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What’s new with VMware vSphere 6.0

What’s new with VMware vSphere 6.0

June 22, 2015

VMware vSphere 6.0 contains many enhancements to VMware vSphere Hypervisor, VMware virtual machines, VMware vCenter Server™, virtual storage, and virtual networking. vSphere 6.0 has been released since March 2015 and if you are still running 5.1 or 5.5 perhaps these features may convince you that the push to upgrade will be well worth it in the end.

VSphere Hypervisor Enhancements

Scalability Improvements

VMware has dramatically increased the scalability of the Hypervisor platform with the release of ESXi 6.0. VSphere Hypervisor 6.0 clusters can scale to as many as 64 hosts, and support 8,000 virtual machines in a single cluster. This improvement enables greater consolidation ratios, more efficient use of VMware vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (vSphere DRS), and fewer need for clusters that must be separately managed due to previous scaling limitations.

ESXi Security Enhancements

New ESXi security enhancements have not been over looked with the release of 6.0. ESXi 6.0 centralizes Account Management using a vCenter Server system and offers new ESXCLI commands. There are new improvements for Account Lockout, Password Complexity Rules available in ESXi Host Advance System Settings. As well as improved ESXI logs and better audit trail of actions that were run on a vCenter Server instance that conducted corresponding tasks on the ESXi hosts. Flexible Lockdown modes has also been introduced with a “normal lockdown mode” where the DCUI is not stopped and users on the DCUI Access list can access DCUI, and a “strict lockdown mode” where DCUI is stopped completely.

NVIDIA GRID Support

NVIDIA GRID delivers a graphics experience that is equivalent to dedicated hardware when using VMware Horizon. Horizon with NVIDIA GRID vGPU™ enables geographically separated organizations to run graphics-intensive applications with 3D at scale.

NVIDIA GRID with Horizon Virtual Dedicated Graphics Acceleration (vDGA) is ideal for 3D graphics-intensive applications. vDGA is highly recommended for dedicated one-to-one GPU mapping and workstation-equivalent performance without the need for a workstation. This enables designers, engineers, and architects to work remotely.

VM Enhancements

New Virtual Machine Compatibility Level

vSphere 6.0 introduces a new virtual machine compatibility level with support for several new features such as 128 vCPUs, 4TB of RAM, hot-add RAM enhancements to vNUMA, WDDM 1.1 GDI acceleration,  USB 3.0 xHCI controller, and several enhancements to serial and parallel ports.

Expanded Guest OS Support

vSphere 6.0 introduces support for more guest operating systems:

  • Oracle UEK R3 Update 3
  • Asianux 4 SP4
  • Solaris 11 .2
  • Ubuntu 12.04.5
  • Ubuntu 14.04.1
  • Oracle Linux 7
  • FreeBSD 9.3
  • Mac OS X 10.10

Windows Server Fallover Clustering Enhancements

Improved support for workloads that must be protected using Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC), with added support for Microsoft Windows 2012 R2 and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 platforms including both WSFC and AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

vSphere 6.0 introduces support for the PVSCSI adapter with virtual machines running WSFC. This provides performance superior to that with the standard SCSI adapter. This enhancement helps deliver the storage I/O needed for the most-demanding applications.

VMware vSphere vMotion® is now fully supported with Windows Server 2008 and later when using WSFC virtual machines that are clustered across physical hosts using physical-mode RDMs. There is no need to fail over applications to another host during vSphere maintenance activities, this should enable higher levels of manageability and availability. vSphere DRS is also fully supported for use with WSFC, which ensures the best placement for virtual machines on vSphere hosts and delivers the best application performance.

VCenter Server Enhancements

vCenter Server Architecture Changes

vCenter Server 6.0 architecture has been changes to simplify planning and deployment. All vCenter Server services have been combined into a single machine, with only the VMware vSphere Update Manager still requiring a standalone Microsoft Windows Installation. There are two deployment models offered, embedded, deploys the new Platform Services Controller (PSC) and vCenter Server on the same machine, and the second, external, deploys the PSC and the vCenter Server instance on separate machines.

Platform Services Controller (PSC)

The PSC includes common services used across VMware vCloud Suite, including VMware vCenter Single Sign-On, licensing, and certificate management. The PSCs replicate information such as licensing, roles and permissions, and tags with one another. Because the PSCs replicate all information required for linked mode, linked mode is now automatically enabled for any vCenter Server deployment joined to the same vCenter Single Sign-ON domain, including any vCenter Server Appliance.

vCenter Server Appliance

vCenter Server Appliance now has the same scalability numbers as the Windows installable vCenter Server:

1,000 hosts and 10,000 virtual machines. This is supported with the embedded PostgreSQL database or an external Oracle Database. This enables organizations to choose the platform that best suites them without sacrificing vCenter Server performance.

vSphere vMotion

vSphere vMotion capabilities have been enhanced in 6.0 to allow live migration of virtual machines across virtual switches, vCenter Server systems, and long distances of up to 150ms RTT. These new enhancements enable greater flexibility when designing vSphere architectures that were previously restricted to a single vCenter Server system due to scalability limits and multisite or metro design constraints. Since vCenter Server scale limits no longer being a boundary for pools of compute resources, much larger vSphere environments are now possible.

VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance Enhancements

VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance (vSphere FT) provides continuous availability for applications in the event of physical server failures by creating a live shadow instance of a virtual machine that is always up to date with the primary virtual machine.

In the event of a hardware outage, vSphere FT automatically triggers failover, ensuring zero downtime and preventing data loss. vSphere FT is tightly integrated with vSphere and is managed using vSphere Web Client. Previous versions of vSphere FT supported only a single vCPU but now through the use of a completely new fast-checkpointing technology, vSphere FT now supports protection of virtual machines with up to four vCPUs and 64GB of memory. This improvement allows for a greater majority of mission-critical customer workloads to now be protected regardless of application or OS.

VMware vSphere Storage APIs – VMware vSphere Data Protection™ can now be used with virtual machines protected by vSphere FT. There have also been enhancements in how vSphere FT handles storage. It now creates a complete copy of the entire virtual machine, resulting in total protection for virtual machine storage in addition to CPU and memory. This also i storage by enabling the files of the primary and secondary virtual machines to be stored on shared as well as local storage. This results in increased protection, reduced risk, and improved flexibility.

vSphere High Availability Enhancements

vSphere HA now includes Virtual Machine Component Protection (VMCP), which provides enhanced protection from All Paths Down (APD) and Permanent Device Loss (PDL) conditions for block (FC, iSCSI, FCoE) and file storage (NFS).

Prior to vSphere 6.0, vSphere HA could not detect APD conditions and had limited ability to detect and remediate PDL conditions. When those conditions occurred, applications were impacted or unavailable longer and administrators had to help resolve the issue. vSphere VMCP detects APD and PDL conditions on connected storage, generates vCenter alarms, and automatically restarts impacted virtual machines on fully functional hosts. By doing so, it greatly improves the availability of virtual machines and applications without requiring more effort from administrators.

vSphere HA can now protect as many as 64 ESXi hosts and 8,000 virtual machines—up from 32 and 4,000— which greatly increases the scale of vSphere HA supported environments. It also is fully compatible with VMware Virtual Volumes, VMware vSphere Network I/O Control, IPv6, VMware NSX™, and cross vCenter Server vSphere vMotion.

Multisite Content Library

The Content Library simplifies virtual machine template management and distribution for organizations that have several vCenter Server systems across geographic locations. It centrally manages virtual machine templates, ISO images, and scripts, and it performs the content delivery of associated data from the published catalog to the subscribed catalog at other sites.

As content is updated within the published catalog, the changes automatically are distributed to all subscribed catalogs at other sites. This feature guarantees that all sites have access to the approved standard templates across an entire organization. As content is updated, old versions are automatically purged and replaced with the newest version, reducing the time associated with distributing templates manually.

Additionally, the number of simultaneous transfers and the consumed bandwidth are configurable to prevent the saturation of WAN connections in bandwidth-constrained environments. Synchronization tasks can be scheduled to be performed during nonpeak hours when more bandwidth is available for content replication

VSphere Storage Enhancements

Virtual Volumes

Virtual Volumes is a new virtual machine disk management and integration framework that enables array-based operations at the virtual disk level. Virtual Volumes makes SAN and NAS storage systems capable of being managed at a virtual machine level and enables the leveraging of array-based data services and storage array capabilities with a virtual machine–centric approach at the granularity of a single virtual disk. Virtual Volumes eliminates the need to provision and manage large numbers of LUNs or volumes per host. This reduces operational overhead while enabling scalable data services on a per–virtual machine level.

Storage Policy–Based Management (SPBM) is a key technology that works in conjunction with Virtual Volumes. This framework delivers an orchestration and automation engine that translates the storage requirements expressed in a virtual machine storage policy into virtual machine granular provisioning capabilities with dynamic resource allocation and management of storage-related services. VMware vSphere API for Storage Awareness™, storage array capabilities are pushed through the vSphere stack and are surfaced in the vCenter Server management interface. Using virtual machine storage policies, vSphere administrators can specify a set of storage requirements and capabilities for any particular virtual machine to match service levels required by hosted applications.

vSphere Data Protection Enhancements

vSphere Data Protection now includes agents that enable application-consistent backup and reliable recovery of Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft SharePoint Server, including SQL Server clusters and Exchange Server database availability groups. Individual databases can be selected for backup and restore, and it is possible to restore individual Exchange Server mailboxes.

vSphere Data Protection now includes automated backup verification—scheduled jobs that routinely restore virtual machines, boot the guest OSs, check for VMware Tools™ heartbeats to verify that the virtual machines have been recovered successfully, and then delete the restored virtual machines.

External proxies are now available with vSphere Data Protection. They can be deployed to remote locations such as other vSphere clusters within the same site or across sites to help minimize network bandwidth requirements. External proxies also enable support for as many as 24 concurrent backup streams and for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) and the Ext4 file system.

vSphere Data Protection 6.0 is included with vSphere Essentials Plus Kit 6.0 and later editions of vSphere, all VMware vSphere with Operations Management™ 6.0 editions, and all vCloud Suite 6.0 editions.

vSphere Replication Enhancements

New to vSphere Replication in vSphere 6.0 to further improve efficiency is the option to compress replicated data as it is sent across the network. It is now possible to easily isolate network traffic associated with vSphere Replication. This enables vSphere administrators to control bandwidth by configuring more than one network interface card in a vSphere Replication virtual appliance and by using vSphere Network I/O Control to separate network traffic. The result is improved performance and security.

With vSphere 6.0, vSphere Replication is fully compatible with VMware vSphere Storage vMotion and migrating a replica with vSphere Storage vMotion no longer requires a full synchronization when moving a replica to a target. Also vSphere Replication can now use the new ability to quiesce some guest Linux OSs during replication and backup operations to enable file system–consistent recovery of Linux virtual machines.

VSphere Networking Enhancements

vSphere Network I/O Control Enhancements

vSphere Network I/O Control Version 3 enables administrators or service providers to reserve bandwidth to a vNIC in a virtual machine or an entire distributed port group. This ensures that other virtual machines or tenants in a multitenancy environment do not impact the SLA of other virtual machines or tenants sharing the same bandwidth.

vSphere Multiple TCP/IP Stacks

vSphere 6.0 introduces multiple TCP/IP stacks, which can be assigned to separate vSphere services. Each stack operates with its own:

  • Memory heap
  • ARP table
  • Routing table
  • Default gateway

This enables finer control of network resource usage—for example, operations such as vSphere vMotion can operate over a layer 3 boundary; NFC operations such as cloning can be sent over a dedicated network rather than sharing the management network.

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