On March 10, 2020, VMware unveiled the next evolution of VMware vSphere: vSphere 7.  VMware describes the new platform as the cornerstone of “app modernization,” allowing businesses to more rapidly develop and deploy modern applications.  VMware vSphere 7 contains many great new features and capabilities that will allow businesses to run both virtual machines and containerized workloads.  Let’s dive into the new features of VMware vSphere 7.

VMware vSphere 7 and Kubernetes Combined

VMware first previewed functionality that would make its way to vSphere 7 in what was shown as “Project Pacific” back at VMworld 2019.  With Project Pacific functionality now in vSphere 7, VMware has rearchitected VMware vSphere so that it is an open platform that allows both IT admins and developers to interact with the solution in a programmatic way with a cloud-like experience that most are now familiar with.

In this rearchitecting of VMware vSphere, VMware has essentially combined the capabilities of the traditional vSphere software with Kubernetes in this release.  This fundamental change in the underlying engine driving the vSphere virtual infrastructure will allow vSphere 7 to be equally adept at running containers as well as virtual machines.

VMware vSphere 7 includes Native Kubernetes integration

VMware vSphere 7 includes Native Kubernetes integration

Again, the new functionality that allows Kubernetes integration is not provided by a separate virtual appliance that must be deployed as with previous solutions in vSphere.  It is part of the hypervisor itself.  Aside from Kubernetes support, there are many other great features found in the vSphere 7 release, including the following:

  • Simplified lifecycle management
  • Intrinsic security features
  • Application acceleration

Let’s take a look at how vSphere 7 implements new features in each of these areas.

Simplified lifecycle management

One of the areas that VMware has given attention to with the vSphere 7 release is lifecycle management.  Customers who run large vSphere environments with hundreds or even thousands of hosts run into issues with lifecycle management with previous vSphere releases.  While VMware vSphere Update Manager (VUM) has served vSphere administrators well, it is not a great tool for lifecycle management at scale.

With vSphere 7, VMware is introducing vSphere Lifecycle Management (VLCM), which will replace the vSphere Update Manager (VUM) used for updates and other tasks in previous releases.  A paradigm shift in the way VMware is handling lifecycle management can be seen in the VLCM tool.

VMware is moving to a desired state methodology with the new vSphere Lifecycle Management (VLCM) tool.  This will allow the driving of lifecycle management consistently and effectively at scale.  Desired state methodologies have become wildly popular among DevOps engineers for configuration management.  It helps to detect configuration drift and apply “desired state” to endpoints.  In other words, how do you want the infrastructure to look?

This new approach to lifecycle management in vSphere 7 will include the ability to not only apply desired state to the software/hypervisor but also firmware for physical hardware.  This will be especially powerful in the realm of VMware vSAN 7.0.

Intrinsic security features

Also new with vSphere 7 is built-in intrinsic security features.  Security is of critical concern among businesses today and especially with hypervisor infrastructure.  New with vSphere 7 is a feature called trusted computing base.  This allows organizations to lock down a set of very secure ESXi hosts and use this set of hosts for attestation to ensure other hosts are trusted and have not been modified in an unauthorized way.

You can think of the secure attestation hosts as the set of ESXi hosts that provide the model of how the other hosts should look.  This is especially valuable when you think about ESXi hosts that may not physically be in secure environments, such as edge use cases.  Also, you may be hosts that physically reside in a cloud datacenter.  Having a way to ensure the remote ESXi hosts look the same as the secure set of ESXi attestation hosts provides a great way to bolster security.

Application acceleration

VMware has also incorporated many other great new features in this release of VMware vSphere that help to accelerate applications.  One of the next-generation technologies that businesses are taking advantage of is artificial intelligence.

VMware has included Bitfusion in vSphere 7.  Bitfusion, a company VMware acquired in 2019, is able to take advantage of GPU virtualization for the purposes of AI/ML use cases.  In addition, VMware has incorporated new improvements to vMotion as well as DRS to provide much quicker operations as well as better performance/less disruption for very large VMs during the vMotion process.

New VMware vCenter Server 7 features

VMware vCenter Server is the integral component of VMware vSphere that unlocks enterprise capabilities in vSphere clusters.  VMware vCenter Server 7 has many great new features.  What are these new features specific to vCenter Server 7?

New vCenter Server features include:

  • vCenter Server Profiles – This allows exporting of vCenter Server configurations via a new set of APIs that allow easy export of configurations from one server to another without a reboot of the target appliance.
  • Update Planner – This is part of the new vSphere Lifecycle Manager mentioned above. You can perform vCenter Updates, patches, and upgrades using the new update planner for vCenter Server.
  • Upgrade & Converge external PSCs in one operation – External PSCs are converged during the upgrade operation.
  • Multihomed NICs support – vCenter Server NIC multihoming is now supported with vCenter Server 7. This will allow more options and flexibility for management networks and network segmentation
  • VM Template management and versioning – This new feature provides “Github-like” versioning to VM templates that are stored in the vSphere Content Library. When making updates or changes to a VM template, checking out the template allows changes to be tracked and version information recorded when the template is checked back in.

New VMware vSAN 7.0 features

With the new release of VMware vSphere, VMware is also introducing vSAN 7 along with many new features with the new vSAN release.  These include the following:

  • Simplified Management - VMware vSAN 7.0 benefits from the new vSphere Lifecycle Manager functionality. VLCM will allow consistently managing the lifecycle of both vSphere software components and host firmware, including storage firmware.
  • Native File Services – New with vSAN 7.0, native file services are included. This allows vSphere administrators to enable NFS 3 and 4.1 shares as part of the storage services offered natively by vSAN 7.0.
  • Enhanced cloud-native storage – Using the new functionality offered as part of the native file services, VMware vSAN 7.0 will provide file-level persistent storage for containers
  • Enhanced 2-node and stretched cluster functionality – Many new features are found in vSAN 7.0 related to 2-node and stretched clusters. These new features include improved VM placement intelligence in the event of a failure, improved resilience, and intelligent capacity management.
  • Other Operational Enhancements – Skyline Health will contain unified cloud analytics, better VM capacity reporting, easily view memory consumption, improved vSphere replication data, hot-plug NVMe support, and improved shared multi-writer disks with vSAN 7.0.

Concluding thoughts

VMware vSphere 7 is a massive release with many great new features.  VMware has completely rearchitected vSphere around Kubernetes so that it is not a “bolt-on” feature but rather a native capability within the new vSphere.  This will cater to IT operations and developers alike.

VMware vCenter Server 7 provides great new features, including vCenter Server profiles, much-improved vCenter Server lifecycle management, NIC multihoming, and VM template check in and check out functionality.  The new vCenter Server will drive the new functionality that is offered in vSphere 7 in general.

Software-defined storage moves forward in this release as well with vSAN 7.0.  The new vSAN offering will continue to simplify operations and lifecycle management for vSAN as well as extend the services offered natively by vSAN such as the new file services.

All in all, this is a great new release with many next-generation features for the software-defined datacenter, whether this exists on-premises or in the cloud.

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