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vMotion without shared storage requirement, does it have a name?

With the release of version 5.1, VMware introduced some extra functionality to the vMotion platform. One of these enhancements enables vMotion to run in environments without shared storage.

I heard a lot of names floating around the community, such as X-vMotion, Unified vMotion and enhanced vMotion, but in reality we do not brand this particular enhancement as a separate feature. To give you some background of the previous mentioned terms: X-vMotion was the internal code name for this feature, this name is still visible in the ESXi Host Advanced Setting with the rest of the internal codenames. Unified vMotion is a reference to the unified architecture which combines vMotion and parts of the Storage vMotion for this process. When a virtual machine needs to be migrated between hosts that do not share storage, vMotion copies the data across the vMotion network using some of the Storage vMotion code. A separate article will appear soon expanding on the technical bits of this process.

A separate product name usually means a separate license and that is the beauty of this enhancement. vMotion without the shared storage requirement is available in all kits and edition that have vMotion included. This means, if you are using vMotion today, the moment you upgrade to vSphere 5.1, you can migrate virtual machines between hosts without the need of shared storage and without any downtime.

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Frank Denneman

About Frank Denneman

Frank Denneman is a senior technical marketing architect within the Cloud Infrastructure Product Marketing group at VMware. He is responsible for resource management in general, with a focus on distributed resource management, Storage IO Control and the vMotion platform.

74 thoughts on “vMotion without shared storage requirement, does it have a name?

  1. Vaseem

    As the vSphere Essential plus doesn’t have Storage vMotion option, Does that mean vMotion with no shared storage is not supported with Essential Plus?

  2. Frank Denneman

    Hi Vaseem, the answer to your question is hidden in the last paragraph of the article:

    “vMotion without the shared storage requirement is available in all kits and edition that have vMotion included. This means, if you are using vMotion today, the moment you upgrade to vSphere 5.1, you can migrate virtual machines between hosts without the need of shared storage and without any downtime.”

    This means that vMotion without shared storage is available in the essential plus license.

  3. John White

    Oh that’s interesting. Parsing out that comment, it looks like the implication is that though Storage vMotion isn’t making into Essentials Plus, shared nothing vMotion is. Weird.

  4. Harry


    Will I be able to vMotion the storage of a VM from local storage to an iSCSI SAN volume with Essential Plus or will I need Standard licensing to do that?

    Another way to put the question is….is Standard licensing required only vMotioning from shared storage or even from local to shared storage?


    1. Frank DennemanFrank Denneman Post author


      You can copy data from a local disk to a shared storage datastore on a SAN with vMotion. To use vMotion, you need at least an Essential plus license.

      So you do not need the Standard license to do this

      1. Harry

        Thanks Frank.

        So to clarify further, Standard licensing is only required when using vMotion to move a VM from a datastore that is on shared storage to another datastore on the same shared storage.

        Is this correct?

      2. network user

        Hello Frank,

        Could you confirm if the Essentials plus license should be on vCenter Server or if the ESXi host, from which the migration is needed to be done, has the Essentials Plus license is sufficient to do host and datastore vmotion? I need to migrate local storage from an ESXi host to a shared storage.

        Also, do i need to shut down the virtual machine when i am moving the host and datastore?

        Thank you.

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  7. Dima

    Thanks Frank

    We’ve downloaded and deployed the latest version of esxi 5.1 (799733) and vCenter (799731). But still have no possibility to migrate powered on VM between two hosts witch doesn’t have shared datastores.
    Migrate item in the menu points to the wizard, with 3 options. And the option “change host and datastore” still grayed for powered on vms

    1. Frank Z.

      I can confirm that. I’m just doing evaluation of that product, and also find that the mentioned option in vSphere Client (Windows application) is greyed out.

      Furthermore, I cannot create VMs with “hardware version 9” in the client, it goes only up to 8. Though I can choose “upgrade virtual hardware” afterwards from the VM’s context menu.

      Both of these issues do not exist in the Web Client. There I can create version 9 HW, and use the new migration method.

      It seems the vSphere Client is not yet correctly adapted to ESXi 5.1. Please fix!

      1. Frank Denneman

        Hi Frank,

        Please be aware that all new features of 5.1 are only available from the web client. No developments and changes are made to the vsphere client. That is the reason why you are unable to select vmotion without shared storage or HW version 9.

        If you want to use the new features from 5.1 you have to use the webclient.

        1. Frank Z.

          Oooh okay, I see. Thanks for clearing this up! :)

          Are there any plans to include the new features in the vSphere Client? I should hope so. :) Because, while the web client is very nice, it is also more sluggish than a dedicated Windows application, and I prefer the latter for day-to-day operations.

          Or is the plan to let the vSphere Client “die out”?

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  9. Frank Z.

    I’m adding my follow-up question down here, because the columns in my “thread” up there are getting seriously narrow. :)

    Okay, so if the vSphere Client is being deprecated, and the Web Client is the future way to go, what about the free version of ESXi, for which no web client is available, since there’s no vCenter for it (at least right now)? Will that get a web client too in some form?

    Also, a colleague of mine and me were wondering if there are any plans to make the Web Client (easily) accessible from smartphones (Android / iOS)?

  10. Simon

    Hi Frank

    Awesome feature. Do the source and destination need to me managed by the same vCenter still? I’m thinking that this greatly eases WAN vMotion.


  11. Denis

    Great information and nice feature. However my question is likes simons. I can not see if this feature allows you to shared-nothing vmotion between datacenterts hosted under different vCenter servers.

    I was looking at using this new feature to migrate servers from one datacenter to another datacenter but it appears that this may not be possible. Can you shed some light on this at all??

    Thanks in advance

  12. Gabi


    This is an awesome feature, specially for the SME market. I am yet to find some NIC designs/examples.

    Is there anything in the VMware website (hard to find information sometimes) that might be able to assist on this matter?

    NIC configs would be great,



  13. peter

    Having tried this in live environment I can confirm that even using the web client the option to Vmotion between two servers on local storage is NOT AVAILABLE using an Essential Plus license. All options are greyed-out execept Migrate Host, and errors appear relating to storage not available on the target host (which would have been the case prior to 5.1)

    I’d really like to see clarification on this from VMware.

  14. Jaschinta Ong

    I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And i’m happy reading your article. But wanna remark on some normal things, The website style is perfect, the articles is really excellent : D. Just right job, cheers

  15. Arun

    I can able to migrate all vms from one host to another without shared storage, but i can’t do the same for the following servers (vCenter, View Connector, View Security & View Transfer server). Is there any limitation for these servers.

  16. Mike

    Using the latest version of Esxi and Vcenter this is still not possible using local storage only – same error as above using the webclient.

    We have an Enterprise license..

  17. Werner

    I have also a question about the vMotion Feature in 5.1: Is it now possible to do a vmotion between different clusters in different datacenter objects in the same vCenter.

  18. Liber Bracesco

    Hi Frank, nice post.

    Unluckly I am not able to migrate a powered on VM (hardware version 7) from one host to another.

    Scenario: Two ESXi hosts both licensed with Essentials Plus, both local datastore. When I select “Migrate…” or “Move” I get this message: “Storage vMotion is not licensed on this host. To perform this migration without a license, power off the virtual machine.”

    I’m using Web Client v5.1.

    Do I need to convert VM hardware to v8 or v9 first?

    Thank you in advance.

    Best regards,

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  20. Ken Cline

    Hey Frank! Great article, as usual.

    This feature (which I like to call “shared nothing VMotion”) is indeed a nice feature, but a word of caution to everyone … this is just like VMotion in that it is great for planned incidents. This does not protect you in the event of a host failure. If one of your hosts with local storage fails, you still have to find a way to gain access to the VMs that live on that local storage from another host before you can restore service.

    If you need to enhance your service availability, you need to enable VMware HA (which DOES require shared storage). This feature will automatically restart on another host the VMs that were running on a failed host.

    If all you’re looking to do is to balance your workload between to local storage hosts or to migrate VMs from a host that needs maintenance, then “shared nothing VMotion” is your tool. Just make sure you’re not expecting it to do more than it is intended to do – it’s not a fault tolerance feature!

  21. vSolid

    Frank, thanks for this info, but I have two questions if you please

    * can we do vMotion for host booting from SAN (ESXi SAN booting)??
    * What if the blade doesn’t has internal HDD? Can we still use vMotion


  22. Greg

    Where is the… ” A separate article will appear soon expanding on the technical bits of this process” …article?


  23. Paul Reardon

    Question: When doing a vmotion does the source and target devices need to reside in the same storage group?

  24. Edgar

    What happens if the VM that is being moved (state and data) has disks mapped from several local datastores ?

  25. Gautam

    I am having host running on EsX 5.0. I login to this using Vsphere Web Client Version 5.1.0 Build 869765 . I am trying Vmotion without shared storage. However I am not able to migrate the VM when its powered on. I am seeing the following error “:ESX 5.1 is required to change both host and datastore for a virtual machine that is powered on. Power off this virtual machine or upgrade ESX to enable this option” when I try option Change both host and datastore. Is it required that the base host should also be in EsX5.1? Or this feature is possible on EsX5.0 with Vsphere 5.1?

  26. Markita Lacock

    Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

  27. Pete M.

    Can the VM be moved from one host to another while the VM is still online? I can move the VM all day while offline.

  28. Eric

    Oh this is great.. I had two servers I did not want to have down for the time they would take to move under normal circumstances. This even works shared storage to shared storage. One caveat, you have to make sure you select a different host for the vm when setting up the migration or it will fail as it recognizes it as a ‘storage only’ vmotion.

    I migrated a windows server last night, the drive shrunk by 30% (lots of install/uninstall going on there) my remote desktop session was still up and I lost 3 pings.

    Hard to beat that with a stick.

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  31. Dan Wilson

    Hi Frank,

    This is probably the best resource I found (even a year later) explaining what vmotion capabilities you get for your money with Essentials Plus.

    Please can I suggest that you edit the body of the article and make mention of the need to use vCenter web client to do a “storage” vmotion ? Although this is answered in the comments, there’s a lot to read through and I missed it first time; I’ve been trying to work this out for a while now and I was just about to raise a support ticket to report that I couldn’t access the feature through the Windows vSphere client when I spotted the discussion.



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  36. mb

    This is a great feature! What I would like to know is if there is a way this can be leveraged to maintain a periodic (hourly?) image of a VM on a backup host.


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