Configuring Distributed Switching in ESXi

In VMware virtualization environments, Distributed Switching (vDS) is an advanced feature that enhances the networking capabilities of VMware ESXi. Unlike the standard vSwitch, a Distributed Switch spans multiple ESXi hosts and enables centralized management of networking configurations, making it ideal for large-scale deployments and highly available infrastructures.

In this guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of setting up Distributed Switching in VMware ESXi. Understanding and configuring vDS properly can significantly simplify network management and improve network performance in your virtual environment.

What is Distributed Switching (vDS), and why is it used?

A Distributed Switch is a logical switch that spans multiple ESXi hosts in a VMware cluster. It enables centralized management of networking policies and configurations, making it easier to maintain consistency across multiple hosts and simplifying virtual machine (VM) migration.

Here are some key reasons why Distributed Switching is used:

  1. Centralized Management: With vDS, you can configure network settings once and apply them across all hosts within the Distributed Switch, reducing manual configuration efforts.
  2. VM Mobility: Distributed Switching allows VMs to maintain consistent network settings even when they are moved between ESXi hosts within the same Distributed Switch.
  3. Improved Performance: vDS enhances network performance through features like Network I/O Control (NIOC), which enables bandwidth allocation and prioritization for different types of network traffic.
  4. Port Mirroring: vDS supports port mirroring, enabling administrators to monitor and analyze network traffic for troubleshooting and security purposes.
  5. Load Balancing: With Enhanced LACP support, vDS allows for better load balancing and link aggregation across multiple physical uplinks.

Step 1: Create a Distributed Switch

To begin setting up Distributed Switching, create a new Distributed Switch in VMware vCenter:

  1. Log in to the vSphere Client or vCenter Server.
  2. Navigate to the “Networking” section and select the vCenter Server in the inventory.
  3. Click on the “Create Distributed Switch” icon (a green plus sign) to start the creation wizard.
  4. Assign a name and select the datacenter where the Distributed Switch will reside.
  5. Choose the desired version of Distributed Switch (e.g., vSphere 6.0 or later).
  6. Configure the number of uplink ports for connectivity to physical switches.
  7. Click “Finish” to create the Distributed Switch.

Step 2: Add Hosts to the Distributed Switch

Next, add ESXi hosts to the Distributed Switch to extend its scope:

  1. In the “Networking” section, select the newly created Distributed Switch.
  2. Click on the “Add and Manage Hosts” icon (a cluster with a plus sign).
  3. Select the hosts you want to add to the Distributed Switch and click “Next.”
  4. Choose the uplink(s) for each host to connect to the Distributed Switch and click “Next.”
  5. Review the network configurations and click “Finish” to add the hosts to the Distributed Switch.

Step 3: Configure Distributed Port Groups

Now, create Distributed Port Groups to define network configurations for VMs:

  1. In the “Networking” section, select the Distributed Switch.
  2. Click on the “Add Distributed Port Group” icon (a blue plus sign).
  3. Assign a name and VLAN ID for the new Distributed Port Group.
  4. Choose whether the Distributed Port Group should be used for VMs, uplinks, or both.
  5. Configure other settings like traffic shaping, security policies, and NIC teaming if necessary.
  6. Click “Finish” to create the Distributed Port Group.

Step 4: Migrate VMs to the Distributed Port Groups

Finally, migrate existing VMs to the newly created Distributed Port Groups:

  1. Select a VM in the vSphere Client.
  2. Click “Edit Settings” to modify the VM’s network adapter.
  3. Change the network connection to the appropriate Distributed Port Group.
  4. Repeat this process for each VM you want to migrate.


Setting up Distributed Switching (vDS) in VMware ESXi streamlines network management and improves network performance across multiple ESXi hosts. The centralized configuration and seamless VM mobility provided by vDS contribute to a more efficient and reliable virtual infrastructure. By following this comprehensive guide, you can successfully configure Distributed Switching, enabling better network management and scalability in your VMware virtualized environment.

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