VMware vSphere Version 6.0 Released

VMware vSphere Version 6.0 Released

VMware vSphere Version 6.0 Released

By: Steve Galbincea

Intro

After an extended period of time to polish and perfect, VMware has released the latest version of their flagship product: vSphere 6.0. This release includes a number of new and enhanced features along with increased scalability. Many of the new features center around storage capabilities and integration, with major improvements to VSAN and the introduction of the Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) architecture. In addition, major enhancements to features such as Fault Tolerance (FT) and vMotion allow even greater flexibility to administrators in managing their workloads.

Scalability – Hosts

ESXi hosts running VMware 5.5 could be quite large, but in version 6.0 they are positively huge. Most configuration maximums for ESXi 6.0 hosts have doubled over their 5.5 counterparts.

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It’s not just the hosts that get the bump in scalability either, as vS         phere clusters have also doubled in capacity and capability with a new limit of 8000 VMs per cluster. Being able to consolidate more workloads under a single management vCenter will definitely make administrators happy.

Scalability – VMs

Similar to the host configuration maximums, VMs have also had their limits effectively doubled, essentially removing any remaining barriers to virtualizing any workload you can think of.

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Fault Tolerance

Fault Tolerance (FT) in previous versions of vSphere was very limited, and pretty much relegated to “it’s neat, but not practical” status in the VMware admin world. The limitations of only a single vCPU and huge performance impact on the workload made FT all but unusable in production environments. That changed big time in vSphere 6.0, where now you can have up to 4 vCPUs with far less limitations and impact on the workload itself.

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To achieve this, VMware had to completely re-engineer how FT worked and was implemented. You can now snapshot FT VM volumes which makes backups via common backup programs (Veeam, Backup Exec, Acronis, etc.) possible. FT is a very complex technology and should only be implemented with a complete understanding of the implications and infrastructure considerations necessary to ensure a proper deployment.

vMotion Anywhere

vMotion, the ability to move running VMs from one host to another with zero production downtime, has also been greatly enhanced. You can now vMotion VMs between different virtual switches (vSwitches) as well as different types of vSwitches (Standard vSwitch and Distributed vSwitch) without changing the IP address and without network disruption. It is now also possible to vMotion a VM from one vCenter cluster or host to another completely different vCenter cluster or host managed by a different vCenter server as long as they are in the same Single Sign-On (SSO) domain using the GUI. Further, if you are using the API toolkit, you can write code that will allow vMotion to a completely separate SSO domain entirely, making migrations FAR simpler now!

Another limitation of vMotion previously was the latency requirements between hosts. In version 5.5 you had to remain below 10ms for the vMotion to complete successfully, which typically restricted you to the same metropolitan or regional area. Now in version 6.0, this has been increased to 150ms, allowing vMotion operations that could start in Los Angeles and end up in New York – with zero downtime for the workload!

vSphere Client

The reports of the death of the traditional C# vSphere client have been greatly exaggerated. Much as VMware would like to kill it off in favor of the vSphere Web Client, it continues to be available (and necessary) for the management of vSphere Update Manager and direct management of ESXi hosts. You can no longer use the C# client to connect to vCenter though, management of vCenter is exclusively through the Web Client now.

 vSphere Web Client

The Web Client has been reworked from the ground up to be a better, faster, more intuitive experience than previous iterations. Performance is dramatically better, menus are laid out in such a way that you can get to anything in one click, and the entire interface is customizable now with regard to the layout of the different management panes. If you’re not already forcing yourself to use the Web Client instead of the C# client, the time to make that change is now.

The Web Client does still require Adobe Flash to run, however a move to HTML5 is coming and will release in a later version of vSphere.

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vCenter Server Appliance

The vCenter server appliance, standard for all BEMA VMware managed vSphere deployments, has finally been brought up to the same level of capability and scalability as its Windows counterpart. No longer do you have to forego linked mode or be limited to a lower configuration maximums level – the appliance and the Windows version are now equal.

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Platform Services Controller

In previous versions of the vCenter appliance as well as the Windows build, managing SSO, Licensing, and Certificates was, to put it kindly, difficult. Problematic. Infuriating. In another sign that VMware is listening to their customers, they have greatly simplified managing these aspects of vSphere by combining them into the Platform Services Controller, which groups these components together either alongside the vCenter Server Appliance (in very small scenarios) or as a separate appliance in configurations with more than two SSO integrated solutions. For most of our clients, the Embedded deployment model will be sufficient in their environments.

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vCenter Server Certificate Lifecycle Management

Managing certificates in a vSphere environment previously has been a major headache, and in most instances we simply used the self-signed certificates, accepted the warnings when first using them, and moved on. It simply was not practical to attempt to use any other certificates due to the complexities of doing so and the likely probabilities of failed future upgrades due to one component not recognizing another properly.

In vSphere 6.0, VMware has introduced the VMware Certificate Authority (VMCA), which issues all ESXi host, vCenter Server, and vCenter Server Service certificates for the SSO domain. The VMware Endpoint Certificate Service (VECS) stores all of the certificates and private keys for vCenter Server and Services, and is managed via vecs-cli commands. All ESXi certificates and private keys are stored locally on the host.

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vSphere Network I/O Control Version 3

Finally, Network I/O control gets new functionality with the ability to reserve network bandwidth to guarantee service levels to hosted applications.

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Conclusion

VMware has a really strong offering with vSphere 6.0 – they have made huge strides in efficiency, scalability, performance, and usability. The fact that the vCenter Server Appliance is now on par with the Windows version is a huge win.  In addition, the simplification of the overall infrastructure topology, along with the increased configuration maximums, means that there is not a client out there that could not benefit from this technology – budget limitations and client desires of course will determine, ultimately, the solution put in place, but when considering a virtual infrastructure beyond one of convenience, VMware vSphere is a very strong argument.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about anything related to virtualization, SAN, storage networks, high availability of your applications and servers, backing up virtual workloads, load balancing, etc., please do not hesitate to give BEMA a call!

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