HCX for Legacy vSphere Evacuation

The Opportunity

There are traditional business-originated events or initiatives are commonly the trigger for our customers to rehost, re-platform or rebalance. These are the key HCX use cases (from a business standpoint).

Customer-driven use cases

We can’t mention the HCX use cases without discussing Legacy vSphere evacuation. Although the vSphere software lifecycle happens independently of these business initiatives, at times it can be synergistic with them.

My goal for this post is to define the scope where HCX can help (when it comes to an evacuation of aging vSphere infrastructure), & highlight some of the distinct HCX advantages.

The Scope

The picture above summarizes the legacy vSphere evac use case, lets try to describe in a few words:

VMware HCX can be used for the evacuation of legacy vSphere environments. In this context, legacy refers to vSphere versions that have reached End of General Support, are within one year (in either direction) of the End of Technical Guidance*

*this guidance may shift in the future

Here is how the vSphere version spread should be evaluated:

  • vSphere 4.x, 5.0, 5.1 & 5.5: there is no support for evac with any HCX version. (Use a 6.5 “mobility cluster” or upgrade to 6.5)
  • vSphere 6.0: there is limited support for evac with HCX 4.3.
    • Limited support for vSphere 6.0 evac ends on 2023-03-11.
    • HCX 4.3 is required for these projects. Older versions of HCX cannot be used.
    • Last call for small 6.0 evacuations. Larger 6.0 projects should be well underway.
  • vSphere 6.5 & 6.7: these are in the evac sweet spot. End of General Support is in the horizon, this is a great time to accelerate cloud adoption, multi-cloud, infrastructure modernization initiatives.
    • There is support for evac with vSphere 6.5 & 6.7 until the End of Technical Guidance date (source side uses HCX Connector)
    • There is support for building HCX Clouds with vSphere 6.5 & 6.7 until the End of General Support date.

      Avoid building new clouds with these vSphere versions due to the imminent EoGS date.
  • vSphere 7.0: This is the ideal/recommended version for the evac destination/cloud.

    VMware HCX 4.3 is the recommended version for all these evacuation scenarios.

    Note: Other HCX releases should not be used (in the near future they will be system flagged as EoS and unable to perform operations)

The HCX Advantage

Maybe too many to list exhaustively, but I can list some of the key ones:

  • HCX ensures max value from the investment

    As you all may know, vSphere 7 adds compatibility with Cascade Lake and Ice Lake Generation CPUs, along with similarly named Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) modes.

    One of the best aspects of HCX is that forward-migration from the legacy vSphere running older CPU gens like Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake can happen without lowering the EVC baseline. This means new virtual servers will get the full benefit of the investment, while legacy servers are fully compatible for a live migration into the environment.
  • HCX enables easy cloud adoption over the WAN

    HCX uses IPs from existing cluster networks to connect IN and uses an external network to connect OUT and create a Transport path (without requiring vCenter to vCenter or cluster to cluster awareness).

    This means legacy environment’s networks can remain relatively unchanged and the destination environment can maintain the best possible security posture for traditionally non-routed ESXi VMkernel networks.

    It also means SSO/identity domains can be whatever they were, the cloud identity domains can be provider managed or re-designed. All of it works.

Lowering the new environment’s EVC baseline of a new environment is like clipping its wings.

Gabe-ism 🥸
  • HCX provides multiple compatible migration options and complementary technologies to make the migration successful

    HCX-based migration types support the full range of vSphere versions as source environments. Live migration at scale and virtual machine modernization options are available. Purpose built migration management interfaces allow for enhanced tracking by application, migration waves, and even for intended migrations to be pre-planned as drafts.

    Highly available Network Extension services enable virtual machine networking consistency (same IP and MAC addresses) to ensure cross-site reachability. Network Extension with Mobility Optimized Networking adds east-west optimization at the destination, minimizing hairpin latency during virtual machine migrations. This enterprise capability does its magic while the original VM network gateways remain untouched and unaware.

    Non-HCX alternatives often require additional investment in the legacy infra being evacuated (where it least make sense).

Related information in VMware KB 82702.

P.S Happy 🇺🇸 Independence Day!

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