How to: Move a VMware VM from one host to another WITHOUT VMware vMotion

VMware vMotion is a vSphere feature that allows you to move a running VMware virtual machine from one host to another, with no significant impact on your production environment. VMware vMotion was introduced in 2003 and is now a part of almost all VMware vSphere editions, except for vSphere Essentials Kit, which is designed for small virtual environments.

There are a number of scenarios when VMware vMotion might be helpful, starting with pre-defined hardware maintenance when you need to move your VMs to another ESX(i) host for a short period of time without downtime, and to proactive migration of live VMs away from underperforming servers. If your vSphere licensing includes VMware vMotion, congratulations, you are one lucky virtualization admin! But what should you do if your vSphere license doesn’t offer this feature, OR if you need just need this feature for a one-time project? In this case, Quick Migration from Veeam might be your solution.

What’s Quick Migration? Quick Migration is a feature of Veeam Backup Free, a completely free edition of Veeam Backup & Replication (with no expiration date!). Although Quick Migration is included in all editions of Veeam backup products, we’re only discussing the free stuff since this is a poor man’s guide to migrating live VMware virtual machines:

  • Download Veeam Backup Free Edition;
  • Install Veeam Backup Free Edition on a virtual or physical machine with a Windows OS. This is a “Next-Next-Next-Finish” process that just takes 15 minutes. Just in case, here are step-by-step instructions;
  • Prior to performing Quick Migration, add your source and target ESX(i) hosts to the inventory tree in the Veeam Backup console. User interface is almost obvious, so there should not be any problems with that. However, if you want to be sure that everything is correct, follow this guide.

Done. The next question: How do I migrate my VMware VMs with Quick Migration?

Quick Migration lets you migrate a live VM between hosts and/or datastores. Select your VM, right-click and choose Quick Migration:

Quick Migration

The wizard includes several intuitive steps.

That’s all :)

Additional comments:

  1. Quick Migration can be helpful when you need to migrate VMware VMs between VMware ESX(i) hosts without notable interruption and VMware vMotion is not available, OR when you need to move live VMs between separate datastores and vSphere Storage vMotion is not available. In both cases, Veeam Quick Migration will use its proprietary SmartSwitch technology to help you migrate VMs.
  2. Generally speaking, Quick Migration works with VMware VMs in any state, however this feature becomes incredibly valuable when your VM is running and you don’t want to create a large impact on the system uptime due to offline or cold migration.
  3. Quick Migration can move several VMware VMs between the source and target simultaneously, not one by one.
  4. Quick Migration is only available for VMware, not Hyper-V.
  5. Veeam Backup Free Edition requires at least minimum paid edition of VMware ESXi because of API restrictions in ESXi Free.

I hope you will find this post helpful. Feel free to get in touch if you have questions or need assistance.

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  • jorgedlcruz says:

    Very nice :) And very useful, thank you so much

  • Jason Kelton says:

    I’m hoping this can solve a catch-22 when using vSphere Essentials installed as the vCenter Virtual Appliance. The issue being that you can’t remediate the host it’s on, can’t shut it down to migrate it to another datastore, nudda.

  • Neil Deadman says:

    I have a Veeam B&R8 Standard installation. All CPU licences are assigned. To use Quick Migration once with an additional standalone host, do I need another licence? Or because the feature is available freely with Veeam Backup, does it ignore licences?
    Thanks, Neil

  • Vince Kent says:

    So this solution isn’t supported on free esxi?

  • Onallion says:

    Did not know about this, cool.

  • Janez Berkopec says:

    crazy good solution :D:D

  • Alexey Stromilov says:

    Hi, Vince.
    Take a look at extrasphere solution.
    It supports free esxi.

  • mvierling says:

    I never knew this existed. I’ve been running VMware Essentials and Veeam for several years. This is a huge plus as we can’t justify the cost to get vmotion and storage vmotion. How does the performance compare between Veeam Quick Migration and vMotion? There has to be some trade off to include this feature. If you had both Veeam and vmotion, which would be the preferred choice to use?

  • Rick Vanover says:

    The big difference is that vMotion is lossless, meaning you may only have a single ping drop. Veeam Quick Migration will drop the number of pings associated with pausing the VM and moving either the active guest memory and the host swap file (one of both of those two depending on the migration scenario). So, if it’s only the active memory of around 2 GB; probably less than a minute.
    You should try to play with it and know the behavior.

  • sabo fx says:

    Great open source initiative!! thanx for the hint!

  • Alexey Stromilov says:

    I’m not sure about open source but VM migration is really free )

  • Jeff Bowman says:

    It should be noted here that this shuts down and restarts the VM after the transfer is complete. I just found this out the hard way after it shut down a production VM.

  • Mike Johnson says:

    With Veeam could you migrate from a old storage cluster to a new one if you don’t have Vmotion?

  • Eli Afanasyev says:

    You should be able to pick your new Cluster as a target in the first option on the “Destination” step here:

  • Rainabba says:

    WARNING: As of 2016-11-23 This article is useless if you’re using vSphere 6.5. Veeam 9.5 doesn’t support 6.5 though it has the nerve to say (when you try to add a host), “esxi 6.5 requires veeam 9.5 Update 1 or higher” even though Update 1 isn’t available. I’ve been preparing for 2 weeks to use this to only find out NOW that I cannot. This is the 2nd time in 5 years that I’ve looked into Veam, only to be disappointed.

  • Raimond Barbaro says:

    … only if the CPUs on the source and destination hosts are incompatible. See stage 3 in this article:

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