Migrate to a new vCenter server with the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) enabled in vSphere 5.1

Migrating to a new fresh vCenter server using the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) prior vSphere 5.1 is not a easy task. The VDS is part of the vCenter configuration. If you try to import hosts that have a VDS configuration to a new vCenter server the following warning will appear:

The distributed Virtual Switch corresponding to the proxy switches d5 6e 22 50 dd f2 94 7b-a6 1f b2 c2 e6 aa 0f bf on the host does not exist in vCenter or does not contain the host.

Kenneth van Ditmarsch describes in his blog post “ Migrate to new vCenter Server while using dvSwitches” how to migrate from a vCenter 4 server with a VDS switch to a new vCenter 5 server. This can be a risky and time consuming task task.

vSphere 5.1 supports to backup and restore the VDS configuration. This makes it possible to migrate the VDS configuration on a new vCenter  server very easily, without to migrate the VDS first to the vSS on the old vCenter server and on the new vCenter server migrate the vSS to the VDS. 

Here are the steps:

  • Upgrade the old vCenter server to version 5.1
  • Install a new vCenter 5.1 server and create a datacenter and cluster
  • Export the DVS configuration on the old vCenter server
  • Disable HA on the old cluster(s)
  • Disconnect all the hosts on the old vCenter server
  • Import all the hosts  on the new vCenter server. The following warning is displayed and it is safe to ignore the warning:


  • Import the VDS configuration on the new vCenter server
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  • Remove the disconnected hosts on the old vCenter server

After the VDS import, the warning will disappear and the VDS configuration is migrated to the new vCenter server.

More information

VMware vSphere 5.1 – Network Config Backup and Restore video

7 thoughts on “Migrate to a new vCenter server with the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) enabled in vSphere 5.1”

  1. Will this solution work if you need all the VM remain powered on during the migration? Will the HA/DRS cluster allow you to disconnect a host and remove from the host from the cluster while there are powered on VMs even when the HA/DRS has been disabled?

  2. I was looking for this work-arround but I’m getting a lot off import issues so the VDS isn’t imported 🙁

  3. This worked for me and saved me hours during a recovery of a vCenter that got hosed. Thanks buddy!!

  4. First, thanks for the steps/sequence! I searched around for a while on how to best accomplish this (don’t have a suitable lab just yet to test in advance), but seems your approach SHOULD work. I only wonder about the sequence toward the end in which you say to add all the hosts to the new vCenter and THEN import the exported dVS from the old vCenter.

    Why not import the dVS to the new vCenter FIRST and THEN add the hosts? Is there a particular reason you suggest adding the hosts (that comprise the dVS uplinks) to the new vCenter first and then creating the dVS via import of the exported ZIP?

    To confirm, I have vCenter 5.1 U1 as the source, and vCenter 5.1 U1 as the destination, so this ‘migration’ should in theory be very simple and involve no downtime of either the hosts or their respective VMs since my hosts use standard vswitches for management and vmotion and only use dVS for the VM traffic/VLANs. I already have the exported dVS config files ready/done. I just wanted to confirm this sequence as written by the author. Thank you.

  5. @ james,

    the DV switch will not sync up with the host if Imported before , you will see an error( mentioned in the Blog), i would also like to caution anyone who wants to try this , this will partially work , you wont be able to deploy OVFs after the host is moved to new vcenter ,will need to create a new dvswitch and migrate networking requiring a BLip outage .

    thx RJ

  6. Hi Ivo,

    i was wondering if this method will also work migrating to a new installed vSphere vCenter 5.5 with a new database.

    Hope to hear from you, Thanks

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