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Most Anticipated vSphere 5 Features (for me anyway) July 13, 2011

Posted by audiomatron in Virtualization.

Getting past all the ruckus surrounding the new licensing format that VMWare introduced yesterday, which doesn’t affect me (finally an advantage to using the essentials plus package – the vRAM cap for Essentials Plus is way higher than the physical RAM in my entire cluster), I’d like to talk about some of the new features of vSphere 5 that interest me the most. Before all of yesterday’s announcements, I figured that I’d end up writing an article entitled, “vSphere Features I don’t get to use”. However, as it turns out, there are some enhancements to vSphere that are going to be very worthwhile to me, and possibly other small business IT admins.

Bear in mind that I have yet to actually put my hands on any of these new technologies (although you can bet your assets I’ll be playing with them the second the bits are GA). For that matter, I can’t be 100% sure they will all be available with my Essentials Plus licensing, but judging from a white paper I read about the new licensing, I’m fairly certain they will be.

So without any further pretense on my part here are the new vSphere 5 features that interest me the most, and what they might mean to me, a small business IT admin.

vCenter Virtual Appliance

Right now, my vCenter server is a Windows Server 2008 VM running vCenter. To set it up, I had to create a VM with Windows, install VMWare Tools, update Windows, install SQL, then install vCenter. Virtual appliances are much simpler to set up because they come pre-built with the OS, VMWare Tools, and the application. Typically they are deployed from an OVF template. I also would imagine that since the virtual appliance is going to be Linux based, it will be smaller and consume fewer resources.

Another benefit to this approach for vCenter, especially from a small business perspective, is that now I’ll get one of my Windows licenses back. We don’t have datacenter licensing, so each Windows Server license costs us. Since vCenter will no longer require Windows, I can use that license for something else.

VMFS Improvements

Back when I first implemented vSphere in my datacenter, I had to find out about VMFS’s limitations the hard way. I created two big LUNs across the two arrays in my SAN, only to find out that even thought one of my LUNs would hold 6TB, I could only format up to 2TB, and only if I used a large block size. So, I had to split my arrays up into 2TB LUNs, which sometimes makes it difficult to find a suitable home for some of my larger VMs (like the monster file servers mentioned in my previous article). Now, VMFS has a unified block size of 1MB that supports volumes of up to 64TB and very large or very small file sizes.

Where was this feature a year ago? Oh if I only had storage vMotion so I could re-work my SAN to take advantage of the fact that I can have one big VMFS volume house my VMs. The larger volume sizes could also mean getting vmdk’s spanned across more spindles since now, we won’t have to fragment our storage up into such small pieces.

Support for Apple Products

I can’t think of a good use for this right this second, but as a recovering Mac Addict, I find this to be very cool. I know there are some IT shops that rely on Mac OS Server (like education, who are sometimes worse off than small business), and this could definitely be beneficial to them. Also, for shops that use Filemaker, as we do, I have heard that it works better on a Mac, and I know for a fact that hard core Filemaker guys prefer it on a Mac.

This would mark the first time that you don’t have to have Apple’s hardware to legally run their OS. Granted, this only supports Mac OS X server right now, but perhaps this will give way to running their desktop OSes somewhere down the line. Imagine a VDI solution with Mac Desktops!

vSphere Virtual Storage Appliance

This excited me tremendously when I first heard about it. Not that I need it – I already have a SAN, but I’m all about making it easier for folks who are teetering on the edge of the decision to go virtual to go ahead and take the plunge! Basically, what the vSphere Storage appliance does is allows the small and medium business vSphere user to take advantage of vSphere features like HA by turning local storage on two or three hosts into shared/replicated NFS storage between the hosts.

This is being touted by VMWare as an affordable solution for SMBs that are not currently in a position to buy a SAN. I haven’t been able to nail down a verified price on this, but from what I have seen an heard, the price will be upwards of $5000.00. I don’t know what constitutes “affordable” in VMWare’s vernacular, but for a small business – even one that can afford it – 5,000.00 is a lot of money. For considerably less than that, one could purchase one of those iOmega StoreCeneters that all the virtualization guys seem so fond of – those will do iSCSI or NFS.

The one advantage the vSphere Storage Appliance has over traditional shared storage is that it eliminates the shared storage as a single point of failure, as it currently is in my setup. If high availability and storage redundancy is critical in one’s environment, then perhaps the price of the Storage appliance is justifiable.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I think the vSphere Storage Appliance is a cool feature, and I will definitely be downloading the trial when it comes out so I can run some tests on it. I’ll be interested to see the pricing on it once it is released, and I sincerely hope it is affordable for those who are being held up by the need for affordable shared storage.

Sorry, didn’t mean to go on a rant…

Web Based vSphere Client

In vSphere 5, there will be a web based vSphere client. From what I hear, while it doesn’t look like the traditional vSphere client, it will posses all of the same functionality. This will be very handy for Linux and Mac vSphere admins that don’t have a native client for their platform. For me, it will be useful for instances where I may be at a PC that doesn’t have the vSphere client loaded, but i need to do something in vSphere.

Those are just a few of the many new features that will be available in vSphere 5 – the features I’m looking forward to using. What about you? What new features are exciting to you?



1. Migrating to the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance – or – Why I’m Glad I Went to VMworld « who made ME an expert anyway? - September 9, 2011

[…] the end of the session. Part of the talk was about the new vCenter server virtual appliance. This, as stated in a previous article, has been one of the features of vSphere 5 that I have been most interested in checking out. Ever […]

Angel - May 21, 2012

That depends on the fact if you have one or mptliule vCenter Servers. If you only have 1 it is easiest to create a LUN which is presented to both clusters and simply vMotion it to the other cluster and then Storage vMotion it.

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