There are many new features in VMware’s version 5 of the vSphere platform. As we’ve already taken a look at the two heavies in the room, the move to ESXi only and the various storage system updates, let’s now take a look at the other new features.
Virtual Machine Changes
In each upgrade of ESX or ESXi VMware has always given us some kind of Virtual Machine sizing and they really went with it for ESXi 5. In this new environment a single VM can now have up to 32 vCPUs assigned to it (up from8 in ESX 4.1) and 1 TB of RAM (up from 255 GB). That’s a significant difference. Further in this release VMware has added better graphics capabilities including 3D and many new devices will be supported including USB 3.0.
VMWare vsphere 5 – Windows 8 virtual machine
The other big item here is the support for additional guest operating systems. In the documentation the example they list is Mac OS X Server v10.6, but more to the point if you want to virtualize either Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012 you are going to have to use a patched version of ESXi 5 or Workstation 8.
Update Manager is a product included in the vCenter installation at all licensing levels (except free) that allows you to provide updates to not only your ESX hosts but to the guest VMs as well. In version 5 VMware seems to have stripped the capability they’ve previously provided to allow distribution of Microsoft and Linux patches this way. Instead they are pushing you to purchase their vCenter Protect product to do that as well as for a variety of non-Microsoft applications. In my case we use WSUS to do that, so it’s not a great loss. What Update Manager is good at is updating hosts, including being able to upgrade your hosts from either ESX or ESXi 4.x to ESXi 5 and updating the VMware Tools application on each of your Virtual Machines.
Image Builder and Auto Deploy
VMware has recently really been making the push to support cloud services, both public and private and the combination of Image Builder Depots and the Auto Deploy feature seem directly targeted to that market. With Image Builder you have the capability though a set of PowerShell commands to customize their ESXi images with customer drivers, various patches and updates, and even third party applications. These custom images are stored in a centralized Image Builder Depot.
So where would you use this? To start with many enterprises buy/ build their host boxes in bulk and having and having an image with all your apps, current updates, and specialized drivers (think HBAs) greatly decreases the time of deployment. The other place where this comes in handy is in the case of Auto Deploy. Once you have your Image Depot setup you can use a combination of Auto Deploy and Host Profiles for deploying a very large, very dynamic host environment. Hosts will PXE boot, receive configuration (via the defined Host Profile) and software (via the Image Builder Depot) from vCenter and nothing is stored on the local disk, all resides in memory. This is similar to the approach of a Cisco wireless controller solution with dumb Access Points.
As you can see there are a great many new and worth features for upgrading your infrastructure to vSphere 5. There are still more new features, but these are the ones providing in my opinion a high level of ROI. If you’d like to learn more about vSphere 5 VMware has released a great presentation as part of their VMworld online sessions entitled “Transitioning to ESXi”. It is listed as the SUP1017 Super Session.