AWS News Blog

VM Import – Bring Your VMware Images to The Cloud

If you have invested in virtualization to meet IT security, compliance, or configuration management requirements and are now looking at the cloud as the next step toward the future, I’ve got some good news for you.

VM Import lets you bring existing VMware images (VMDK files) to Amazon EC2. You can import “system disks” containing bootable operating system images as well as data disks that are not meant to be booted.

This new feature opens the door to a number of migration and disaster recovery scenarios. For example, you could use VM Import to migrate from your on-premises data center to Amazon EC2.

You can start importing 32 and 64 bit Windows Server 2008 SP2 images right now (we support the Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter editions). We are working to add support for other versions of Windows including Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 R2. We are also working on support for several Linux distributions including CentOS, RHEL, and SUSE. You can even import images into the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

The import process can be initiated using the VM Import APIs or the command line tools. You’ll want to spend some time preparing the image before you upload it. For example, you need to make sure that you’ve enabled remote desktop access and disabled any anti-virus or intrusion detection systems that are installed (you can enable them again after you are up and running in the cloud). Other image-based security rules should also be double-checked for applicability.

The ec2-import-instance command is used to start the import process for a system disk. You specify the name of the disk image along with the desired Amazon EC2 instance type and parameters (security group, availability zone, VPC, and so forth) and the name of an Amazon S3 bucket. The command will provide you with a task ID for use in the succeed steps of the import process.

The ec2-upload-disk-image command uploads the disk image associated with the given task ID. You’ll get upload statistics as the bits make the journey into the cloud. The command will break the upload into multiple parts for efficiency and will automatically retry any failed uploads.

The next step in the import process takes place within the cloud; the time it takes will depend on the size of the uploaded image. You can use the ec2-describe-conversion-tasks command to monitor the progress of this step.

When the upload and subsequent conversion is complete you will have a lovely, gift-wrapped EBS-backed EC2 instance in the “stopped” state. You can then use the ec2-delete-disk-image command to clean up.

The ec2-import-volume command is used to import a data disk, in conjunction with ec2-upload-disk-image. The result of this upload process is an Amazon EBS volume that can be attached to any running EC2 instance in the same Availability Zone.

There’s no charge for the conversion process. Upload bandwidth, S3 storage, EBS storage, and Amazon EC2 time (to run the imported image) are all charged at the usual rates. When you import and run a Windows server you will pay the standard AWS prices for Windows instances.

As is often the case with AWS, we have a long roadmap for this feature. For example, we plan to add support for additional operating systems and virtualization formats along with a plugin for VMware’s vSphere console (if you would like to help us test the plugin prior to release, please let us know at We’ll use your feedback to help us to shape and prioritize our roadmap, so keep those cards and letters coming.

— Jeff;


Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr is Chief Evangelist for AWS. He started this blog in 2004 and has been writing posts just about non-stop ever since.