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Which virtual switch to select in vSphere 5

There are a lot of choices to be made for networking in VMware vSphere 5. We’ve got the good ol’ vSwith, vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS) and finally the Nexus 1000V from Cisco. But what is the best one?

vSwitch (vSphere standard switch)

A vSphere standard switch is a virtual switch that can be created on a single host. Port groups defined on this vSwitch will be local to the host on which the port group is created. In other words: If you have multiple hosts you have make sure that the port groups are identical across all hosts, especially when you want to use vmotion. For VMotion the port group names on the source and target host have to be the same.



vSphere Distributed Switch

A vSphere distributed switch functions as a single switch across all associated hosts. This way you configure your switch once and then add hosts to that switch. Portgroups defined on the vSphere distributed switch can be used across all connected hosts.

Third party virtual switch

The Cisco Nexus 1000v virtual switch is a Cisco developed third party virtual switch that can be inserted into the vSphere environment. It has the same advantages as the vSphere Distributed switch, but has the same operating system as the Cisco Nexus physical switches, namely NX-OS. It also has support for PVLAN, receive rate limit, QoS, ACLs, DHCP Snooping, SPAN, ERSPAN, AAA, Netflow, SNMP and much, much more. Note that the Nexus 1000v (Essential) itself is now freely available, you still have to pay for support though.

More info on the Cisco Nexus 1000v: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps9902/index.html

IBM also has a virtual switch for VMware, namely the Distributed Virtual Switch 5000v. To be honest, I don’t know very much about the IBM DVS. From what I read it has LACP support, that the standard vSwitch doesn’t have.

More information on the IBM DVS 5000v: http://www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?infotype=AN&subtype=CA&htmlfid=897/ENUS212-052&appname=USN


Hybrid is not really a switch type, but rather the combination of a standard vSwitch (vSS 0) and a distributed switch (vDS 0). This scenario can be chosen for specific network configurations.


What to choose

What you choose really depends on what you want. If you have two or three ESXi hosts with little change to the configuration a standard vSwitch will do fine. Even for larger setups the standard vSwitch can do the job, especially if you configure the vSwitches with Powershell or Host Profiles. You can always start with the standard vSwitch and then migrate to the vSphere Distributed Switch.

Migrating from a standard vSwitch to the vSphere Distributed Switch

If you want to migrate from the standard vSwitch to the distributed switch you can use the workflow below.

Before you go out and migrate all your vSwitches to their distributed cousins please read the “VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch: Migration and Configuration” whitepaper.

More info on virtual switches with VMware:

In a next article I will be zooming in on how to configure a virtual distributed switch.

 Note: Images are taken from the “VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch: Migration and Configuration whitepaper”



Anne Jan Elsinga is an Technology Professional for ConoScenza in the Netherlands. He spends his working hours with a lot of virtualization stuff, from feasibility to implementation for server virtualization/consolidation and desktop virtualization. In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016 he was awarded with the VMware vExpert status. In the night time he dances latin, ballroom and salsa and he also discovered the pleasure of diving. Recently he started blogging about smart homes and comfort in general.