You can move virtual machines from one compute resource or storage location to another by using cold or hot migration. For example, with vSphere vMotion you can move powered on virtual machines away from a host to perform maintenance, to balance loads, to collocate virtual machines that communicate with each other, to move virtual machines apart to minimize fault domain, to migrate to new server hardware, and so on.

Moving a virtual machine from one inventory folder to another folder or resource pool in the same data center is not a form of migration. Unlike migration, cloning a virtual machine or copying its virtual disks and configuration file are procedures that create a new virtual machine. Cloning and copying a virtual machine are also not forms of migration.

By using migration, you can change the compute resource that the virtual machine runs on. For example, you can move a virtual machine from one host to another host or cluster.

To migrate virtual machines with disks larger than 2 TB, the source and destination ESXi hosts must be version 6.0 and later.

Depending on the power state of the virtual machine that you migrate, migration can be cold or hot.

Cold Migration

Moving a powered off or suspended virtual machine to a new host. Optionally, you can relocate configuration and disk files for powered off or suspended virtual machines to new storage locations. You can also use cold migration to move virtual machines from one virtual switch to another, and from one data center to another. You can perform cold migration manually or you can schedule a task.

Hot Migration

Moving a powered on virtual machine to a new host. Optionally, you can also move the virtual machine disks or folder to a different datastore. Hot migration is also called live migration or vMotion. With vMotion, you migrate the virtual machine without any interruption in its availability.

Depending on the virtual machine resource type, you can perform three types of migration.

Change compute resource only

Moving a virtual machine, but not its storage, to another compute resource, such as a host, cluster, resource pool, or vApp. You can move the virtual machine to another compute resource by using cold or hot migration. If you change the compute resource of a powered on virtual machine, you use vMotion.

Change storage only

Moving a virtual machine and its storage, including virtual disks, configuration files, or a combination of these, to a new datastore on the same host. You can change the datastore of a virtual machine by using cold or hot migration. If you move a powered on virtual machine and its storage to a new datastore, you use Storage vMotion.

Change both compute resource and storage

Moving a virtual machine to another host and at the same time moving its disk or virtual machine folder to another datastore. You can change the host and datastore simultaneously by using cold or hot migration.

In vSphere 6.0 and later, you can move virtual machines between vSphere sites by using migration between the following types of objects.

Migrate to another virtual switch

Moving the network of a virtual machine to a virtual switch of a different type. You can migrate virtual machines without reconfiguring the physical and virtual network. By using cold or hot migration, you can move the virtual machine from a standard to a standard or distributed switch, and from a distributed switch to another distributed switch. When you move a virtual machine network between distributed switches, the network configuration and policies that are associated with the network adapters of the virtual machine are transferred to the target switch.

Migrate to another data center

Moving a virtual machine to a different data center. You can change the data center of a virtual machine by using cold or hot migration. For networking in the target data center, you can select a dedicated port group on a distributed switch.

Migrate to another vCenter Server system

Moving a virtual machine to a vCenter Server instance that is connected to the source vCenter Server instance through vCenter Enhanced Linked Mode.

You can also move virtual machines between vCenter Server instances that are located across a long distance from each other.

For information about the requirements about vMotion across vCenter Server instances, see #GUID-DAD0C40A-7F66-44CF-B6E8-43A0153ABE81.