AWS News Blog

VM Import Update – Faster and More Flexible, with Multi-Volume Support

Enterprise IT architects and system administrators often ask me how to go about moving their existing compute infrastructure to AWS. Invariably, they have spent a long time creating and polishing their existing system configurations and are hoping to take advantage of this work when they migrate to the cloud.

We introduced VM Import quite some time ago in order to address this aspect of the migration process. Since then, many AWS customers have used it as part of their migration, backup, and disaster recovery workflows.

Even Better
Today we are improving VM Import by adding new ImportImage and ImportSnapshot functions to the API.  These new functions are faster and more flexible than the existing ImportInstance function and should be used for all new applications. Here’s a quick comparison of the benefits of ImportImage with respect to ImportInstance:

ImportInstance ImportImage
Source S3 manifest + objects
(usually uploaded from an on-premises image file)
Image file in S3 or an EBS Snapshot
Destination Stopped EC2 instance Amazon Machine Image (AMI)
 VM Complexity Single volume, single disk Multiple volume, multiple disk
 Concurrent Imports 5 20
Operating Systems  Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian.

Because ImportImage and ImportSnapshot use an image file in S3 as a starting point, you now have several choices when it comes to moving your images to the cloud. You can use the AWS Management Console, AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI), AWS Tools for Windows PowerShell, or custom tools built around the S3 API (be sure to take advantage of multipart uploads if you do this).  You can also use AWS Import/Export to transfer your images using physical devices.

The image file that you provide to ImportImage will typically be an OVA package, but other formats are also supported. The file contains images of one or more disks, a manifest file, certificates, and other data associated with the image.

As noted in the table above ImportImage accepts image files that contain multiple disks and/or multiple disk volumes. This makes it a better match for the complex storage configurations that are often a necessity within an enterprise-scale environment.

ImportImage generates an AMI that can be launched as many times as needed. This is simpler, more flexible, and easier to work with than the stopped instance built by ImportInstance. ImportSnapshot generates an EBS Snapshot that can be used to create an EBS volume.

Behind the scenes, ImportImage and ImportSnapshot are able to distribute the processing and storage operations of each import operation across multiple EC2 instances. This optimization speeds up the import process and also makes it easier for you to predict how long it will take to import an image of a given size.

In addition to building your own import programs that make use of ImportImage and ImportSnapshot (by way of the AWS SDK for Java and the AWS SDK for .NET), you can also access this new functionality from the AWS Command Line Interface (AWS CLI).

To learn more, read the API documentation for ImportImage and ImportSnapshot.

Available Now
This new functions are available now in all AWS regions except China (Beijing) and AWS GovCloud (US).


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.