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VMware vSphere 6.0 – What’s New

With VMware’s newest release of vSphere come some great new features but also some big changes in its architecture. This might make the upgrade process for your environment require some careful planning.  

Scalability:
  • Cluster size up to 64 hosts (32 previously).
  • Each host can run up to 1024 VMs, have 480 logical CPU’s and 12TB of RAM.
 
Security:
  • Local ESXi account management is now through vCenter (no more having to rely solely on the root account). This also comes with account lockout and password complexity options.
  • Improved audit logging within the host, where vCenter users’ details are now logged against actions within the hosts files.
 
VM Enhancements:
  • Compatibility level 11 now supports VMs with up to 128 vCPUs, 4TB RAM and you can add USB 3 controllers.
  • Clustering support for Windows 2012 R2 and SQL 2012 and the ability to vMotion clustered VMs with physical mode RDM’s between hosts.
  • NVIDIA GRID vGPU support for VDI VMs
 
Fault Tolerance (FT) Enhancements:
  • FT now supports VMs with up to 4 vCPU’s and 64GB of memory.
  • FT also now supports snapshots so increases the chances that you will be able to back it up via a VMware level backup. Check with your backup vendor first though.
  • FT also now creates duplicate storage for the VM, which means they potentially can be running on local storage and have the secondary copy on local storage on another server.
Keep in mind though that FT really requires a dedicated 10Gb link between hosts.  

vSphere Replication Enhancements:
  • Now supports up to 24 recover points per VM
  • vSphere Replication can now compress the replication traffic reducing the bandwidth requirements
  • Supports interface and bandwidth control of vSphere Replication traffic
  • Ability to vMotion a replica without having to fully resynchronise

vMotion Enhancements:
  • vMotion can now be completed across vSwitches (useful for cross cluster migrations) and even across vCenter Servers.
  • Long Distance vMotion allows migrations across large geographical areas (assuming <100ms latency). It requires 250Mbit of bandwidth per migration and a stretched Layer 2 network at both sites but can be very useful for moving VMs from site to site with no downtime.
   

Architecture changes:

  • The backend components of vCenter, such as SSO, Inventory Service and Web Client have now been combined together into a role known as the Platform Services Controller (PSC). This role can either exist on the vCenter Server itself as an embedded PSC, or can be installed outside of the vCenter Server in a separate VM. The PSC can either be installed within Windows or as an appliance.
  • The embedded database for vCenter has now been replaced with PostgreSQL which scales much larger than the previous SQL Express editions. For example when using Windows and the embedded PostgreSQL database VMware now supports up to 20 hosts and 200 VMs (much more if you use external DBs) and the vCenter Appliance using the embedded PostgreSQL DB now supports 1,000 hosts and 10,000 VMs. External Microsoft SQL Server support is not available with the vCenter Appliance, but you can still use an external Oracle DB if need be.
  • Linked mode is now called “Enhanced” Link Mode and the information is replicated between PSC’s instead of vCenter Servers. This means that no special configuration needs to be done on the vCenter servers and as long as the PSC’s are in the same Single Sign On domain, the vCenters that use them will work together in linked mode. You can even mix appliance and Windows installs of vCenters in linked mode.
  • Certificate management has had a huge overhaul too. The PSC now acts as the VMware root Certificate Authority and handles the certificate generation to hosts and VMware solutions. There are various ways this CA can be set up but in most cases setting up the CA as a subordinate in an existing Active Directory would be the best way forward instead of using the self-signed certificates of a default configuration.
  • Multisite Content Library is a new feature that allows templates, ISO’s and scripts to be replicated between vCenters. As it is updated at one site it will automatically update the other site(s). This replication can be configured with bandwidth limits and set replication hours if required.
 

The Traditional vSphere client

VMware has made it clear since 5.1 days that the future client of choice for vSphere Management is the vSphere Web Client and that one day the traditional c# vSphere client wouldn’t exist. That day has not yet come, but more and more functionality is being added to the web client and not being made available to those using the traditional client.

Thankfully VMware has added the ability to edit most of the properties of VMs upgraded to hardware version > 9. It’s just the new features that have been added since 5.1 that cannot be changed without going into the web client.    

Virtual Volumes (V-VOLs)

V-VOLs are a new way of storing and managing disks for virtual machines on storage arrays. At a high level it allows the backend operations of the storage provisioning and management to be done inside the VMware Web Client at a VM disk level as opposed to a datastore level.

The end outcome of V-VOL implementation is that when you provision a virtual machine disk you specify what type of size and performance you need for the VM and an automation engine will create the volume on the array directly, in the best RAID Group or Pool for you.

Hopefully in the near future V-VOL orchestration will also handle array replication and snapshot of V-VOLs so you won’t need to go into the array or replication devices to configure and manage these features.

V-VOLs are in still in their early stages with only certain vendors and arrays currently supporting it. What they support and how they achieve it also varies between vendors.

You can use this link to find the vendors and arrays that currently support V-VOLs – https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=vvols    

Topology Changes

So if this all sounds great and you want to upgrade ASAP there is one change you need to be made aware of before you dive in to the upgrade notes, prerequisites etc. VMware has changed their supported topologies and has deprecated support for a very common set up in version 6.0.

If you run a single vCenter in your environment and have no foreseeable plans of increasing this (i.e. to include a DR site for example), then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you do currently (or plan to), then you most likely also run the SSO, Web Client, Inventory Service etc on your current vCenter servers and it probably looks something like this; vsphere6img1
Remember that the SSO, Inventory Service and Web Client will be combined into the PSC with version 6. So if you do a straightforward upgrade it will look like this;

vsphere6img2


Unfortunately this common set up is not supported in version 6, even if SRM is located on a separate server and you don’t run linked mode. The fact that we have two sites set up to the same SSO Domain means we need to have an external PSC set up at each site. Like the image below: vsphere6img3
This makes the upgrade process a much more arduous task than previous upgrades and depending on the environment and the way its set up may involve a full reinstall of vCenter.  

Conclusion

Hopefully this gives you a helpful quick rundown on the new features of vSphere 6 and helps prepare you for the challenges ahead with the upgrade path. If you would further information on any of these points please talk to your Perfekt account manager.  

Richard Hinder
Richard, is a highly dedicated technician from Perfekt with broad experiences in deployment, administration, scripting and solution architecture in SMB and Enterprise environments. With a high level of quality put into documentation and communication with clients, Richard is always striving to find the best solutions to today’s needs and enjoys keeping up with the latest technologies available. Richard is VMware certified and specialises across backup, ESXi, SRM and HDS Storage. He has a strong focus on technology around the virtualisation, storage, backup, DR/BCP and the server based computing space.

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