VMware previews vSphere 5 at Partner Exchange

VMware says vSphere 5, which is due out this summer, will add Storage DRS, host-based replication and network I/O control at the VM level.

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- VMware vSphere 5 is expected to include Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler, host-based replication and several other new features.

These improvements were part of the vSphere roadmap presented here at this week’s Partner Exchange conference.

VSphere 5 will be out in the second half of this year, but the release will be before VMworld, according to VMware product managers who led the roadmap session. That puts the vSphere 5 release date in July or August. The subsequent vSphere release, due in 2012, is expected to add a service-level agreement (SLA) framework and long-distance vMotion.

Storage DRS in vSphere 5

Storage Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), a popular wish list item from  users, will use Storage vMotion to perform automatic load balancing if a disk becomes overloaded.

Vijay Ramachandran, a VMware group product manager, explained that Storage DRS users will be able to define groups of data stores, called “storage pods,” that will automatically load-balance based on capacity. Users can then provision virtual machines (VMs) to specific storage pods rather than to specific data stores.

If it works as promised, Storage DRS will increase storage utilization, save time spent reorganizing data stores and help users avoid placing VMs on over- or under-powered data stores, Ramachandran said. The feature will help popularize storage load balancing, said Christopher Reed, a Dallas-based consulting principal for VMware partner INX.

“People don’t take the time to balance their own storage,” he said. “You need a mechanism to either tell you to do it or do it for you.”

The automation aspect is what will set Storage DRS apart, said Lew Smith, business development and virtualization specialist at Interphase Systems, a VMware partner in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

“Storage vMotion is great,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. But there’s a manual aspect.”

Host-based replication in vSphere 5

The vSphere 5 roadmap also includes host-based replication for Site Recovery Manager (SRM). This feature is designed for organizations that don’t use array-based storage replication, or use different types of storage at different sites, Ramachandran said. The replication will be asynchronous and be able to protect individual VMs, he said.  

Host-based replication will be particularly handy for small- and medium-sized businesses that can’t afford to duplicate their storage infrastructure at a disaster recovery (DR) site, Reed said.

“With host-based replication, I can still have shared storage on my main site, and it doesn’t matter what I have at my DR site,” he said.

The ability to move VMs from one kind of storage to another will also boost VMware’s cloud computing message, said Keith Norbie, the vice president of Nexus Information Systems, a VMware partner in Plymouth, Minn.

“You can’t simply just provide a service broker in one location,” he said. “You need to be able to move it around. It’s all about elasticity.”

Network I/O control for VMs

Another feature on the vSphere 5 roadmap was network I/O control for VMs, which will reserve bandwidth for high-priority workloads in a cluster if that cluster’s network path is overloaded, Ramachandran said.

Reed said it’s always good to have more control over the network, but he wasn’t sure how useful this feature would be for advanced shops.

“With 10 Gig Ethernet, I don’t know how much network contingent I have, anyway,” he said.

VMware is working with hardware vendors to develop application programming interfaces (APIs) – other than the previously disclosed vStorage APIs for Array Integration and vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness -- to take advantage of the new features in vSphere 5, Ramachandran added.

After vSphere 5

The vSphere roadmap session also previewed features slated for the 2012 vSphere release. The SLA framework, which ties into VMware’s private cloud computing vision, will enable users to set SLA policies for specific applications, said Deep Bhattacharjee, a staff product manager. A “policy engine” will then enforce those policies and guarantee quality of service, he said.

“The SLA framework is something we’re investing quite a bit in,” he added.

VMware also aims to include long-distance vMotion in the 2012 vSphere release, Ramachandran said. VMotion, VMware’s live-migration technology, is one of the most popular features in VMware data centers. At VMworld 2009, VMware and Cisco Systems announced the capability to live-migrate VMs across hosts more than 100 miles apart, and it appears that feature is getting closer to reality for users.

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