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Supported vCenter Server High Availability Options (1024051)

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This article provides information about supported high availability options for VMware vCenter Server as well as information regarding VMware's stance on use of third-party solutions to protect the vSphere environment.


High availability for VMware vCenter Server can be primarily implemented using one of these for vCenter Server 5.x and 6.x.
  • vSphere High Availability (HA)
  • vSphere Symmetric Multiprocessor Fault Tolerance (vSphere FT)
  • vCenter Self-Monitoring Agent
  • Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC) formerly Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS)
  • VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat
  • vCenter High Availability (vCenter HA)
This table describes the available solutions that can be used with vCenter Server to provide high availability by version. Please see the notes where applicable.

Supported High Availability Solutions
vSphere HA vSphere FT WSFC/MSCS for VCDB WSFC/MSCS for vCenter Server vCenter Server Heartbeat vCenter Self-Monitoring Agent vCenter High Availability
VirtualCenter Server / vCenter Server Version 4.x Yes 1 No No No Yes 5 No No
5.0 Yes 1 No No No Yes 5 No No
5.1 Yes 1 No No No Yes 5 No No
5.5 Yes 1 No   Yes 4 Yes 7 Yes 5 No No
6.0 Yes 1 Yes 2 Yes Yes 6 No Yes3
6.5 Yes 1 Yes 2 Yes Yes 6 No Yes3 Yes8

  1. VMware vSphere HA provides robust general-purpose protection against hardware and operating system failures for vCenter Server instances running on a virtual machine.  Once configured, vSphere HA monitors hosts and virtual machines, and takes the user-configured action with or without vCenter Server availability.  For more information about vSphere HA, see the How vSphere HA Works section of the vSphere Availability Guide.

    For steps on setting up vSphere HA, see Create a vSphere HA Cluster in the vSphere Availability Guide.

  2. In vSphere 6.0, the SMP-FT feature was introduced. VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT) can be utilized to provide continuous availability for vCenter Server by having identical vCenter Server virtual machines running on separate hosts.  A transparent failover occurs if the host running the Primary vCenter Server virtual machine fails, in which case the Secondary vCenter Server virtual machine is immediately activated to replace the failed virtual machine.  A new secondary virtual machine is started and Fault Tolerance redundancy is reestablished automatically.  Because support of FT for up to 4 virtual CPUs (vCPU) is available only in vSphere 6.0 Enterprise Plus edition, FT can only be used to protect vCenter Server for the tiny and small deployment type, 2 vCPU and 4 vCPU, respectively.  For more information about Fault Tolerance, see Fault Tolerance Requirements, Limits, and Licensing in the vSphere Availability Guide.  For more information about sizing of your vCenter Server and the supported numbers of hosts and virtual machines, see vCenter Server Appliance Hardware Requirements and vCenter Server for Windows Hardware Requirements sections in the vSphere Install and Setup Guide.

    For steps on setting up vSphere FT, see Preparing Your Cluster and Hosts for Fault Tolerance in the vSphere Availability Guide.

  3. In vSphere 6.0, the vCenter Server Watchdog feature was introduced.  vCenter Server Watchdog monitors and protects vCenter Server's VPXD providing better availability by periodically checking the vCenter Server processes (PID Watchdog) or the vCenter Server API (API Watchdog).  If the Watchdog service detects that APIs are not running or responding, the Watchdog attempts to restart the service two times; on the third attempt, depending on your configuration, the Watchdog can reboot the vCenter Server's Host OS.  For more information about the Watchdog, see Establishing Watchdog Support in the vCenter Server and Host Management Guide.  Watchdog is enabled out of the box for vCenter Server 6.0.  In vCenter Server 6.5, vCenter Server Watchdog is replaced by VMware Service Lifecycle Manager (vMon).  For more information, see Protecting vCenter Server with VMware Service Lifecycle Manager in the vSphere Availability Guide.  

  4. As of vSphere 5.5, VMware introduced support for using Microsoft SQL Cluster Service for use as a back-end database.  Previously, using Microsoft SQL Cluster was not supported for any version of vSphere.  For more information, see Enabling Microsoft SQL Clustering Service in VMware vCenter Server 5.5 (2059560).  For more information about MSCS supportability, see Microsoft Cluster Service (MSCS) support on ESX/ESXi (1004617).

  5. As of vSphere 5.x and 4.x, VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat can be utilized to provides deep and comprehensive levels of protection against unplanned and, in some cases, planned vCenter Server downtime.  For more information about VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat, see the VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat documentation.  VMware has announced the End of Availability for all vCenter Server Heartbeat versions. For more information, see End of Availability for VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat (2079490).  For information on removing VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat, see Uninstalling VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat 6.4 and later (2014202).

  6. As of vSphere 6.0, VMware introduced support for using Windows Server Failover Clustering or Microsoft Server Failover Clustering to protect a Windows-based vCenter Server.  A transparent failover occurs if the Host Operating System (Host OS) running the Primary vCenter Server virtual machine fails, in which case the Secondary vCenter Server virtual machine is immediately activated to replace the failed virtual machine. WSFC/MSCS protection can only be used to protect the vCenter Server.

    For steps on setting up WSFC or MSCS for vCenter Server, see the VMware vCenter Server 6.0 Availability Guide in the VMware High Availability White Papers section below.

  7. Prior to the vCenter 5.5 Update 2 release, VMware had not certified vCenter high availability using WSFC.  VMware has qualified vCenter high availability with vCenter 5.5 Update 3 using WSFC.

  8. In vSphere 6.5, the vCenter High Availability feature was introduced.  vCenter High Availability (vCenter HA) protects the vCenter Server Appliance against host and hardware failures.  The active-passive architecture of the solution can also help reduce downtime significantly when the vCenter Server Appliance is patched.  vCenter HA is only available for the vCenter Server Appliance.  For more information about vCenter HA, see the vCenter High Availability section of the vSphere Availability Guide.

Additional Information

Third-party High Availability Solutions:

Other, third-party solutions are available to protect VMware vCenter Server 5.x and 6.0 including, but not limited to these solutions. However, these solutions are not certified by VMware for use with vCenter Server to provide high availability. If problems are experienced when the third-party solution is used with vCenter Server, VMware offers best effort support for any issues encountered with an environment that uses third-party solutions for protecting against VMware VirtualCenter downtime. However, VMware reserves the right to not support the environment until a compatible solution is used. For more information, see the VMware third-party hardware and software support policy.

Note: This list is not all inclusive.
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 AlwaysOn Availability Groups (AG) for high availability and disaster recovery solution (Non-shared disk configuration)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance (FCI) for high availability, and Availability Groups (AG) for disaster recovery solution (Shared Disk Configuration).
  • Microsoft SQL Server Database Mirroring
  • Symantec Application HA for VMware
Customers seeking to add support for any third-party high availability solution may file a Feature Request or engage their VMware account team in filing a Request for Feature Enhancement (RFE) through a Request for Price Quotation (RPQ). For more information, see:

VMware High Availability White Papers:

For guidance on high availability best practices from VMware, consult the table below. The information is based on the Release Notes as well as the published product documentations for each release.

See Also

Update History

05/06/2015 - - Added a clause about VMware's stance on support for 3rd party option - Relocated the information about 3rd parties to the Additional Info section - Added to Purpose info about 3rd party support - Updated the names of 3rd party solutions - Updated the list of 1st/2nd party solutions - Added a table detailing supported solutions per version - Added information about each of the supported solutions as well as how to set them up - Updated the vSphere 5.x and 6.x to product category - Added a table with all of the High Availability papers from each version dating back to 5.0, now including vSphere 6.0. 10/02/2012 - Added vSphere 5.1 to product category 10/12/2011 - Changed VMware will provide support to VMware will offer best effort support in the resolution field. 05/15/2012 - Added references to FDM in resolution, added link to KB 1004617

Request a Product Feature

To request a new product feature or to provide feedback on a VMware product, please visit the Request a Product Feature page.


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  • 26 Ratings