Say hello to vSphere 6.54
Finally, the latest iteration of vSphere has been announced this October at the VMworld event held in Barcelona. I would have loved to attend but my wallet wasn’t too ecstatic about the idea, so I’ll be postponing until some sponsor comes along. Incidentally, I did attend a Microsoft TechEd event which was similarly held in Barcelona but way back in 2003. I recall really enjoying the experience save for the one time I got lost on my way back to the hotel. To my excuse, GPS wasn’t as prevalent as it is today! Anyway, let’s do away with the chit chat and get down to business.
In this post I will be going over the salient features and improvements vSphere 6.5 brings along. VCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) in particular seems to have been infused with steroids. Some nifty features have also been added to VSAN and storage in general, not to mention the great strides effected in the security department. This release brings to the table so much VMware fans will be happy about.
At the time of writing vSphere 6.5 is still unavailable for download so I’ll be kind of summarizing information gathered from some prominent blogs, the VMware site, etc. Credit goes to the authors whose links I’ve included at the end of this post.
Let start with VCSA.
VCSA 6.5 New Features and Improvements
Some very interesting and important features make 6.5 one of the most worth waiting for releases to date in my opinion. Glancing over the list of goodies, it will become clear as light of day that VMware will be laying to rest vCenter Server for Windows for good. I dare say that if and when a vSphere 7.0 version is released, the Windows version will be a distant memory. Here’s a rundown of the new stuff gracing VCSA 6.5.
Native High Availability
A number of HA options for vCenter Server have been available for quite some time now. Some of the options include fault tolerance where a vCenter server vm is replicated over to another vm. There’s also watchdog protection which is enabled by default and the ability to deploy vCenter as a 2-node Microsoft cluster.
In 6.5, VMware raises the bar even higher with HA now natively supported by VCSA. Note that Native HA is not supported on the Windows version. From what I understood, there are 2 deployment options, Basic and Advanced. The basic option is all wizard driven. Advanced, on the other hand, requires manual cloning of an instance of VCSA 6.5 which you’ll then use to set up a vCenter Server Active-Passive cluster. The good thing about the Advanced deployment option is that nodes participating in the vCenter cluster can reside in disparate physical data centers or sites. The cluster must include a witness node which is an appliance in itself but with a smaller resource footprint; 1GB RAM and 1x VCPU. Failover is set to occur whenever the entire node fails or when one or more key services fail. Again, I have yet to try this out but on paper it looks fantastic.
vSphere Update Manager
Prayer, it seems, does work after all. Finally, VUM has been embedded in VCSA meaning that you will no longer be required to run VUM on a separate Windows box. Time to party!
Backup / Restore
Yet one more feature that warrants a big round of applause.In-built backup and restore functionality is now native to VCSA. Using VAMI or API, the following items can be now be backed up, using streaming protocols such as SCP, to a supported storage device; PSC, VCSA, VUM and Auto Deploy.
The embedded HTML5 based UI which I had covered here is now officially included with vCenter Server 6.5. The bad news is that it is still not up to par with the vSphere Web client in terms of features and functionality meaning we’re still stuck with the Adobe Flex / Flash dependent vSphere Web client. One more sour note is that the C# client has been dropped from this release. This however should not come as a surprise as everyone saw this one coming for quite some time now.
The good news is that the vSphere Web Client has been also revamped to offer better performance, live refreshes and improved information layouts. Still, from a marketing standpoint, I can’t understand the logic about introducing a quasi-baked feature. My only guess is that release dates had to be met no matter what.
Little has changed in terms of the remaining management tools such as the ESXi host and Appliance Management (https://vcenter:5480) clients. In 6.5, the latter exposes additional statistics and health information compared to the previous versions.
On the Content Library front we will now be able to mount ISOs on a vms stored in a library as well as carrying out guest OS customization both of which I had mentioned in my wish list here.
Last but not least the client integration plug-in has been thankfully dropped.
Installer and Migration Tool
A revamped installer now includes the migration tool. The migration tool although released relatively recently, has nevertheless been improved to cater for migrations from vCenter for Windows 5.5 & 6.0 to VCSA 6.5. Besides being embedded in the VCSA installer, which is a nice feature to have, using the tool one gets to fine tune what is actually migrated, VUM baselines and updates included.
Another important novelty is that VCSA now runs atop Photon OS as opposed to SUSE Enterprise Server. One great feature of this new OS is the ability to run and deploy containers such as Docker and vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC).
vSphere 6.5 New Features and Improvements
I’m covering these in bullet-form points as follows;
- An overhauled and simpler HA Admission Control settings screen. I’m referring to the HA settings for a vSphere cluster.
- A performance degradation warning prior to HA restarting a vm.
- Two new levels of vm restart priorities these being Highest and Lowest.
- Improved HA orchestrated restart.
- Proactive HA where the vCenter server makes HA related decisions based on alerts received from 3rd parties such as a server’s hardware monitoring framework.
- Quarantine or Mixed mode – These are 2 new modes in addition to maintenance mode. A degraded ESXi 6.5 host can now decide to either evacuate all hosted vms or simply keep them running while refusing to hosting new ones. The chosen mode depends on the severity of the failure. This allows an admin to carry out specific tasks which are otherwise impossible to perform when the host is in maintenance mode.
- New options including VM Distribution, Memory Metric for Load Balancing and CPU Over-commitment. These new features are explained in great detail here.
- Network-Aware DRS in addition to CPU and Memory load balancing based decisions. This is also leveraged by the Fault Tolerance component.
- Predictive DRS using data collected via vROps (Operations Manager).
- Improved host profiles.
- Revamped host profiles editor.
- Simplified auto-deploy process using a dedicated GUI.
- ESXi server now supports up to 480 physical processors and 12TB of RAM.
- Support for 64TB datastores.
- VMFS6. Great article here.
- RESTful API for vCenter.
- PowerCLI Core.
- Multi-platform CLI (DCLI)
Cluster and VM specific
- Virtual Hardware v13.
- Resource maxima increased to 6TB of RAM and 128 vCPUs per vm.
- Maximum number of powered on machines on vCenter now stands at 20,000.
- Improved VMware Tools lifecycle management including a rebootless tools upgrade for Linux vms.
- Tighter integration with DRS in part thanks to network bandwidth monitoring on DRS’ part.
- Multi-NIC support which sees an increases in the channel bandwidth available for FT traffic.
Nested ESXi is still a feature not supported by VMware. Nevertheless, 6.5 introduces new aspects to facilitate nested ESXi. These include;
- Paravirtual SCSI (PVSCSI) support. Driver is bundled in VMware Tools for nested ESXi.
- GuestOS customization is now possible when creating or cloning a vm from template.
- Pre-vSphere 6.5 enablement on vSphere 6.0 Update 2. What this means is that you can easily test out vSphere 6.5 in nested mode on vSphere 6.0 U2.
New Security Features and Improvements
There are a ton of improvements included in 6.5 much to the excitement, I would suppose, of many a security team.
- vMotion traffic can now be encrypted out of the box. What this means is that VPNs and similar are no longer required to ensure that vMotion traffic travels in encrypted form over unsecured WAN links.
- VMDKs can now be encrypted in order to secure critical and information sensitive virtual machines.
- Secure Boot Support for both the ESXi Host and the guest vm via image tamper proof technology.
- File integrity monitoring in accordance with PCI DSS requirements.
- Enhanced vCenter Events, Alarms and vSphere Logging allowing for better auditing at a granular level.
vSAN 6.5 Enhancements
- VSAN can now be used to provision iSCSI luns via a VSAN iSCSI target. A great thing to have if you don’t have any shared storage to play with not to mention that changes can be effected on the fly via storage policies.
- 2-Node direct connect. This basically means that ESXi hosts can be wired back to back – an Ethernet cable running from a 10GbE nic on one host to another – eliminating the need for costly 10GbE switches.
- Support for 512e drives.
- New PowerCLI support
- All-Flash configuration is now available via Standard licensing.
And finally here’s a list of references without which this post would not have been possible.
Have any questions or feedback?
Leave a comment below!