VMware launched VMware vSphere 4! part two


On Wednesday 23 April VMware organized a `vSphere Partner Launch’ session which I attended. After after a three hour trip including an hour traffic jam my colleague Arnold and I arrived at Hotel Houten (near Utrecht in the Netherlands).

VMware Benelux welcomed us with coffee and after saying hello to some fellow bloggers (www.vmguru.nl) and others it was time to gather in the session room.

The first part was a general session for both technical and sales professionals. After a break there where two tracks, a sales track and a technical track.

The sales track focused on the new packaging and pricing and of course selling points. The technical track focused on the new and improved features vSphere 4 offers.

Here’s a wrap up:

vSphere is the new name for Virtual Infrastructure and represents the Virtual Datacenter OS. ESX as a product keeps the name, so we now have ESX version 4.

With VI3 Distributed Power Management (DPM) was an experimental feature with which you could save energy by turning unused hosts off (sleep). In VI3 this was an unsupported feature and turning hosts on was based on Wake On Lan (WOL).

In vSphere 4 DPM is now fully supported and also supports two extra wake-up protocols:

  • IPMI (intelligent platform management interface)
  • iLO (integrated Lights Out)
  • WOL (Wake On Lan)

vSphere 4 now supports thin provisioning of virtual disks, this feature we already know of VMware Workstation was already available in VI3.5 but it was not integrated in the user interface. Back then if you wanted to use this feature you had to enter the console and use command line tools to create a thin provisioned disk. Now with vSphere the thin provisioned disks feature is integrated in the user interface. When using this feature you should (continuously) be aware of your data store capacity because there is a risk with over provisioning.
Next to thin provisioning it is now possible to use VMFS volume grow. Instead of extending your partitions it is now possible to let your partitions grow dynamically to a max of 2 TB. To use this feature the OS must support this, or you’ll have to do some manual actions in order to effectuate this.

Storage vMotion
With vSphere 4 now a graphical interface is supporting storage vMotion.

With vSphere 4 VMware now supports failover cluster support with Microsoft Server 2008.

Direct hardware communication
vSphere 4 makes it possible to communicate directly with underlying hardware using the VM Direct Path I/O technology. This is a first step in direct communication with hardware and this technology will be further developed. Now there are some restrictions you will have to take into account. At this stage it is not possible to use vMotion with VMs that use the Direct path technology.

As already announced before this next generation of ESX now supports distributed virtual switches (vSwitches) and port groups, this now supports switches to span more ESX hosts. This enables the use of third party vswitches such as the Cisco Nexus 1000v.

High Availability
In a HA cluster it is now possible to rate the availability as a criteria. It is possible to choose a host and to suspend Host-monitoring to prevent that a host from being labeled with status ‘down’. For example in situations when performing maintenance at network level.

Fault Tolerance
A new High Availability feature is that of Fault Tolerance (FT), previously also described as Continuous Availability. 
To enable FT is as simple as marking a VM by ticking the box FT of that VM. When applying FT to a VM, the VM is cloned and placed on another host. These VMs will then both get the same instructions. This process makes use of log buffers to do so. Everything that happens to VM A is happening to VM A’, so in case of a blue screen both VM’s will get that. Corrupt stays corrupt.
At this moment however there are some restrictions you will have to keep in mind when enabling this feature (not a complete list):

  • The VM’s must be part of the same HA cluster but on different hosts
  • There is a restriction on the amount of CPU’s a VM can have : 1
  • Only one disk is supported at the moment
  • Only one network interface is supported

Data Recovery
Data Recovery is a vCenter feature aiming at SMB markets to manage backups with vCenter for environments with a maximum of 100 VMs. Data Recovery makes use of the VCB API and is implemented through a Virtual Appliance (ovf). In vSphere it is able to make disk-based backups (complete disks), file based backup are possible but not supported yet (experimental)

VMsafe is now officially available and some vendors will soon be releasing a product making use of VMsafe. VMsafe is not a product but a set of API’s which can be used by third parties to build products on. Trend Micro is one of the vendors that is releasing a product soon. During last VMworld Europe I interviewed Trend Micro about this.

vShield Zones
vShield Zones is a product VMware acquired through the acquisition of Blue Lane technologies. It is a firewall based product that makes it possible to create separate security zones across ‘boxes’. I recommend reading my previous post on this product if you want to know more on this.

Host scalability
The new version (vSphere 4) has a 64-bit kernel which is important to keep in mind when migrating from older versions. The VM hardware is now at version 7. It is now possible to hot add CPU and memory (if supported by OS), at this moment it only supports hot add not hot delete, so only upscale no downscale.

vCenter Linked mode
Linked mode is a feature of vCenter to couple multiple vCenter instances to create one view for all your VMs across datacenters and to share licenses and roles across them. It makes use of ADAM (Active Directory Application Mode) to do so.

vCenter Orchestrator
vCenter Orchestrator can be used to automate and centralize tasks and is based on Dunes VS-O. So this is a Dunes acquisition spin off. VMware Lifecycle Manager is a product that is relying on the same workflow management tooling.

Host Profiles
Host profiles makes it possible to create one configuration baseline for your hosts and deploy many.

vApp groups multiple VMs to create one identity. Having created a vApp you can change the settings of a property of the vApp that effectuates all belonging VMs.
But also vMotioning the complete vApp is also one of the options i.e. bring a complete vApp to a cloud service provider.

A lot has changed at licensing level. VMware got rid of the License server and now works with so called license strings which can be created through a (customer) portal. The license will be stored in the vCenter database. With vCenter you can manage the licenses and control how licenses are appointed.
More on licensing and features later in another post.

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