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I was wondering if there is any drawback to installing open-vm-tools (VMware Tools) also on physical machines (if you don't mind some MB of disk space)?

I know that it's pointless in itself, but maybe when you convert them to a virtual machine you don't have to do this and maybe it would be more convenient to include them in a standard installation.

So, what are your thoughts?

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    There is no harm and it is already installed by default on many distros. You can read about some of that here – n8te Oct 5 '17 at 8:22
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The core functionality of the interconnection with VMware is nowadays in kernel modules, and open-vm-tools are nowadays little more than wrappers for that.

Long are gone the days open-vm-tools kernel additions had to be (re)compiled when installed and in each kernel upgrade operation, and have installed the C compiler/developer tools, kernel source/headers and dkms along with it.

You can surely install them in a physical machine, but you won't get any value added doing that. Plus nowadays, it is pretty much just installing the package, and you can do it any time. On top of that, not having the package does not prevent a machine running on vmware, the packages are only indispensable to have the paravirtualized vmxnet interface (I am not saying they just do that).

As for preparing preemptively for a future migration, do you already know that will happen in the next weeks/months? How you will know it will be vmware? AWS is attracting a lot of attention nowadays on the cloud side. The open source alternatives as private cloud also are gaining a lot of traction even more with pretty much ready-to-roll solutions from a couple of big vendors.

At the end of the day, not much how you try to prepare, a few things will have to be changed in a P2V migration operation:

  • at least the NICs will probably be differently named, and the respective configuration files have to be changed;
  • networks/IP addresses might be different;
  • the hardware can and will change; for instance you won't need firmware packages installed in a VM;
  • depending on the migration procedure and virtualisation technology involved, some partitions/disk device names might change, or even the filesystem organisation will change, and again the respective configuration files have to be dealt with. (granted, with VMware migration tools the disk layout might not be that different if you are not using esoteric RAID configurations/controllers)

Some might be changed automatically, some will require admin intervention depending on the method used.

To get to the point: in Unix I advise following the principle of installing only what do you need now. A migration for any kind of virtualisation technology in a distant future will then have the requirements for changes to the VM and/or extra packets. You cant predict the future.

Related question: When do/did I need development tools/kernel source for `open-vm-tools`?

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