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Make the right move when choosing migration technologies

Choosing among migration technologies isn't a simple choice. Our comparison chart will help you pick what's best for your operating system.

It can be difficult for a virtual administrator to select the right Hyper-V migration technology when there are multiple choices available. It's important to choose a Hyper-V migration technology that helps achieve your goal and, at the same time, reduces cost. You can deploy Quick Migration, Live Migration or shared-nothing live migration, depending on your version of Hyper-V and which best fits your situation.

Quick Migration and Live Migration technologies require the Windows Failover Clustering feature and you must create a plan before you roll out in the production environment. These two migration technologies provide automatic failover capability in case of any disaster with the Hyper-V node in a cluster. On the other hand, shared-nothing live migration technology can be used without deploying a Windows Failover Cluster, but it requires manual interactions for migrating a VM across Hyper-V servers.

Although Windows Server 2012 R2 does not introduce any new migration technologies, there have been a lot of improvements over the existing Hyper-V versions. The table below illustrates the migration technologies introduced through Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 R2 and provides comparisons of the options.

There are five different migration technologies and one replication technology available depending on the operating system version as summarized in the below table:

Migration Technology Available in Operating System Down-
Migration Type Active Directory Domain
Quick Migration Windows 2008 /R2/2012/R2 Yes High Availability/
Failover Cluster
Automatic/Manual Migration Virtual Machine Required
Windows 2008 R2/2012/R2 No High Availability/
Failover Cluster
Automatic/Manual Migration Virtual Machine Required
Storage Migration (QSM)
Windows 2008
Yes Mobility Manually using SCVMM Virtual Machine Storage Not Required
Storage Migration
Only Windows Server 2012/R2 No Mobility Manually using Hyper-V Manager Virtual Machine Storage Not Required
Nothing Live Migration
Only Windows Server 2012/R2 Minimal Downtime High Availability/
Failover Cluster
Manually using Hyper-V Manager Virtual Machine Required
Hyper-V Replica Only Windows Server 2012/R2 Yes Replication Manually using Hyper-V Manager Virtual Machine Not Required

The table lists all of the Hyper-V migration technologies available and the operating systems they can run on. The Migration Type column indicates the type of migration a Hyper-V migration technology performs. Quick Migration, Live Migration, shared-nothing live migration and Hyper-V Replica technologies help migrate a complete virtual machine (VM) to the destination Hyper-V server. The other two migration technologies -- Quick Storage Migration and Live Storage Migration can only be used to migrate a VM's storage. It's important to note that in Quick Migration, the VM is paused at the source server and resumed at the destination server, causing a short service disruption. In the case of Live Migration, the VM is migrated seamlessly without any service disruption.

Although Quick Storage Migration and Live Storage Migration do not require Windows Failover Clustering, they are designed to migrate a VM's storage, not the complete VM. There is a little downtime associated with the Quick Storage Migration process, and it can only be initiated manually using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

The Live Storage Migration process involves no downtime when moving VM storage but can only be used on systems running Windows Server 2012 and later. Since the process for moving VM storage is built into the Hyper-V Manager, there is no need to have SCVMM infrastructure in place to use Live Storage Migration technology.

Shared-nothing live migration technology, first introduced in Windows Server 2012, uses the SMB 3.0 file system to live migrate a VM without any downtime. Although shared-nothing live migration doesn't require Windows Failover Clustering, it can only be initiated manually using Hyper-V Manager. In other words, it does not provide automatic failover capability as indicated in the Transfer Type column in the above table.

Hyper-V Replica is a replication technology designed to replicate a VM's changed contents to a replica server running in a disaster recovery site. Hyper-V Replica is only available with systems running Windows Server 2012 or later and can be implemented without a Windows Failover Cluster.

Hyper-V Replica creates a little downtime for the VMs involved. Virtual administrators must bring up the virtualized workloads manually on the replica server. Most small and medium-sized businesses choose to implement Hyper-V Replica technology in their production environment.

The Active Directory Domain column indicates whether an Active Directory domain is required before using a Hyper-V migration technology. As you can see, Quick Migration, Live Migration and shared-nothing live migration require that Hyper-V servers are part of an Active Directory domain. One the other hand, Quick Storage Migration, Live Storage Migration and Hyper-V Replica technologies can work without one.

Before you plan to implement Hyper-V migration technologies in your production environment, it is a good practice to look at possible downtime and requirements. Your options are limited if you have not migrated to Windows Server 2012 or later.

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