VM Migration lifecycle

Migrate to Virtual Machines enables you to migrate (Lift and Shift) your virtual machines (VMs), with minor automatic modifications, from your source environment to Google Compute Engine. Migrate to Virtual Machines uses data replication technology which continuously replicates disk data from the source VMs to Google Cloud without causing any downtime on the source. You then create VM clones from replicated data for testing and perform predictable VM cut-over to your final workloads running on Google Cloud.

Data replication allows Migrate to Virtual Machines to perform an initial replication of the data from the source VM so that you can quickly clone and test a migrated VM. However, because the source VM continues to run during the migration process, including during testing, Migrate to Virtual Machines continues to replicate data until you perform the final cut-over to your migrated VM.

Migrate to Virtual Machines is fully integrated into the Google Cloud console, which means you can perform all migration tasks within the Google Cloud console UI.

About the migration process

Migrate to Virtual Machines provides a simple path for you to migrate your VMs to Compute Engine. The migration process occurs in the following distinct phases:

  • Onboard: Select a source VM that you want to migrate.

  • Replication: Replicate data from the source VM to Google Cloud. Data replication is a continuous process that takes place in the background until the final cut-over or you delete the migration.

  • Set VM target details: Configure Compute Engine settings for the migrated VM, such as the project, instance type, memory, network, and more.

  • Test-clone: Optionally create a Compute Engine clone of the source VM from the replication data and test it on Google Cloud.

  • Cut-over: Migrate the source VM to Compute Engine. This process includes stopping the source VM, completing a final replication, and creating the production Compute Engine instance from the source VM.

  • Finalize: Perform any final cleanup after a successful migration.

The following image shows these phases:

Migrate phases.

Each of these phases is described in more detail in the following sections.

Onboarding phase

The first phase of migration is the onboarding phase where you select the VMs to migrate:

Migrate onboard phase.

For example, for a vSphere data center, the Google Cloud console shows you all VMs on the data center. Select only the VMs that you want to migrate to onboard the VMs.

Replication phase

After onboarding a VM, start replication of disk data from the source VM to Google Cloud. The source VM continues to run during replication:

Migrate replication phase.

Data replication is a continuous process that takes place in the background with minimal impact on the source VM.

Data replication is comprised of two steps:

  1. First replication step: Migrate to Virtual Machines creates the initial snapshot of the source VM data disks and replicates the snapshot data to Google Cloud. Depending on the amount of disk data on the source VM, the first replication can take minutes or hours to complete.

  2. Incremental replication step: Following a successful first replication step, incremental replication steps occur at set time intervals (every two hours by default). In each step, a new snapshot is created for each data disk. Only data updates that occurred after the previous step are replicated to Google Cloud using the Change Block Tracking (CBT) mechanism.

Once you start replicating the source VM, replication continues until you delete the migration.

At any time, you can pause replication for a VM. For example, you might pause replication on one or more VMs to minimize network resources or to set a higher priority to those migrating VMs which are not paused. You can then resume replication at a later time.

OS adaptations

To function properly on Google Cloud, migrated VMs might need changes to their configuration. This process is called OS adaptation. The operating system (OS) adaptation process is performed at the completion of each replication step to prepare the VM to run in Google Cloud.

For example, Migrate to Virtual Machines adapts network configurations, deploys the Compute Engine agent, and enables the serial console on the migrated VM. See OS adaptations for more, including the specific adaptations applied to Linux and Windows VMs.

Set target details

After you initiate data replication, set the Compute Engine target environment on Google Cloud for the migrated VM:

Migrate set target phase.

The Compute Engine target details define the landing zone for a migrated VM on Google Cloud. These details include the project, instance type, network setting, and more. Migrate to Virtual Machines then creates the Compute Engine instance to host the migrated VM using the target details.

You can modify the target details at any time. When instantiating a Compute Engine instance for either the test-clone or cut-over phase, Migrate to Virtual Machines uses the target details settings at the time of the operation.

Test-clone phase

At any time after the initial replication step of the disk data from the source VM completes, you can clone the source VM to a Compute Engine instance for testing:

Migrate test-clone phase.

You often create test-clones throughout your migration process as you make modifications to the source VM or the target details. Remember that a test-clone is a static snapshot of the source VM created from the current replication data and target details. New replication data and modifications to the target details are only applied to new test-clones, not to existing test-clones.

While not required, creating a test-clone of the VM before deploying to production is highly recommended. Testing is a critical phase of the migration process to ensure that your migrated VM functions correctly in Google Cloud.

If you decide to create a test-clone from the source VM, Migrate to Virtual Machines creates a Compute Engine instance from the latest replication data using the target details.

Note: The source VM continues to run during the testing phase, which means data replication also continues.

Because the source VM continues to run during the testing phase, you have to ensure that you perform your testing in a sandbox environment that isolates the testing VM from the original source VM.

Once the test VM is up and running, you can verify that the test VM is working as expected and document any changes required to allow the VM to function in Google Cloud. When testing completes, you typically delete the testing Compute Engine instance and create a production Compute Engine instance as part of the cut-over phase.

Cut-over phase

In the cut-over phase, the source VM is stopped by Migrate to Virtual Machines, replication is finalized, and a new VM instance is created on Compute Engine on Google Cloud:

Migrate cut-over phase.

You should only perform the cut-over after you have performed all validations during the recommended testing phase.

The cut-over phase includes a short VM downtime and should take place during a scheduled maintenance window. You must first determine the maintenance window during which you can stop the source VM and redirect traffic to the migrated VM running on Compute Engine.

Initiating a cut-over on a migrating VM starts the following sequence of actions performed by Migrate to Virtual Machines:

  1. Shutdown the source VM.

  2. Perform the final data replication. Because replication occurs throughout all migration phases, the amount of data to replicate shouldn't be very large. If a replication is in progress, then it is completed. If no replication is in progress, then perform a final replication.

  3. Stop replication.

  4. Create the Compute Engine instance from the final replicated data.

After cut-over, perform your final validations on the migrated VM. The cut-over results determine your next actions:

  • Cut-over failed: For some reason, cutover to the new VM instance on Compute Engine failed, possibly due to a network issue or other simple issue. At this point, the source VM is stopped, and the final replication data is still valid. Retry cut-over to see if the retry clears up the error.

  • Cut-over succeeded but the new VM instance is not functioning correctly: If the new VM instance on Compute Engine is not functioning correctly, delete the Compute Engine VM, and start the source VM. This process is called "rollback".

    Because of the complexity of rolling back a migration, roll back is not an automated process. If you have to perform a rollback, you have to ensure that you redirect traffic back to the source VM. Also, note any data written on the Compute Engine instance is not pushed back to the original source VM.

    With the source VM functioning again, you can diagnose and resolve the migration error. After the error has been resolved, you can restart replication and then retry the migration.

  • Cut-over succeeded, and the new VM instance is working correctly: If your validation results determine that the new VM is working correctly, your migration is complete.

Finalize phase

Following a successful cut-over, you finalize the migration. Performing finalize deletes all replication data and all other storage resources associated with the migrated VM, and changes the state of the VM to Finalized.

Finalize can be performed only on VMs in the Cut-Over state:

Migrate finalize phase.

The replication data used to create the Compute Engine VM is retained after cut-over. That means you can use that data to create additional instances of your migrated VM after cut-over. However, you eventually want to free up the storage in the finalize phase.

After you perform finalize, the only allowed operations on the migration are:

  • Delete the migration
  • Add to or remove from a group

What's next