VMware vSphere 6.0 One-Ups the Competition

by Paul Ferrill

A variety of new features and enhancements make their debut in vSphere 6.0, most notably Virtual Volumes and vMotion capabilities. But are the additions enough to warrant an upgrade?

It's no secret that Microsoft and VMware tend to play leap frog when it comes to updated releases of their virtualization products. Each company's newest release usually exceeds the competition in multiple statistical categories. Couple that with key feature enhancements like VMware's Virtual Volumes and you have what looks like a new leader in the virtualization market in the form of VMware's latest release, vSphere 6.0.

And speaking of enhancements, the new max numbers for hosts, memory and virtual machines in vSphere 6.0 are pretty staggering. At the host level, a single vSphere Hypervisor 6.0 instance can support up to 480 physical CPUs, 12TB of RAM and 1000 virtual machines. Each cluster now supports up to 64 hosts and up to 8000 virtual machines.

VMware vSphere 6.0 includes a laundry list of additional new and improved features beyond those already mentioned. While Virtual Volumes have received much of the interest, you'll find a number of other improvements in the areas of vMotion, high availability and vSphere Fault Tolerance. In particular, you can now migrate any pieces of your virtual environment across vCenter servers using vMotion without the need for shared storage.

Not every performance number of significance has increased, however. One in particular that has remained the same is the maximum number of Virtual CPUs per host, at 4096. Logical CPUs per host went from 320 to 480, and total virtual machines per physical host increased from 512 to 1024.

Installation and Configuration

A basic ESXi host installation hasn't changed in a long while and it remains a quick and painless process in vSphere 6. The same can't be said for the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) released in conjunction with vSphere 6.0, which has changed considerably in this version.

In previous releases vCSA was delivered as an OVH file that you simply uploaded to an ESXi host before launching the virtual machine. With vSphere 6.0, vCSA is delivered as an ISO file that you must mount on a local machine. Windows 8 makes this process easy as you simply double-click on the file and it automatically mounts as an attached drive.

You will need to configure a few things prior to starting the installation. First and foremost is a DNS entry for your vCenter server if you don't already have one. This is a requirement for vSphere 6.0, and the installation will not complete if it's missing. You should also be aware of the default password complexity requirements and make sure your default administrator password meets the test. Otherwise it will need to be changed to something stronger.

With the vCSA ISO file mounted, you must first install the client integration package before proceeding with the actual installation. This is due to the need for certain browser add-ons required to complete the installation.

The client integration package is found in the vcsa directory of the installation ISO (see Figure 1).

VMware vSphere 6.0

Once that process completes, simply open the vcsa-setup.html file in the root directory, and complete the steps outlined in the wizard. The total process including configuration of the vCenter appliance is much smoother than in previous versions as it combines multiple steps into a single web-based approach.

Management Improvements

VMware has delivered a number of enhancements to the management of vSphere in this release. These include a greatly improved web interface with a much snappier user interface (see Figure 2).

VMware vSphere 6 - Figure 2

Version 6.0 is getting really close to the level of functionality found in the traditional vSphere Client application. One of the biggest management headaches in previous releases has been LUN management when dealing with large numbers of virtual machines and traditional block storage.

Virtual Volumes takes this pain away by aggregating multiple storage backend systems and automating the provisioning and allocation of that storage. You will need a compatible storage array and possibly a firmware update for existing systems.

New CLI-based tools that can streamline the management of many hosts and VMs provide the foundation for automating many repetitive functions. The new Datacenter CLI (DCLI) adds a number of commands for controlling and managing a wide range of data center features.

One feature you can manage using DCLI is the new vCenter Content Library, which helps administrators synchronize and version VM templates, ISOs and OVFs across sites and vCenter servers.

Another new part of the management puzzle in vSphere 6.0 is called the Platform Services Controller (PSC). The PSC provides common services across the VMware vCloud Suite to include VMware vCenter Single Sign-On (SSO), licensing and certificate management. PSC installs either embedded with a vCenter server virtual machine or in a separate virtual machine for any deployment with two or more SSO integrated solutions.

Bottom Line

VMware has delivered quite a few solid new features and enhancements with the release of vSphere 6.0, most notably Virtual Volumes and the new vMotion capabilities. Couple these feature additions with the management improvements, and you have a solid release that is definitely worth the upgrade.

Paul Ferrill, based in Chelsea, Alabama, has been writing about computers and software for almost 20 years. He has programmed in more languages than he cares to count, but now leans toward Visual Basic and C#.

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This article was originally published on Monday Mar 16th 2015
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