly populated through the vSphere UI. 
  6. (Optional) Power on the VM if needed.
  7. Configure the migration using VMware Cloud Director Availability. 
  8. (Optional) If the VM is powered off, perform a manual sync.
  9. (Optional) Configure the Recovery settings – Network configuration (Re-IP), Guest Customization. 
  10. Initiate the migration.

The non-optional steps are marked with their numbers on the diagram.

Destination Site

Since the intended destination for the converted workloads is VMware Cloud Director, the presumption is that the VMware Cloud Director cloud (including its organization structure) is already in place. If, for some reason, it is not, please follow the VMware Cloud Director documentation to set it up properly.

The first mandatory requirement is to have all the VMware Cloud Director Availability appliances deployed and configured at the VMware Cloud Director cloud.

You can refer to the VMware Cloud Director Availability Reference Architecture and documentation for specific suggestions and instructions on how to do it.

The cloud site is ready for migrations when VMware Cloud Director Availability is ready, and its Service Endpoint address is accessible.

Intermediate Site

The intermediate site can be deployed and managed by the Cloud Provider or by the tenants in their data center. Which option is more suitable must be determined based on several factors such as cost, available hardware, workload criticality, etc.The site must run vSphere 6.7U3 (already past End of General Support), 7.0, 7.0U1, 7.0U2, or 7.0U3. There must be at least one existing user with the following permissions required by vCenter Converter Standalone.

One of the following vSphere licenses should be applied:

  • vSphere Evaluation license (if the migration is accomplished within 60 days of provisioning the vSphere intermediate site)
  • vSphere Essentials Plus
  • vSphere Standard
  • vSphere Enterprise
  • vSphere Enterprise Plus
  • vSphere Desktop

The vCenter address must be accessible from the vCenter Converter Standalone machine.

There are two possible options for the deployment of the Intermediate vSphere environment:

  • A dedicated vSphere per tenant with a VMware Cloud Director Availability On-Premises to Cloud Director Replication appliance paired to the tenant Organization in the VMware Cloud Director cloud. It can also be a vSphere environment running at the tenant’s infrastructure and managed by them.

Migrating Legacy and non-vSphere Workloads to VMware Cloud Director - Self-service

  • A shared vSphere with a VMware Cloud Director Availability On-Premises to Cloud Director Replication appliance per tenant paired to the tenant Organization in the VMware Cloud Director cloud.

Migrating Legacy and non-vSphere Workloads to VMware Cloud Director - Managed service

Option #1 is suitable when the Cloud Provider offers the migration as a self-service or a mixed service. Then the tenants can control the whole process or just part of it. For example, the deployment and operation of the vCenter Converter Standalone. Options #2 is suitable when the Cloud Provider offers a managed service because limiting the visibility of tenants only to their resources in a shared vSphere environment might be challenging.

Tip: To optimize the cost accumulated to the Cloud Provider by running the Intermediate site, the converted VMs can remain powered off and instantly be migrated to the cloud(Cold Migration). It will require a manual sync after the migration is configured but will allow even a deployment with less compute resources for the Intermediate vSphere environment. It can also utilize a slower but cheaper storage solution (NFS, for example). However, these deployment decisions should be made only after considering the number of workloads that will be migrated. Also, this approach might lead to a higher downtime period for the converted workload.

Deployment steps

These steps must be followed to get the intermediate site ready to accommodate the converted VMs.

  1. Deploy and prepare the vSphere infrastructure according to the chosen design (configure networking, storage, etc.). VMware Cloud Foundation can be used for automating the deployment process. 
  2. Deploy the VMware Cloud Director Availability On-Premises to Cloud Director Replication appliance following the steps provided in the documentation
  3.  Run the initial setup wizard of the newly deployed appliance to pair it with the destination cloud. Use the VMware Cloud Director Availability Service Endpoint address and Organization administrator credentials (depending on the design, the credentials should be for a tenant or system Organization).
  4. Create a user for vCenter Converter Standalone with at least these permissions.
  5. Perform all the network configurations necessary to make the vCenter accessible from the tenant site. 

Tip: During the initial setup wizard, consider enabling the Allow access from Cloud setting, which will let you configure the migration from the cloud site. 

Source Site

Because of the various sources supported by vCenter Converter Standalone (see Limitations for more information) and each has different requirements, there is no recommended architecture for the source site. 

The most suitable conversion approach should be determined by the machine (virtual or physical) owner according to its compliance with the vCenter Converter Standalone requirements and limitations.

For example, it is possible to convert a Hyper-V VM using two methods:

  • Powered-off virtual machine conversion
  • Powered-on machine conversion

A decision must be made based on the Guest OS distribution, its compatibility with vCenter Converter Standalone, and some other factors, such as downtime, the need to modify the network configuration, etc.

In case any configuration changes to the Guest OS are required during the migration (such as network reconfiguration, computer name change, etc.), then VMware tools will be mandatory to be installed. Please refer to the Considerations section for more information on what is needed.


Several steps can be automated to reduce the amount of manual work.

  1. Shipping the binaries and silent installation of VMware tools. (Link for Windows & Link for Linux)
  2. Intermediate site deployment through VMware Cloud Foundation. (Link)
  3. OVF Tool to deploy the VMware Cloud Director Availability On-Premises to Cloud Director Replication appliance at the Intermediate site. (Link)
  4. Install vCenter Converter Standalone through command-line. (Link)


You can find a detailed example of the process in our Migrating Legacy and non-vSphere Workloads to VMware Cloud Director document.


Even though the flow requires multiple manual steps, most are trivial and require no special knowledge. Following the documentation is sufficient for the successful completion of the tasks. Still, some of them can be automated to reduce the amount of manual work.

The combination of vCenter Converter Standalone and VMware Cloud Director Availability is a practical and efficient solution for migrating workloads from legacy or non-vSphere environments to VMware Cloud Director clouds with minimal effort. It can take just a few hours to successfully migrate and power-on a workload in the VMware Cloud Director cloud.

The cost-effectiveness of this solution is also a fact that should be considered (0 points per migration).

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