After much anticipation VMware vSphere 5.0 has now officially been announced with a release date in the not so distant future (still TBC). It is safe to say that vSphere 5 is definitely one of the most significant vSphere/ESX/ESXi updates to date with a whole range of feature improvements, enhancements and all new capabilities. In fact vSphere 5 is VMware’s largest co-ordinated release of products to date according to VMware’s CTO Steve Herrod. It’s been a busy week since the launch though the dust is finally settling after the excitement surrounding the online announcement event hosted by VMware’s CEO, Paul Maritz and CTO, Steve Herrod. So it’s a good time to review what vSphere 5.0 has to offer. Note: I will have a post published soon covering what’s new with vShield, SRM and vCloud Director all of which have also had new versions announced.
Below are the features and enhancements found with VMware vSphere 5.0 that are, in my opinion, some of the most significant and exciting. Why not leave a comment and let me know what some of your favourite new features/enhancements are.
No More ESX (Long Live ESXi) – vSphere 5.0 is built exclusively on the vSphere ESXi 5.0 hypervisor architecture so no more full-fat ESX with its service console. This much anticipated transition to the ESXi service console-less architecture has finally arrived!
Extra Virtual Machine Horsepower – ESXi 5.0 introduces a new generation of virtual hardware with virtual machine hardware version 8, which allows for the
following new features:
More Virtual CPUs (vCPUs) – You can now create VMs with a massive 32 vCPUs so you can handle the most processor intensive applications. This will be particularly applicable to tier one applications, so no more excuses Mr DBA!
GUI Multicore Configure – You can now configure the number of virtual CPU cores per socket in the Virtual Machine Properties view in the vSphere Web Client and the vSphere client. There is now a Graphical User Interface to configure multicore virtual CPUs so no more having to configure this setting via the ‘Advanced Settings’ of the vSphere Client.
Plenty of VMs Per Host – vSphere 5.0 offers support for up to 512 virtual machines and a maximum of 2048 virtual CPUs per physical ESXi host.
As you can see below there continues to be a significant increase in vCPU, Memory, Network and IOPS scaling between versions of VMware vSphere.
Large Physical Server Support – vSphere 5.0 supports systems with up to 160 logical CPUs and up to whopping 2TB of memory!
More RAM with that? To compliment a 32 vCPU VM you can allocate up to 1TB of virtual machine memory to an individual VM (using the new Virtual Machine Hardware Version 8) though there would be a considerable vSphere licensing cost associated with doing this.
PC/Laptop Connected USB Devices – Phew, finally! USB devices such as hard disks or USB pen drives attached to your PC or laptop, which is running the vSphere Web Client or Windows Client, can be connected to and accessed inside a VM.
USB 3.0 Device Support – From a Linux OS based VM you are able to access USB 3.0 devices. As outlined above, this applies only to any USB 3.0 device attached to your PC or laptop running the vSphere Web Client or the vSphere Client and not any USB 3.0 devices attached directly to the ESXi host.
Increased support for different VMware Tools versions – VMware Tools from vSphere 4.x is supported in VMs running on vSphere 5.0 hosts and the version of VMware Tools found with vSphere 5.0 is compatible with ESX/ESXi 4.x hosts. This is good news for mixed vSphere version environments which is quite common place these days especially in larger virtualization environments.
Apple Mac OS X Server Support – This next new feature in vSphere 5 will potentially be popular with those businesses running Apple Mac OS X Server in their environment. With vSphere 5 there is now support for Apple Mac OS X Server 10.6 (“Snow Leopard”) OS, though it should be pointed out that support is restricted to Apple Xserve model Xserve 3.1 systems.
One thing you’ll notice with the vSphere 5.0 release is the emphasis that has been placed on storage related enhancements and features. In my opinion this is where the majority of the “coolness” and “wow factor” is located within this major vSphere release. I recommend checking out the ‘What’s New in VMware vSphere™ 5.0 – Storage’ document if you require more detailed information.
Storage DRS (SDRS) – This takes the DRS feature that we’re all familiar with to the storage layer where it provides DRS benefits of resource aggregation, automated initial placement of VMs and the moving of VMs to avoid storage related bottlenecks. Storage DRS makes VMDK placement and migration recommendations to avoid I/O and space utilization bottlenecks on the datastores in the cluster.
vStorage API for Storage Awareness (VASA) – With the introduction of VASA, storage arrays can inform vSphere of it’s storage characteristics (eg: topology) and provide more detail back up into vSphere on what it is doing. This additional information from the underlying storage array plays in nicely with the new Storage DRS (SDRS) and Storage Profiles functionality found in vSphere 5.0.
VAAI Enhancements – Both block and file storage have benefitted with a handful of significant VAAI related enhancements in vSphere. One thing to bear in mind is that to benefit from the existing and new vSphere VAAI features your storage appliance will need to support VAAI, check with your storage vendor for more details. Now let’s take a look at the new VAAI features:
– NFS Full Copy: The process of copying files located on NFS can now be offloaded to the storage array freeing up valuable CPU cycles on the ESXi host and reducing the amount of IO between the ESXi host and the storage array. This is very useful when you want to clone a VM multiple times for example.
– Space Reservation: Using this feature you can pre-allocate the total space allocated for a VMDK on an NFS datastore thereby achieving the equivalent of a “eagerzeroed thick” or “zeroed thick” VMDK on a block based VMFS data store.
– Extended Statistics: This new VAAI feature allows for extended or a more detailed level of information from files located on NFS to be presented up to the administrator. In previous versions of ESX/ESXi the host, unlike VMFS, does not control the file system the NFS details passed up to the vSphere Client and the ESX/ESXi host itself has be comparatively basic. With vSphere 5.0 this is no longer the case.
– Dead Space Reclamation: This VAAI block storage feature allows for blocks on a thin provisioned LUN on an storage array to be reclaimed when a virtual disk is deleted or migrated to a different data store (eg: Storage DRS). What happened to the VAAI dead space reclamation is that blocks that had been used by the VM before it was migrated were still reported by the storage array as being in use which, as you can imagine, meant that valuable (and pricey) disk space was effectively unable to be used as well as misleading actual available space being provided to the administrator.
– Thin Provision Stun: Set your phasers storage to stun! Finally this VAAI feature which was scheduled to be released with vSphere 4.1 finally makes an appearance. Thin provision stun can be something of a life saver for those vSphere environments running thin provision VMs and whose VMFS storage capacity is almost constantly running at full. When a VMFS datastore runs out of free blocks on a storage LUN it can cause a thinly provisioned VM running on this LUN who is trying to utilise extra disk capacity to crash, so imagine if you were running 10+ thinly provisioned VMs on a single LUN which runs out of capacity. Potential disaster!!! Well, the good news is that the thin provision stun VAAI function can stop these potential VM crashes from happening as it actually ‘stuns’ (ie: suspends) the VM gracefully rather than just letting it crash in a big smouldering heap.
Larger LUNs – With vSphere 5.0 you can now have VMFS data stores larger than 2TB. This is possible through the implementation of a new version of VMFS, version 5 (VMFS 5). Check out the table below which provides a summary on some of the characteristics of VMFS and how it has progressed in the past few years (ie: VMFS-3 versus VMFS-5).
SSD & SSD SWAP – This is one of my favourites (for some reason) due to the potential performance implications. With the introduction of vSphere 5.0 the VMkernel will automatically recognize and tag a local or network based SSD device on the ESXi host. This SSD awareness is an exciting proposition as the VMkernel scheduler also allows for the ESXi host to swap to these fast local or network SSD drives. As you probably know this can significantly assist with performance and memory over commitment which can lead to local swapping occurring.
Policy/Profile Driven Storage Delivery – This new feature provides you with greater control on what type of storage your VMs in your environment ends up being located based on storage characteristics which can be outlined via defined rules/profiles. It allows for the provisioning of the storage up to a VM to be abstracted from the actual specific storage which is presented to the ESXi host, for example you could define tiers of storage based on the performance characteristics of the underlying storage (eg: Gold – SSD, Silver – SAS and Bronze – SATA or a mixture of all). The available storage defined in a particular rule/profile could be presented to the VM from different storage arrays.
Re-written High Availability (HA) – Most of you are probably already familiar with the High Availability function within vSphere, so you’ll be thinking “why is HA included in this list of things new with vSphere 5.0?”. The reason for this is that HA has had a complete re-write and handles things in a different way. For a start it has adopted a Master and Slave role method of HA node assignment.
vSphere Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) – This new virtualized storage offering from VMware is targeted at smaller vSphere deployments such as those found in the SMB space. The VSA is being positioned by VMware to provide a easy way for these SMBs or similar to implement shared storage in their vSphere environment. This 1.0 version of the product only allows for NFS based shared storage which is presented up from the underlying physical storage found in the server of the ESXi host. It will be interesting to see how VMware’s VSA offering is received and its level of uptake as there are already a handful of VSA offerings available by 3rd party companies along with relatively inexpensive hardware shared storage NAS appliances. Though one of VMware’s VSA’s strengths is that it does offer, as would be expected, tight management integration with the vSphere Client.
Storage vMotion Snapshot Support – Allows a VM which is in snapshot mode with associated snapshots to be Storage vMotioned between datastores, which was previously not possible with vSphere 4.x.
vNetwork Distributed Switch Improvement – In vSphere 5.0 extra insight into VM network traffic is possible through Netflow along with enhancement monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities provided through SPAN and LLDP.
ESXi Firewall – In vSphere 5.0 the ESXi management interface is now protected by a service-oriented and stateless firewall, which is configured using the vSphere Client or the command line (esxcli). This new firewall engine removes the use of IP tables and rule sets that define port rules for each service.
Web Based vSphere Client – A more fully featured web based client is another feature that has been rumoured for quite some time now. This new web based vSphere Client uses Adobe Flex and will be a popular with Apple Mac users who have long been yearning for a convenient way to manage their vSphere environment from their Mac. The only thing to note is that this current version of the web client doesn’t offer the same level of functionality found with that of the Windows based vSphere Client – although it is no doubt just be a matter of time before it does.
vCenter Server Appliance – Whilst we’re talking about vCenter there is now a pre-configured Linux based virtual appliance (VA) that is easy to deploy in your vSphere environment. As VMware point out in their ‘vSphere 5 – What’s New’ document an advantage of deploying this pre-configured Linux vCenter Server VA is that you don’t have the same OS licensing costs as you would if deploying it on a Windows based vCenter Server instance.
vCenter Server 5.0 Backwards Compatibility – The vSphere 5.0 management platform, vCenter Server 5.0,provides support for ESXi 5.0 hosts as well as ESX/ESXi 4.x and older ESX/ESXi 3.5 hosts. this is great for those large vSphere environments where it may take some time to migrate from 4.x to 5.0.
Auto Deploy ESXi Hosts – VMware vSphere 5.0 Auto Deploy helps simplify the task of managing ESXi installations and upgrades for large vSphere implementations. New ESXi hosts can automatically be provisioned based on rules defined by the administrator.
So as you can see VMware’s vSphere 5.0 offers a significant number of exciting new features and enhancements which makes for a compelling case to either implement or upgrade an existing vSphere environment. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, let us know what your thoughts are on the vSphere 5.0 offering and it’s new features.