Cold migration is the migration of powered off or suspended virtual machines between hosts across clusters, data centers, and vCenter Server instances. By using cold migration, you can also move associated disks from one datastore to another.

You can use cold migration to have the target host checked against fewer requirements than when you use vMotion. For example, if you use cold migration when a virtual machine contains a complex application setup, the compatibility checks during vMotion might prevent the virtual machine from moving to another host.

You must power off or suspend the virtual machines before you begin the cold migration process. Migrating a suspended virtual machine is considered a cold migration because although the virtual machine is powered on, it is not running.

You cannot implement a cold migration across different subnets.

CPU Compatibility Check During Cold Migration

If you attempt to migrate a powered off virtual machine that is configured with a 64-bit operating system to a host that does not support 64-bit operating systems, vCenter Server generates a warning. Otherwise, CPU compatibility checks do not apply when you migrate powered off virtual machines with cold migration.

When you migrate a suspended virtual machine, the new host for the virtual machine must meet CPU compatibility requirements. This requirement allows the virtual machine to resume execution on the new host.

Operations During Cold Migration

A cold migration consists of the following operations:

  1. If you select the option to move to a different datastore, the configuration files, including the NVRAM file (BIOS settings), log files, and the suspend file, are moved from the source host to the destination host’s associated storage area. You can choose to move the virtual machine's disks as well.
  2. The virtual machine is registered with the new host.
  3. After the migration is completed, the old version of the virtual machine is deleted from the source host and datastore if you selected the option to move to a different datastore.

Network Traffic for Cold Migration

By default, data for VM cold migration, cloning, and snapshots is transferred through the management network. This traffic is called provisioning traffic. It is not encrypted but uses run-length encoding of data.

On a host, you can dedicate a separate VMkernel network adapter to the provisioning traffic, for example, to isolate this traffic on another VLAN. On a host, you can assign no more than one VMkernel adapter for provisioning traffic. For information about enabling provisioning traffic on a separate VMkernel adapter, see the vSphere Networking documentation.

If you plan to transfer high volumes of virtual machine data that the management network cannot accommodate, redirect the cold migration traffic on a host to the TCP/IP stack that is dedicated to cold migration and cloning of powered off virtual machines. You can also redirect if you want to isolate cold migration traffic in a subnet different from the management network, for example, for migration over a long distance. See Place Traffic for Cold Migration, Cloning, and Snapshots on the Provisioning TCP/IP Stack.