Last month, the VMworld conference took over Las Vegas with more than 23,000 attendees. I look forward to this enormous conference every year, not only for the fantastic content, but because of all of the networking opportunities with customers, companies, partners, friends, and the great minds behind the technology. Whether it’s the intent or not, you’ll leave this conference enriched with experience and knowledge.
When VMworld concluded in Las Vegas, there was a number of us who couldn’t help but feel like something was… missing. Little did we know that behind the scenes, VMware was putting the final touches on the major announcement that we were hoping for, ensuring that it was at the top of the agenda for the stop in Barcelona for VMworld Europe: the announcement of vSphere 6.5!
What’s new with vCenter?
HTML5 vSphere Client
While the Web Client released for vSphere 6.0 was far more advanced than previous versions in terms of performance and usability, it still had its fair share of issues. VMware recognized this and released a Fling where they took all customer feedback into consideration and truly valued what they had to say. This helped to drive this client to the release of vSphere 6.5.
In 6.5, the vSphere Web Client is still being modified and enhanced, and yes, still requires Flash. This remains as the supported Web Client and is not yet retired while VMware continues to fine-tune the HTML5 client.
That being said, the HTML5 client ships with 6.5 and runs alongside the Flash-enabled Web Client, but is fully supported and ready for prime time! The reason why both clients are shipping is because the HTML5 client isn’t quite feature parity yet with the existing Web Client. And while it’s really close to being complete, VMware wanted its customers to have it to use it right away due to overwhelming demand. It’s slick, shiny, and fast!
While others may be stuck on the old C# client and could be hesitant about upgrading, I strongly urge you to dive into the HTML5 client; you won’t be disappointed!
While vSphere 6.0 Update 2m was released to allow users to migrate from Windows vCenter 5.5 to vCSA 6.0, now as of 6.5, you’ll no longer need the separate migration tool. The migration tool comes as part of the 6.5 installer and allows you to migrate from both vCenter 5.5 and 6.0 on Windows to vCSA 6.5.
Native HA for vCenter and the Platform Services Controller
With the recent termination of vCenter Server Heartbeat, customers were left with only a few supported options for High Availability (HA) for vCenter services. This generally consisted of using Microsoft Windows Clustering, vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT), or vSphere (Cluster) HA. While these were all fine options, they didn’t do what customers really wanted or needed. With more applications and components integrating with vCenter, it’s clear this piece of software–the management stack–is mission critical.
Now with the vCSA and the Platform Services Controller (PSC) appliance, you can enable native High Availability for these services with a single click!
vCenter HA–only available in the vCSA–takes advantage of active, passive, and witness nodes. When enabled, it deploys a second, passive (cloned) vCenter VM, and will provide automated failover with an expected RTO of less than 5 minutes whether you’re having an infrastructure issue or if key services fail within the guest.
PSC HA will allow a vCenter to automatically failover and use a different PSC within your site if it detects a problem with the PSC it’s currently communicating with.
VMware Update Manager
Finally, VMware Update Manager (VUM) is fully integrated into the vCSA! This means you no longer need Windows or SQL for any part of your core vSphere components.
Native vCenter Backup and Restore
In addition to the traditional backup methods you can currently use to backup/restore vCenter and the PSC, VMware has now provided an additional mechanism in the VAMI to do file-based backups. This will allow you to backup the Postgres database, configuration files, vCenter inventory, VUM, etc., then use the 6.5 installer to quickly deploy a brand new appliance with all of your backup configuration files. This gives you a fresh, clean platform with all of your data restored quickly and easily without any added stress.
Content Library Enhancements
You can now mount an ISO to a VM directly from the content library, as well as apply OS customizations and upgrade existing templates.
With this announcement comes the introduction of VMFS 6! One huge enhancement that comes with this version is that it now supports automatic UNMAP, which tracks freed blocks and sends unmap commands to storage in the background to take full advantage of thin provisioned disks.
Also in the storage category, we now see that VSAN adds support for native iSCSI. This means that you can create iSCSI targets and support shared disks or even physical servers directly from VSAN. VSAN also comes with additional enhancements such as containers support, two-node direct connect for ROBO sites, REST APIs, and expanded PowerCLI and support for 512e drives.
VMware has announced a number of encryption features in its latest vSphere release; the first being VM encryption. We can now encrypt the entire VM at the hypervisor level, regardless of the guest OS. Next in the lineup is encrypted vMotion, which is enabled on a per VM basis. It’s always enabled for encrypted VMs, but you can also choose to do an encrypted vMotion of unencrypted VMs.
Additionally, you can now enable the virtual machine and ESXi Secure Boot where ESXi kernel and UEFI firmware digital signatures are validated and you can only load signed drivers into the guest OS.
vSphere 6.5 is the core of VMware’s Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC), and even though this is just a .5 release, it certainly packs a punch with features that are certainly long overdue. While this isn’t an all-inclusive list by any means, I wanted to highlight some of the major upgrades that will make a lot of customers happy. You can read more about vSphere 6.5 and all of its features here.
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