VMware released vSphere 6.5 this week to a surprisingly low amount of fanfare, which is interesting because there are actually quite a few enhancements to functionality.
Centralizing Features in vCenter Server Appliance
The biggest thing for us is how VMware’s improved the vCenter Server Appliance. It now includes all the native VMware features baked right in, like Update Manager. Up until now, it was always left out and you had to have a completely separate server set up to run it. Now it’s all in one location, so it’s much easier to manage your environment.
New HA Improvements
Native high availability is now built into the vCenter Server Appliance, which will simplify the setup and maintenance of your highly available vCenter servers. It can consist of Active, Passive or Witness nodes. You can also set up HA failover to the granular level of certain key services’ failures, like inventory services for example. It’s important to note that it’s not immediate. For the initial release, VMware says to expect an RTO of about five minutes, but that number can vary depending on load, size and capabilities of your hardware.
Improvements to vSphere Web Client
There were a few UI issues that VMware addressed in the web client that may make your life easier until they decommission it and push you to the HTML5-based vSphere Client (yes, you read that right). VMware reorganized the home screen and renamed a few tabs and added live refresh of power states and tasks. But, while that all is fine and dandy, we’re more excited about…
The New HTML5-based vSphere Client!
It’s built into the vCenter server and will run in tandem with the old web client in vSphere 6.5. Because it’s HTML5, it is truly a cross-browser and cross-platform application (we see you, Linux and Mac users). If you had previously used Fling, the migration tool, you’ll know what to expect from a performance standpoint because it’s built on the same framework and it’s now integrated into the HTML5-based vSphere Client.
As previously mentioned, Fling was originally a migration tool. In vSphere 6.5, it’s been fully integrated into vCenter, instead of being a separate tool. This will migrate Windows vCenter Servers from vSphere 5.5 and 6.0 into the vSphere 6.5 appliance. VMware wants you to get out of Windows and stay in their appliance, which can be a huge benefit to those Linux shops that originally had to buy a Windows Server license just to run vCenter.
Improvements to Appliance Management
VMware built more functionality into the GUI to show you more metrics, like network and database statistics. You can see more data in a more graphical format with this than before where you’d have to go to the command line to pull the more detailed metrics, and trust me, they didn’t look very pretty.
There is VM-level disk encryption, encrypted vMotion and secure boot included in vSphere 6.5. There is a similar feature in Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V called shielded VMs. This prevents images from being tampered with or stolen and booted elsewhere. Data is also encrypted both at rest and in transit, which is great for those shops who don’t have storage with native encryption.
The audit logs contain more enhanced forensic information about user actions, so you can see more detail about what users are doing what and when.
vSphere 6.5 also now has container functionality, much like all the other cloud and virtualization platforms. This will make it very easy for you to integrate containers into your environment without interrupting all your workflows.
More Hybrid-Cloud Functionality
You can more easily move machines to and from the cloud now with vSphere 6.5. It easily converts your local VMware environment into a hybrid-cloud architecture.
DRS can now force even VM distribution across hosts, instead of balancing for performance or size. This way you can define how use your resources, instead of the algorithm deciding that the use of less resources is always better.
DRS also now weighs consumed memory more than active when calculating memory load on a host. So, if your memory is not over-allocated, this gives you a more accurate insight into memory balance.
You can also enforce a maximum vCPU:pCPU ratio in your cluster and it will prevent additional VMs from powering on if you hit that defined value. For example, most people feel good about a four-to-one vCPU:pCPU ratio, so if you want that to be set in stone, this is where you can define that and it will never exceed that value. This is good for environments where it can be easy to overcommit, and overcommitment can sometimes get you into hot water if too many vCPUs require a pCPU at one time. You can read up more on this in Brent’s post on CPU utilization.
DRS will also consider network utilization in its metrics and decision making for load balancing VMs per host. DRS will judge if a host is greater than 80 percent utilized that it cannot add new VMs. It’s a nice safeguard that we didn’t have in previous versions.
Just like with most new versions, there is an increase to the scaling metrics … but we don’t know exactly what they’re increased to just yet. So, if there was a certain metric that was holding you back, check into if vSphere 6.5’s increases address this.