Convert QIIME virtualbox vdi to VMware vmdk

Earlier this year I ran into the problem of having a QIIME job that required too much RAM for the virtualbox virtual machine that I had running on my Mac Pro. The 6 GB on my machine were more than adequate, as were the 8 processor cores, however only a fraction of this was available to the VM through the virtualbox platform. The job crashed with various system resource errors, even though the VM itself had been built for this exact purpose, and the job was not especially large relative to typical datasets.

After much Googling around, I discovered a number of different approaches, including using something called qemu. I found these to take a long time, and have several steps, and generally not work for me. I eventually found a post, which appears to be no longer available, explaining how to do this conversion with single command in the terminal:

> vboxmanage clonehd “QIIME-1.2.0-amd64.vdi” “qiime.vmdk” -format VMDK -variant standard

Note: the above is a single-line. vboxmanage is a command that should be available if you have installed VirtualBox.

This will take some time. Once finished, you should build a new VMware VM using the Fusion GUI, and select the vmdk file as the source. VMware will want to “upgrade” the VM because it will appear to be an older version. You should let it do this so that you have all the latest features of VMware available. Once built, you should be able to adjust the available system resources to as much as VMware will allow.

I have made this work on later versions of the QIIME virtual box, including the current version, QIIME-1.3.0. Please feel free to post replies if you find additional issues. I only know that this works on a Mac Pro running Snow Leopard. Other systems / OSes may vary, particularly Windows variants.

Thanks to the original post that showed me how to do this:

Convert VirtualBox (vdi) to VMWare (vmdk)
Posted At : August 27, 2010 5:49 PM | Posted By : Jeff Coughlin
Related Categories: Misc

Finally, it is possible that the virtual box implementation on a Mac has improved to the point that the available system resources is competitive with VMWare Fusion. Until that is clear, I hope that these instructions are useful, not just for QIIME, but any other situations in which you need to convert a vdi to a vmdk.