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VMware HCX 4.0 enhances VM migration, network capabilities

VMware's updates to its HCX product in version 4.0 enhance VM migration and conversion with real-time prediction, usability improvements and advanced migration and network details.

VMware HCX interconnects different infrastructures, such as on premises and the cloud, and migrates workloads with a conversion data mover outside of working hours -- even if the workloads reside in non-vSphere environments. HCX 4.0 implements enhancements to these migration capabilities, including real-time prediction, improved migration event details and interconnect enhancements.

VMware HCX provides a flexible way to connect and migrate on-premises VMs to the cloud. HCX migrates VMs to and from HCX-enabled vSphere infrastructure. It offers migration capabilities for VMware's ESXi, as well as competitors OpenStack, KVM and Microsoft Hyper-V. HCX can also provide business continuity and protection because it copies workloads to different clouds and retains the VMs as a standby system.

What is VMware HCX?

VMware HCX is a migration and conversion tool used to interconnect cloud environments or connect on-premises data centers to the cloud. It works for VM migrations or VM to cloud instance conversions. You can use HCX for two different types of migrations: cloud-to-cloud or vSphere-to-cloud.

A cloud-to-cloud migration requires the HCX Cloud Manager at both the source and destination sites. A vSphere-to-cloud -- private or public -- migration requires the HCX Connector at the on-premises or legacy site and the HCX Cloud Manager at the destination cloud site.

Migrations are usually lengthy. But with the HCX improvements in version 4.0, the admin receives detailed output about the state of current migrations. Previous HCX releases didn't provide as much detail into the migration process, such as conversion phase progress, as 4.0 does.

VMware HCX 4.0 supports cold migrations, bulk migrations, HCX vMotion, replication-assisted vMotion, cloud-to-cloud migrations and OS-assisted migrations:

  • Cold migrations are offline VM migrations that require downtime.
  • Bulk migrations move large numbers of VMs between HCX data centers, which requires a reboot and offers low downtime.
  • HCX vMotion offers zero downtime VM live migrations with vMotion
  • Replication-assisted vMotion is a bulk live migration that combines both HCX vMotion and bulk migration capabilities to offer zero downtime. This feature is only available in the HCX Enterprise license.
  • Cloud-to-cloud migrations are direct migrations between VMware Cloud SDDCs that move workloads from region-to-region or between cloud providers.
  • OS-assisted migrations are bulk migration of KVM and Hyper-V workloads to vSphere. This is another feature only available in the HCX Enterprise license.

A look at VMware HCX components

HCX is a management plane that has a virtual management component at the source and destination sites. There are several appliances within HCX, though the most used are the HCX Manager and HCX Connector -- you must install each appliance on a different site.

The HCX Manager is responsible for on-premises vCenter integration and the HCX plugin installation into the vSphere Web Client. After you pair HCX Manager with a remote site, you can then deploy other HCX components. Essentially, the HCX Manager provides a framework for deploying HCX service to VMs across both the source and destination sites.

The HCX Connector connects with the vCenter Server that contains the VMs you plan to migrate. HCX deploys the HCX Connector as the source, which enables you to connect to the remote data center.

VMware HCX 4.0 implements migration, network enhancements

VMware HCX 4.0 enhanced many of the product's features, including migration, network, service mesh configuration and usability.

Real-time prediction. HCX 4.0 provides real-time prediction of a migration's duration. This enables you to better assess how long business-critical migration operations might take. Especially when VMs and their data are quite large, this feature helps admins know when the migration will finish.

Migration event details. When VM migration is in progress, HCX 4.0 shows the status for each major phase, including transfer, continuous replication and switchover. Then HCX provides the migration status and any background operations within the UI. Some of the statuses you might see include transfer in progress and switchover in progress.

HCX relays which migration phase is in progress, in real time. HCX also presents the migration details with a timestamp, which shows how long they take to complete. If a migration fails, HCX provides information on why the migration was unsuccessful -- a failed migration takes a while to complete.

Interconnect enhancements. HCX 4.0 offers the In-Service feature for Network Extension appliance upgrades or redeployment operations. The In-Service upgrade significantly minimizes upgrade downtimes.

Network extension details. Enhanced network details in HCX 4.0 increase the connection statistics for each extended network associated with a specific Network Extension appliance. These statistics show received and transferred bytes and packets, bit and packet rate, and VM MAC addresses for each extended network -- details unavailable in previous versions of HCX.

HCX traffic type selection in network profile. The traffic type selection feature for the service mesh sets up HCX Network Profiles. You can tag networks for HCX traffic types such as Management, HCX Uplink, vSphere Replication, vMotion or Sentinel Guest Network. The HCX Compute Profile wizard then showcases these selections for configuration operations in the future.

Usability enhancements. HCX 4.0 can migrate workloads in Draft state directly from the Migration Management interface. It also maximizes all widgets in the HCX Dashboard to fit your browser window. The topology diagram now shows when you select a folder as the HCX Deployment Resource within the UI.

One of the limitations of HCX is it only supports vSphere 6.0 and higher. If you use an older version of vSphere, you cannot migrate workloads directly to the cloud with HCX. As a workaround, you can migrate workloads to vSphere 6.0 or higher, then use HCX for the move to the cloud.

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