vSphere HA operates in the context of a cluster of ESXi (or legacy ESX) hosts. You must create a cluster, populate it with hosts, and configure vSphere HA settings before failover protection can be established.

When you create a vSphere HA cluster, you must configure a number of settings that determine how the feature works. Before you do this, identify your cluster's nodes. These nodes are the ESXi hosts that will provide the resources to support virtual machines and that vSphere HA will use for failover protection. You should then determine how those nodes are to be connected to one another and to the shared storage where your virtual machine data resides. After that networking architecture is in place, you can add the hosts to the cluster and finish configuring vSphere HA.

You can activate and configure vSphere HA before you add host nodes to the cluster. However, until the hosts are added, your cluster is not fully operational and some of the cluster settings are unavailable. For example, the Specify a Failover Host admission control policy is unavailable until there is a host that can be designated as the failover host.

Note: The Virtual Machine Startup and Shutdown (automatic startup) feature is deactivated for all virtual machines residing on hosts that are in (or moved into) a vSphere HA cluster. Automatic startup is not supported when used with vSphere HA.