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Before I jump into an installation, please, do I need vCenter server for HighAvailability feature or just 2 vSphere ESX would do it ?

How is the heartbeat done? Through some heartbeat storage as it is with XenServer?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, you need a vCenter server for HA.

See the following link, it may be old but same basic premise

See below:

There are a number of requirements that you will have to meet to make VMHA work. Those requirements are:

1) VMware Infrastructure Suite Standard or Enterprise (no you cannot do it with the free ESXi nor can you do it with the VMware Foundations Suite).

2) At least 2 ESX host systems.

3) A shared SAN or NAS between the ESX Servers where the virtual machines will be stored.

Keep in mind that with VMHA the virtual disks for the VMs covered by VMHA never move. What happens when a host system fails is that the ownership of those virtual machines is transferred from the failed host to the new host. CPU compatibility between the hosts. The easiest way to test this is to attempt a VMotion of a VM from one server to another and see what happens.

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I would also point out that you should do some research into the CPU compatibility settings, especially if the two hosts are dissimilar. – SpacemanSpiff May 30 '11 at 13:46
Hm ok, so possibly the cheapest way how to achieve this, is going to VMware vSphere 4.1 Essentials Plus Kit, which allows managing 3 hosts... – John May 30 '11 at 14:02
Yeah, talk to a VAR, vmware has been selling these in "bundles" for significant discounts, shop around a little. Your vCenter CAN be a guest inside one of the virtual machines as well, but I prefer to keep it outside. – SpacemanSpiff May 30 '11 at 19:42
As you pointed out the underlying disk is still a single point of failure. To get the next level you will need a DR plan and/or automation like SAN disk replication and VMware Site Recovery Manager – mtinberg Aug 30 '11 at 19:54

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